I was fortunate enough to get to sample four of the many fantastic hills around Lake Tahoe last month. I learned a lot about the area and the qualities of the different hills. I was looking forward to visiting Squaw Valley the most, but it turns out that my best day was at a smaller resort.
It just goes to show, you never know which hill is going to rub you the right way.
Here are a few of the things that I learned.
Squaw Valley certainly lives up to its reputation as the birthplace of extreme skiing and snowboarding. It's a monster of a mountain with every kind of terrain that you can imagine. Although I love the hardcore terrain there, I would not want to be a beginner at Squaw because the beginner area is at the top of the mountain, meaning that you have to ride a gondola to and from it.
I had an amazing time at Sugar Bowl. Although the hill is only 1500 acres, it feels much bigger and has some of the best extreme terrain that I saw on my trip. The real bonus at Sugar Bowl is the huge amount of snow it receives and the small number of visitors. It's an isolated hill and an employee told me that they keep their lift ticket prices intentionally higher than other hills of similar size to thin the crowds and improve the experience for the riders that do show up.
It worked. I spent two days doing practically the same awesome run over and over and never crossed crossed a track that wasn't my own.
If I wanted to learn how to ride park, however, I'd head to Sierra-at-Tahoe. They have the best terrain park system I've ever seen. They have everything from a park for learners with tiny obstacles up to fifty-foot kickers, so you can gradually work your way up, moving to bigger and harder features, without having to push yourself to do anything you're not comfortable with.
Sierra-at-Tahoe is also extremely supportive of their local pros. If my goal was to become a pro rider, I'd spend my time there.
Heavenly was, of course, the destination resort I'd heard about. There were lots of fast, beautifully-groomed runs overlooking the lake. A great hill for vacationers and occasional boarders. There wasn't a lot of fresh snow when I was there, so I'll have to wait until next time to try out their hardcore terrain.
Have you ever been snowboarding at Lake Tahoe? Which resort do you like there, and why?