Palisades Tahoe is the birthplace of American extreme skiing and a mecca for freestyle skiers and riders. 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.
Nestled at the end of a stunning alpine valley, Palisades Tahoe lies cradled by six Sierra peaks dominated by Squaw Peak at 8,900 feet (2,715 m). Palisades is historic: it famously played host to the 1960 Winter Olympic Games (the first to be televised), and Palisades Tahoe’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 Palisades Tahoe’s Founder, provided the vision and character by which Palisades Tahoe 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.
Since then, Palisades has become one of the top destination resorts in the U.S. and attracts skiers and riders who like to push the limits. In 1984, ski filmmaker Warren Miller caught Scot Schmidt jumping 100 feet (30 m) from the cliff band at the top of Palisades Peak to give birth to “Schmidiots” and extreme skiing. Since then, freestyle athletes, including the late and beloved Shane McConkey, the Gaffney brothers, Jeremy Jones, Cody Townsend, Michelle Parker and Ingrid Backstrom have famously hurled themselves off Palisades’ many cornices and rock faces. Alongside these freestyle athletes, downhill and mogul Olympians including Julia Mancuso, Jonny Moseley, Travis Ganong, Tamara McKinney and Shannon Bahrke, have and continue to call Palisades Tahoe home.
In 2011, Squaw Valley merged with the well-known neighboring ski resort, Alpine Meadows, becoming Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows resort. In 2021 the Squaw Alpine resort was rebranded Palisades Tahoe as the term “squaw” has long been used as a derogatory and dehumanizing reference to a Native American woman. The new name, Palisades Tahoe, celebrates the granite walls throughout each ski area, and the mountain is continuing to work with the Washoe Tribe to educate the public about their culture and the valley’s history. The Squaw Valley base area has been renamed Olympic Valley and in April 2021 construction crews started work on the foundations for the Tahoe region’s first-ever base-to-base gondola, connecting the Palisade Tahoe Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows base areas. The new 8-passenger gondola (opening in the ’22-’23 winter season) will provide up to 1,400 riders per hour with an easy 16-minutes ride from one base station to the other with the option to disembark at the KT-22 mid station. Although it will not open additional skiable terrain, one lift ticket will give you access to both locations, each with phenomenal terrain.
The sheer depth and density of the snow in Tahoe 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.