Voted ‘Best Ski Resort’ in North America for three years in a row by USA Today, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is an internationally renowned mountain resort in North Lake Tahoe, California. The resort spans 6,000 skiable acres across two mountains, with stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada. Skiers and riders of all ability levels are welcomed by over 65 percent beginner and intermediate terrain, while legendary steeps, towering cliffs and heart-pumping chutes continue to be ground zero for boundary breaking skiing and riding. The resort features slopeside lodging at The Village at Squaw Valley®, which bustles year-round with nonstop events and over 50 bars, restaurants and boutiques. With an annual average of 450 inches of snowfall and 300 sunny California days, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is known as the Spring Skiing Capital™ and provides the longest ski and snowboard season in Lake Tahoe.
How did your business get its start?
It’s really the story of two neighboring ski resorts: Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. In 1946, Alex Cushing traveled from the East Coast to the Sierra Nevada Mountains on a ski vacation, when he broke his ankle while skiing at Sugar Bowl. As the fourth in the groups game of Bridge, his friends demanded that he stay. He heard a young man named Wayne Poulsen speak of a nearby place with the best skiing in the country. The group, with Alex on crutches, made their way to Squaw Valley where Alex watched his friends hike and ski the Squaw’s unparalleled peaks. With a powerful dream and relentless determination, Cushing raised $400,000 from friends and family and set about the task that would change California’s history and the world’s ski industry.
On November 24, 1949, Alex Cushing opened Squaw Valley. Alex Cushing’s bid to host the 1960 Olympic Winter Games originally began as a plan to gain publicity for the resort. What began as an impulsive idea quickly materialized into a feasible plan, and Squaw Valley, with only one chairlift and lodging for fifty, became a forerunner in run for the Olympic bid. Ultimately, Cushing’s campaign succeeded and the 1960 Olympic Winter Games brought commerce and infrastructure to the Lake Tahoe Area, turning a former summer vacation town into a renowned winter destination and transforming Squaw Valley into a world-class ski resort.
Alpine Meadows was founded in 1961 by a group of avid skiers from San Francisco who discovered the potential at Alpine Meadows while skiing at neighboring Squaw Valley. A number of families pooled resources to develop the resort and John Reily originally founded Alpine Meadows as Ward Peak. Alpine Meadows opened for the 1961-1962 season with three lifts. 50 years later, Alpine Meadows joined forces with Squaw Valley in November 2011.
Together, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows spans 6,000 skiable acres, with stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada. Skiers and riders of all ability levels are welcomed by over 65 percent beginner and intermediate terrain, while legendary steeps, towering cliffs and heart-pumping chutes continue to be ground zero for boundary breaking skiing and riding.
What are some challenges you see facing your industry?
Climate change is a big one. We are continuously preparing for more extreme weather patterns. We have recently invested millions in gazex, which are remotely controlled avalanche mitigation systems use propane gas and oxygen to create a concussive blast to remotely trigger avalanches as part of our avalanche control program. We now have the largest resort system in North America. On the flip side, when it comes to low-snow scenarios, we’ve invested over $9 million in high efficiency snowmaking, with over 300 snowmaking guns across Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.
How else does sustainability play into your operations?
On the large scale, we are working with Liberty Utilities to power our entire operation with 100% clean and renewable sources of energy and provide new clean energy options for 49,000 power customers in our community. The program is under review by the California Public Utilities Commission.
When it comes to how our guests interact with the resort, we focus on most are the small, everyday habits that add up to make a big difference and can be adopted in everyday life. The two simple actions that we encourage the most are responsible transportation and reducing the consumption of single-use products. We were the first resort in North America to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles, instead installing water refill stations across the resort and selling refillable pouches at the same price as a throw-away bottle. Our guests have eliminated over 360,000 plastic bottles from the waste stream since 2016.
On the parking and transportation side we provide Protect Our Winter “POW” Carpool parking, which incentivizes guests with free, up-close parking for vehicles of three or more. We recently partnered with other businesses in Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows to launch Mountaineer, a free app-based shuttle system within the valleys, designed to cut down on single-driver traffic from the neighborhoods.
Why was it important to be located in San Francisco?
While we aren’t physically located in San Francisco, a lot of our most passionate skiers and riders hail from SF. We have generations of San Franciscans who grew up coming here, and lots of families with kids who have learned to ski or snowboard here over the decades. It’s amazing to have a thriving coastal city so closely connected to one of the largest ski resorts in North America. We love doing events in city to get people stoked on the season, whether it’s an Ikon Pass event or a ski movie premier.
Our San Francisco guests are tuned in to what’s happening in the mountains, since they often see the weather on its way to hitting us. We also know that the technology component is important there too, and we’ve been continually upping the ante with the Squaw Alpine app so you always know what’s going on at the resort whether you’re in your office or sitting on KT-22 chair.
What’s new at your business this year?
We have a lot coming down the pipe for this season, but here are a few things that our guests from San Francisco will be pumped about:
- The new Treeline Cirque chairlift at Alpine Meadows is a $10 million detachable, high-speed quad chair that will transport skiers and riders from base area to the Sherwood ridge in a total of five minutes. The lift will feature a mid-station for quick access to some of Alpine’s best low-intermediate terrain. From the top terminal skiers and riders can drop into expert terrain on the frontside or venture into the back bowls of Sherwood, which boast the resort’s best views of Lake Tahoe. The protected alignment of Treeline Cirque makes it favorable in high winds and inclement weather, and the rapid access from the base area will dramatically improve the skier experience for a wide range of ability levels.
- The Tram Car Bar, a restored 70’s era Squaw Valley tram cabin, will make its home on the Olympic House deck, serving drinks as the Aerial Tram soars overhead. Skiers and riders can duck in for a “Backscratcher” cocktail, a spicy take on the Moscow mule named for a favorite ski trick of the 70’s hot-dogging days, or daily happy hour. The 7,000-pound silver tram cabin is a nod to Squaw Valley’s storied past—the original logos and unique shape of the cabin will be the ideal après-ski photo op with the iconic Tram Face in the background.
- The new Mountaineer app-based shuttle service kicks off for its second season on Dec. 13, 2019 and will operate through April 12, 2020. In its inaugural season, Mountaineer transported over 81,000 passengers and removed at least 20,000 vehicle trips from access roads in Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Mountaineer will offer extended evening hours in Squaw Valley (until 10 p.m. daily) and holiday service in Alpine Meadows. Two more vehicles were also added to the fleet in order to meet demand and further reduce weekend wait times.
Our Corporate Discount Program now offers discounted tickets and lessons to organizations of 50 or more. Savings are up to 40% off and include single day lift tickets for Adults, Teens and Children along with group lesson offers. The program is accessible through a link and promo code and allows members to purchase individually for themselves, friends and family. Participating organizations also have access to perks throughout the season that are not available to the general public. Contact Business Development Manager, Katie Gaines for more info at KGaines@SquawAlpine.com.