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Top 10 advanced runs at Squaw Valley

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Long known for its legendary steeps, Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, offers plenty of challenging terrain for advanced and expert skiers, in addition to beginner runs around High Camp and intermediate runs clustered near Gold Coast. If you’re new to the area and consider yourself an advanced skier check out this list compiled from a group of longtime Squaw Valley passholders.

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These top 10 advanced runs are steep enough but the steepest will be listed in the “Top 10 Expert Runs” article that will up the ante. A lot of locals restrict themselves to a single lift, KT-22, where many of the longest and most vertical runs are but there is a lot of good terrain all over the mountain. These are some of the less obvious advanced runs that a casual visitor might not easily discover. Follow the sun and start high at Granite Chief, working your way down the mountain to Red Dog in the afternoon. The runs are listed roughly in order from top to bottom.

Be aware that Squaw does not differentiate between "expert" black diamond runs (and doesn’t use the double black designation that other ski areas use) so “easy” black diamonds like Sun Bowl or Red Dog Face are rated the same as steeper runs like the Slot or Dead Tree—hardly equal runs in terms of difficulty. The vertical terrain at Squaw challenges even professional skiers so if you’re new to the area make sure you understand Squaw’s scale of Easiest (green circle), Difficult (blue square) and Expert (black diamond)—each ski area has its own method of determining the level of difficulty. Squaw does split difficult runs into “more difficult” (single blue square, solid line on the map) and “most difficult” (double blue square, dashed line on the map). The double blues, often steeper runs that are usually groomed, may be analogous to advanced runs at a smaller ski area. Black diamond runs at Squaw are almost never groomed and you should be prepared for moguls and unexpected obstacles.

If you’re not sure of your ability be sure you can ski most of the double blue squares (most difficult) such as Siberia Ridge (Siberia Express), Red Dog Face (Red Dog), Saddle (KT-22) and High Voltage (Granite Chief). Better yet, take a lesson or hire a mountain guide and ask your coach whether you’re ready to tackle the steeps.

Arm yourself with a trail map or download the Squaw Valley app on your mobile device and go for it! Within your ability and conditions, of course.

1. Granite Glades

  • Get a taste of off-piste skiing and ski the trees on skier's left of the Granite Chief chair. As you’re going up the chair look to the right to see untracked powder on storm days and let everyone else race for the groomed runs.
  • Chair: Granite Chief, exit right to Hidden Bowl, or if left, immediately look for a way down right under the chair
  • Easier way: Exit left and take one of the (usually) groomed runs down, either High Voltage or Main Backside.

2. Granite Chief-Arete

  • This is a hidden run, known by different terms like “the nose” that will take you away from the crowds onto a little used, open slope that offers a series of linked turns before connecting with the tail end of High Voltage. Next door, Break It Out offers a bumpier alternative through a narrower chute.
  • Chair: Granite Chief, exit left and traverse the ridge, heading toward The Attic.
  • Easier way: Take one of the (usually) groomed runs down like Main Backside.

3. Granite Chief-Magoos

  • You can dance down this short, stepped ridge near the top before joining with Main Backside.
  • Chair: Granite Chief, exit left and traverse the ridge past Main Backside
  • Easier way: Take one of the (usually) groomed runs down like Main Backside.

4. Funnel

  • Shaped like a funnel this bowl hangs above Shirley Bowl, squeezing skiers into a skinny notch, unless it’s a huge snow year when the notch is wide. The first few turns can take your breath away, especially if you start to skier’s left in the Funnel.
  • Chair: Emigrant, exit right if you can, otherwise exit left and swoop around immediately under the chair.
  • Easier way: Emigrant Face (will take you back to Emigrant Chair) or over the backside toward Granite Chief-Attic (to Shirley Lake Express).

5. Silverado Tram Bowl

  • You can sometimes find stashes of winter snow in this playground under the High Camp complex. Follow the terrain as it twists and turns through Tram Bowl, Hanging Gardens and Kathmandu to Silverado.
  • Chair: Take Shirley Lake or Solitude up, then scoot through the beginner area at High Camp, exiting to Gate 6 over to the open gate below Baily’s Beach, above the Tram Bowl.
  • Easier way: Bail from the gate and head over to the Land Bridge.

6. Horse Trails

  • A series of steep lines that often have good snow off Cornice Ridge are collectively referred to as the Horse Trails. Start with the one labeled on the map, then check out some of the other lines to skier’s left of the main one.
  • Chair: Cornice II if it’s running, otherwise Headwall Express, exit left and ski down the road to the ridge.
  • Easier way: Go just a bit further down the ridge to Bullet.

7. Tower 16

  • This used to be a secret spot but once it was officially named and printed on the map it’s been discovered and crowds pour onto it in the spring. Good snow can still be found so it remains a favorite.
  • Chair: Broken Arrow, exit right. You might be able to find fewer moguls if you enter further to skier’s right than the hordes.
  • Easier way: Exit left to Malibu or the Land Bridge to Silverado.

8. KT22-Enchanted Forest

  • Lots of rolling terrain changes makes this a fun run that isn't as well-known as some other runs so it doesn’t get as crowded. On the way up the chair you can get a good look at some of the many other advanced runs off this legendary chair that accesses some of the steepest terrain at Squaw. Enchanted Forest is not named on the map—it’s between the Saddle and Bullet. Watch for little cliffs and drops and make sure you have an out.
  • Chair: KT-22, exit right and head down the road toward the Saddle. Look for skier trails, skier’s left.
  • Easier way: Take the Saddle, which is usually groomed.

9. Women’s Downhill

  • You can pretend you’re an Olympian or a rocket ship on this speedy descent from the top of the ridge. Choose your route carefully—many a skier has rocketed down this slope on his backside.
  • Chair: KT-22, exit left or Olympic Lady, exit right.
  • Easier way: Take the Saddle from KT-22 (exit right), which is usually groomed. Once you go left from the lift there is no easy way down.

10. Red Dog Ridge

  • You have to traverse quite a way but skiing through the sun-dappled trees on a spring afternoon is a blast when conditions are good.
  • Chair: KT-22, exit left and traverse the ridge as far as you can, past Olympic Lady and East Face.
  • Easier way: Take the Saddle from KT-22 (exit right), which is usually groomed. Once you go left from the lift there is no easy way down.

These ten runs will give you a good overview of some of the terrain that has made Squaw famous but if you thought these were too easy stay tuned for my favorite top ten expert runs. If you really get the bug get “Squallywood, a Guide to Squaw Valley's Most Exposed Lines”.

See related article on my blog, Inga's Adventures.

Squaw Valley
1960 Squaw Valley Road
Olympic Valley, CA 96146
Snow Phone 530-583-6955

Lift tickets: $95-102 per day. Multi-day and online discounts available.

Lodging and travel information is available online.

Getting There:
To reach Squaw Valley from San Francisco by car (200 miles; approximately 4 hours, depending on traffic and weather):

  • Take Interstate 80 northeast into the Sierra Nevada.
  • Exit at Truckee, onto Highway 89 SOUTH, towards Lake Tahoe/Tahoe City/Squaw Valley.
  • Follow Highway 89 south 8 miles to the Squaw Valley Rd. Exit. Turn RIGHT and follow Squaw Valley Rd. to the base of the mountain.


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