t’s about minus 6°C. Yesterday’s fresh dump of snow has deposited powdery mounds around the pool and jacuzzis. I’m wrapped up like a mummy in an oversized white bathrobe, looking a frightful sight with my black woollen beanie and fur-lined hiking boots. But even so, I’m still shivering with cold. The tendrils of hot steam rising like a Scottish mist above the warm jacuzzi is just enough incentive for me to throw off my bathrobe and slip into whirlpool. The water embraces me in a warm and wet cocoon.
It seems bizarre to be sitting in a hot pool while gazing at metres of snow but when in Rome, or rather when in Lake Tahoe, it’s best to follow the lead of the locals. There’s nothing more rewarding than plunging into a heated jacuzzi after an active day out in the snow. The only problem is that I’m so warm and snug in the water I can’t bring myself to get out.
After snow-shoeing through the pine forest at the resort, I’m aching in places I never knew about. Trying to keep up with three long-legged men, while trudging through meters of snow with shoes that look like tennis rackets strapped to my feet, is no mean task.
Squaw Valley activities
The forest hike is followed by a sled ride across the resort’s fields (which is an 18-hole golf course in summer) pulled along by a team of impatient huskies. Huddled beneath a warm blanket, with the wind blowing on my face, the slushing sound of the sled puts me in a trance as I marvel at the exquisite winter wonderland of tall pines covered in fine powdery snow.
Set at the base of Squaw Valley USA, which was the home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the Resort at Squaw Creek is surrounded by 80ha of forested hillside which provides a natural environment for a myriad of activities.
In winter, there are 18 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails, an ice-skating rink and heated swimming pools. In summer, the resort’s 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Jr. championship golf course offers golfers challenging mountain and meadow terrain as along with breathtaking views.
Children between the ages of 4 and 12 can join the Mountain Buddies programme, which is a year-round, fully supervised children’s program packed with seasonal activities such as swimming, hiking, biking or tennis in summer and sledding, snowshoeing, ice-skating, or snowmobiling in the winter.
For skiers, there’s a convenient onsite triple chairlift with ski-in and ski-out access to Squaw Valley USA’s world class terrain. The mountain’s deep snow and extensive network of 33 chairlifts has areas that cater for all ages and abilities.
The next day, I find myself being kitted up with boots, skis and poles at the resort’s on-site ski rental centre. As I’m not confident enough to tackle the triple chairlift on my own, I hang my skis on the side of the complimentary shuttle bus and hop on for a ride to the village.
The Village at Squaw Valley is a charming ski village with bustling cafes, shops and bars. But the reason I’m here is to hitch a ride on the cable car to High Camp, the gateway to the beginners’ terrain. Even if you’re not going to ski, a trip on the cable car is a must as the views of the snow-covered mountains from the cable car are simply stunning.
The beginner slopes at High Camp are gently undulating and traffic free. After a half-day private lesson, I’m hooked on skiing.
A touch of class
The resort’s signature restaurant, the Six Peaks Grille, offers a menu of hearty meals. Diners can choose to sit outside by the large fire pit or enjoy mountain views through floor-to-ceiling picture windows while being warmed by a stone fireplace. There are three other restaurants within the resort, along with a shopping promenade, a full-service spa and a fitness centre.
Rooms are well appointed and offer a cosy mountain-home ambience. There are three categories of rooms (deluxe, king and queen) as well as Fireplace Suites and Penthouses. The Fireplace Suites are available in one-, two- and three-bedroom units. My one-bedroom suite has a kitchen, artificial-log gas fireplace and comfortable couches from which to watch the LCD flat-screen TV from.
One afternoon, I succumb to the ministrations of the spa’s massage therapist where hot stones are placed on my body to melt away the tension in my sore muscles. Compared to the sub-zero temperature outside, the heat from the stones are utter bliss!
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of Squaw Valley Resort
For more things to do in USA see: