Squaw Valley USA
Nuts and Bolts: Site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley USA (tel. 800/4034-0206; www.squaw.com) is one of the most storied resorts in the West (its development proved the catalyst for the industry's boom in both the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada). The amphitheater-like box canyon is one of the most scenic spots in the Golden State, with terrain to match. The resort's upper heights are known for double-black runs overlooking a great beginner's area at mid-mountain, and for blue and black runs leading down to the base.
Besides the action on the mountain, the après-ski scene in the village is legendary: Le Chamois (www.squawchamois.com) attracts a see-and-be-seen throng with pizza and adult beverages. Squaw Valley's location allows easy access to and from Tahoe City and Truckee, which are good bases for skiers and riders thinking of hitting multiple resorts.
What's New: The resort's new Dawn Patrol program gives guests an hour's worth of early access to 200 acres in the Shirley Lake area and a gourmet breakfast at High Camp. The package is $45 and must be purchased by 3pm the preceding afternoon. The new Gates To Skills Clinic ($175, with lunch; a lift ticket is not included) utilizes gate training as a way to up your game on the slopes. There is also a new terrain park for kids at Belmont Park as well as a kid-specific mountain map focusing on gentler terrain and fun facts about Squaw.
Best Ski Deals & Ski Packages: Kid-O-Rama Week starts Feb. 13: pay $1,176 per family (two adults and two kids) and get four nights in a kitchenette-equipped condo in Squaw Village, three-day lift tickets, and access to all sorts of family-friendly activities. Another package is a Sunday-through-Thursday discount of 30 percent at the posh Resort at Squaw Creek, one of the top ski-in, ski-out properties in the West, featuring its own lift and three picture-perfect slopeside hot tubs. Rates start at $160 per person per night, with lift tickets. Other ski-and-stay packages start at $99 per person per night.
Quotable: "They call it Squallywood because the whole valley opens up in front of you like a theater, and from your chair, you can see world-class athletes bombing and doing tricks off the features." -- snowboarder on the resort's unique funitel (essentially a two-cable gondola)
Nuts and Bolts: Just over the southern ridge of Squaw Valley, unpretentious Alpine Meadows (tel. 530/583-4232; www.skialpine.com) is known for its low-key atmosphere and one of the best backsides in the Sierra. Terrain consists of seven distinct open bowls, with a 25 percent of its 100 named runs designated as green/easy, 40 percent as blue/more difficult, and the remainder as black or double-black/most difficult or expert. The village is friendly but modest; the resort doesn't own any on-mountain lodgings, but there are overnight options adjacent to the resort (double rates at the Stanford Alpine Chalet (www.stanfordalpinechalet.com) range from $135 to $265 per night), as well as further afield in Truckee, Tahoe City, and other lakeside spots. And don't miss the homemade chocolate-chip cookies from beloved bakery at the base, Treats.
What's New: The base lodge has enjoyed a slick facelift, including a slick outdoor fire pit ensconced by bronze skis. Alpine Meadows and sister resort Homewood recently welcomed to the family West Shore Café, featuring a restaurant and six lakefront rooms that are now open year-round.
Best Ski Deals & Ski Packages: There are several ski-and-stay packages, including one with the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno (about an hour's drive away) starting at the absurdly low rate of $69 per person per night through the end of February. A $20 membership in the resort's Alpine Club is well worth the price; you'll be able to buy 5-packs of lift tickets for $250 and get other perks. Considering the standard walk-up rate for a full-day adult lift ticket is $71, the $20 membership fee pays for itself in a visit or two.
Quotable: "Alpine's unique because 70 percent of the terrain is accessible from the Summit chairlift, and there's a ton of hikeable terrain. It's hiker's nirvana." -- Alpine Meadows spokesperson Rachael Woods