Winter in Squaw Valley, California
- More about your oliver guide: Courtney Leary
- Trip type: Adult, Family, Group getaway, Solo, Mountains
- Activity level: high
- Ideal length of trip: Two days to two weeks... although my husband could stay forever.
to & from
Fly into Reno, SF, or Sacramento if traveling from out of state. Reno is closest and best.
- If driving from the Bay Area leave before 1pm or you will hit traffic, especially on Friday. Traffic can make a 3.5 hour trip into a 7 hour trip. It is no joke. Be sure and check weather as well as they do close 80 in big storms. There is chain control going over the pass so you will need chains, 4-wheel drive.
- As of 2018-2019 season there is a great shuttle within the Squaw Area, Mountaineer that makes it so you do not need a car once you are in the valley.
- There is a Squaw/Alpine Shuttle that will take you back and forth between the two mountains. This is about a 10-20 minute ride depending on traffic.
- Northstar, Heavenly, Sugarbowl are all separate ski areas over 20 mins away.
Where to Stay
We usually rent condos within Squaw Valley off of Squaw Valley Road or in the village. There are some on airbnb and vrbo or through Squaw directly. If you stay outside of the valley, Truckee or Tahoe City, expect heavy traffic to ski mountain on weekends. At this point there are not any super luxurious places to stay (e.g. the Ritz) within Squaw Valley but those listed below are very convenient, walking distance to the mountain, and do the trick.
- Resort at Squaw Creek-- The most amenities of anywhere in the valley. Ski-in, ski-out with a ski concierge at the bottom of the run (note the run to this hotel is a blue run so any true beginners will not be able to ski-in/out), restaurants within, spa and gym, kitchenettes. Hot tub, pool and sometimes an ice skating rink.
- Plumpjack-- A short (1 block) walk to the mountain. Very basic but nice rooms that were super hip about 15 years ago, great bar and bar restaurant-- although very crowded. Also very nice upscale restaurant that has sadly inconsistent food of late. Does have a small gym and a hot tub. Scheduled to be remodeled in the near future.
- Squaw Valley Lodge-- Ski-in/out withOUT the ski concierge, located right at the base of the mountain. This was originally the dorms for the 1960 Olympics and though there have been many improvements, it still has that feel. These are mostly barebones condos with kitchens --individually owned so some are much nicer than others. The room arrangements range from lofts to 2 bedrooms. There is also gym, pool, hot tub.
- The Village at Squaw Valley-- These are condominiums that are fairly new and scattered throughout the village mostly above the retail. All are within a block of the mountain. They have very nice finishes and are the newest of all the lodging options in the village however they are very small. They can also be noisy as well depending on the locations. If it snows, the parking lot gets plowed early in the morning so you will not want to be too close to the lot, but also want to avoid being over a noisy restaurant or the ballroom if an event is happening.
Where to Eat and Drink
Squaw Valley is not a “foodie” destination. In general, people do not rave about the food in Tahoe, Squaw Valley in particular. These tips will help you make the best of what is there.
On a weekend, we usually plan to eat out one night and in one night. We grab one other “dinner” at the store on our way out of town and throw in a cooler along with cereal, coffee , milk and oj.
- Fireside Pizza— A family favorite, really great pizzas and salads (try the Greek) with good gluten free options.
- Wildflour– Located in the bottom of the Olympic House (the building behind KT-22) the best breakfast, coffee and cookies can be found here. Bagels are amazing. We also love the salads, tacos P.H.A.T.s and soups for lunch.
- Our favorite lunch is The Chalet at Alpine on a sunny day when you can eat outside on the deck. The menu is very limited but the soups are great and so are the hot pretzels they serve with them. Wine, beer and grilled cheese. And you feel like you are in the Alps…sort of.
- Euro Snack— Two food truck like structures at the base of Squaw offer crepes and waffles. Both are great “snacks” for kids and adults alike.
- Bistro 22– Great for a longer lunch or dinner. Make reservations if you can. Good kid options, GF options and a super noodle bowl. Something for everyone and slightly upscale.
