Squaw Valley, the birthplace of American extreme skiing, is a mecca for freeriders and extreme skiers. But don't be put off if your style is more sedate or family oriented: this resort also boasts gentle mountain-top beginner terrain as well as mountain-top ice-skating and swimming.
Nestling at the end of a stunning alpine valley, Squaw Valley lies cradled by six Sierra peaks dominated by Squaw Peak at 8,900 feet (2,715 m). Squaw is historic: it famously played host to the 1960 Winter Olympic Games (the first to be televised), and Squaw Valley's Olympic heritage continues to be evident throughout the resort. The symbolic Tower of Nations and Olympic Flame still greet visitors at the entrance to the Valley, and Alexander Cushing, Squaw Valley's Chairman and Founder, still provides the vision and character by which Squaw Valley became, and continues to be, famous. Many wonder how he convinced the International Olympic Committee to select a town with no mayor and a ski resort with just one chairlift, two rope tows and a fifty-room lodge-but convince them he did, and the rest is history.
Extreme skiing and the birth of Schmidiots in Squaw Valley
Since then Squaw has become one of the top destination resorts in the U.S. Ranked 4th Best Resort in North America by readers of Skiing Magazine and Freeskier magazine, it attracts those mad skiers who like to push the extreme envelope. Back in 1984, ski filmmaker Warren Miller caught one Scot Schmidt jumping 100 feet (30 m) from the palisades (a cliff band at the top of Squaw Peak-the highest of six encompassing Squaw Valley) to give birth to "Schmidiots" and extreme skiing U.S.-style. No wonder top freeskiers and snowboarders like Shane McConkey, Brad Holmes, Darian Boyle, Aaron McGovern, Jeff McKitterick, Jenn Berg and Tom Wayes can often be seen hurling themselves off Squaw's many cornices or trying new tricks in the park.
Many agree too that the sheer depth and density of the snow here is another unique feature that gives some measure of control to even the wackiest stunts. If an ample 4,000 acres (1,620 ha) of bowl skiing doesn't turn you on, then how about mountain-top ice skating and swimming which, at the Swimming Lagoon & Spa at High Camp (over 8,000 feet/2,450 m) overlooking Lake Tahoe, is free with all daily lift tickets.