- Sandy’s Pub– Located in the Resort at Squaw Creek, this is a family favorite with a sports bar like atmosphere and a menu that runs the gamut from burgers to ahi salads. This is not your farm to table experience but we always leave happy.
- Dave’s Deli– This is your spot for a quick inexpensive lunch. Kids seem to love it and the prices are well below anything you will find anywhere else on the mountain. All food is deli-esque from pre-made sandwiches to salami rounds, chicken noodle soup, diet cokes, hot chocolate and gatorades.
- The Dubliner– For a bar, this place has really good food. If you can stomach the faint smell of old beer, the menu offers everything from ahi to salmon to steak and burgers.
- Tremigo– In Squaw Village, a new Mexican spot (in the location of the prior sushi restaurants) with traditional Mexican fare that will please everyone in the family– our kids (hungry teens!!) love the fajitas.
- Grahams– Across the street from the village and locals swear the nicest restaurant with the best food BY FAR. It is upscale with prices to match. It has been around over 20 years… we are really aiming to get here in 2019!
- Alice’s Market— Yes! There is a market in Squaw village where you can get everything you need to prepare a simple dinner in your kitchenette of choice. They also have magazines, over-the-counter drugs, homeopathic options and gluten free waffles. We LOVE Alice’s.
- The bar at Plumpjack– this is a great apres scene especially if you are not with children. The bar food is great but there is actually a wait for a bar table in order to order the bar food so if time is not an issue, saddle up.
- Chamois– This is THE place for drinks when the weather is nice and you can gather outside on the patio. We hear the pizza is good too but have not been for years since the opening of Fireside.
- Slot Bar— Small bar for apres drinkers and skiers only– not kids– so we don’t frequent.
- Plaza Bar – Nothing fancy but everything you need to meet large groups of friends and talk about the day.
Gold Coast- the mid-mountain lodge, is pure chaos at noon on a weekend. It is over-priced and the food is mediocre and it is usually a struggle to find a table. We are hoping that Squaw addresses this soon. That said, it is a very convenient location especially if you are with beginner skiers that do not want to ski all the way to the bottom of the hill for lunch. The Asian bowl is a favorite of our kids, soups are generally good and salads are decent but leave us a little hungry so grab a bag of chips if you go this route.
If you dare to venture from Squaw:
- Drunken Monkey Sushi in Truckee towards Northstar is really great food, fun atmosphere.
- Cottonwood in Truckee is a good old-school experience with great after-skiing food.
- River Ranch – on the way to Alpine resort, is a fun atmosphere with food that is hit or miss. Always great nachos and drinks. And a fun place for lunch in the Summer.
- Hacienda– If you have a really large group to accommodate, this is the place. The food will not amaze but will satisfy, the drinks are good and they will take care of your table for 20.
- Moody’s Bistro in Truckee— always a winner.
What to Do
- Ski- Squaw is known for it's steep terrain and it is easy to find. A little bit of a harder mountain for beginner skiers because the true green runs are located at the top of the mountain. Alpine has secret steeps that involve a little more work to get to but the green territory is easier to find than at Squaw. Alpine is quicker to open lifts after a big storm.
- Yoga- Wanderlust yoga in the village will stretch you out and calm you down but this is NOT power yoga. The studio is clean friendly and a nice place to be.
- Movies- When weather is too rough for skiing, we usually head to the Tahoe Art Haus Cinema in Tahoe City. Buy tickets in advance. Wine and beer is served.
- Spa- Trilogy Spa, a small but very nice spa is located in the village and is a great spot to book a massage when needed.
- Shop- Plumpjack Sport has higher end ski apparel and apre ski apparel for the whole family. Great service. Parallel Sports is the other place we frequent for kids goggles, hand warmers etc. Parallel is also a good place to buy skis should you need them.
Forget something? Head to the lost and found! This is the best place to borrow something like gloves, helmets, goggles, for the day if you do not want to invest in something new.
Plumpjack’s fancy restaurant.
What to Pack
Tahoe is super casual. There is no Aspen-like fashion scene. You will look odd if you get too dressed up or sport flashy jackets on the mountain. Patagonia is the norm.