Where to Take Kids Skiing in Lake Tahoe
Squaw Valley is a legendary Olympic resort in Lake Tahoe that boasts 6,500 acres to explore. Their runs top lists across the world, like the KT-22. It’s a bucket list destination for skiers from around the world.
Squaw is the resort where locals take their friends when they want to ski big. A day at Squaw is a day kissing the clouds while the snow and the lake try to out sparkle each other.
But what about the kids? My family loves this resort, part of it is the allure of Old Tahoe, the make-you-smile vibe that resonates with today’s kids as much as it did 50 years ago. The other is telling the kids back home you got to ski Squaw.
What I love about Squaw Valley Ski Resort
- The skiing can’t be beat. Known as one of the top North American Ski Resorts.
- It’s Olympic history as the host of the 1960 Winter Games.
- The Village at Squaw Valley offers lots family fun with restaurants, shopping and activities.
What I wanted from Squaw Valley Ski Resort
- More green skiing in the SnoVentures area, near the Ski School
- Ice skating in The Village.
- More discounts for families.
Squaw Valley by the Numbers
2017 Lift Tickets at Squaw Valley Ski Resort
|Ages||Online Advance Tickets|
|18 to 64||$129|
|13 to 17||$112|
|5 to 12||$78|
The Mountain Statistics
|Base Elevation: 6,200 ft.||Summit Elevation: 9,050 ft.|
|Vertical Drop: 2,850 ft.||Skiable Acres: 3,600|
|Type of Terrain||Percentage of Runs|
|Total Named Runs:||170|
1 aerial tram, 1 funitel, 1 high speed 6-pack, 3 high-speed quads, 1 quad, 9 triples, 3 doubles and 5 surface lifts
My Visit to Squaw Valley
Skiing with three kids can be a challenge at a large resort. Keeping the kids corralled requires a Mom with wings, not skis. And I will admit I shied away from the larger ski resorts when my kids were younger.
I can report that my kids, 9 12 and 14, had the best day on the snow at Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe. During our two-day visit, we spent our first day on the snow getting our ski legs underneath us again at the SnoVentures area its beginner lifts and green runs.
The SnoVentures area is perfect for families since it’s next to the parking lot. Making trips to the car for forgotten items is no big deal.
The SnoVentures area features a separate lodge with some indoor seating along with a microwave and a hot water spigot. I found outdoor picnic tables and a couple of food vendors so I didn’t have to hike back to the Village.
Most of the skiing at Squaw Valley is mountaintop skiing that requires a ride up an aerial tram. I checked out my kids and reassured myself that they knew how to stop and turn before we headed up the mountain.
This area also offers mini snowmobiles, snow tubing, and cross-country ski trails as well.
High Camp with Kids
On our second day, we wanted to head up the mountain so we boarded the aerial tram for High Camp. I double-checked I had everything I needed to keep my three kids happy for the day. It’s a hike back down to the car.
For this ride, skiers and boarders carry their equipment and don’t wear it since High Camp features a lodge where the tram loads and unloads. The tram ride up the mountain includes a sway that might frighten some younger kids though my 9-year-old was fine. And remember to hold on.
The High Camp offers sweeping views of Squaw Valley along with peeks of Lake Tahoe beyond. It features the Olympic Museum, an ice-skating rink, a seasonal pool and hot tub (spring through summer) and several options for lunch or dinner.
The High Camp area offers lots of green runs, beginner terrain parks and several different lifts. My kids loved the mountaintop skiing and snow boarding including my 9-year-old.
At 8,200 feet, the winds can be an issue at High Camp, especially on the lifts. I suggest goggles for all, even on sunny days. I could see smaller kids having possible issues with the wind.
For our trip, my kids covered lots of the green runs using the Bailey’s Beach, Mountain Meadow and the Belmont lifts. I found the skiing open and uncrowded on the busiest week of the year.
During our visit, we used the Squaw Valley app that features real-time information. I could find my teen skiing even with spotty data coverage.
Squaw Valley Terrain Parks
I’m a boy mom. So I’ve learned about terrain parks over the last few seasons. They’re not as crazy as I originally thought.
I will admit, when my daredevil son told me he wanted to check out a terrain park a couple of years ago, I envisioned something I’d seen on the Olympics. Don’t worry, think of terrain parks like snow playgrounds.
At Squaw Valley, my kids, 9, 12 and 13, started on the terrain features at the High Camp Start Park. Then they moved on to the Belmont Park near the Belmont Lift. And stayed there the majority of the day.
As a Mom, be sure and check out the terrain park signs to see if your kids are in the right playground. Most resorts install several terrain parks with differing levels of difficulty. Take it easy, start small and keep an eye out for the more advanced teens.
Squaw Valley’s Terrain Parks
- SnoVentures Start Park
- High Camp Start Park
- Belmont Park
- Gold Coast Park
- Mainline Park
Night Skiing at Squaw Valley Ski Resort
My 12-year-old begged for hours to snowboard down the Mountain Run, a blue run that’s a whopping 3.2-miles long. After talking with several ski instructors, I said yes and made his day.
Dad accompanied him down the mountain. My son had no problems but Dad felt his age (40+).
Night Skiing lift tickets can be purchased for an additional fee and are valid from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The aerial tram transports skiers and snowboarders. Night Skiing is usually available the week after Christmas and Saturdays through March.
Squaw Valley Ski School
Squaw Kids, the Squaw Valley Ski and Snowboard School, offers programs divided by age. All lessons begin at their separate facility, located between SnoVentures and the Village.
For the youngest skiers, ages 3 to 4 (potty-trained kids only), the Pioneers program focuses on fun with first-timers, full-day and half-day programs available. The littlest skiers will be on the snow and in lessons for several hours and nap time is not included.
For the 5 to 7-year-olds, kids can choose from skiing or snowboarding. The Explorers Ski Program and Grommets Snowboard Program is for more active kids and broken down by ability–green, blue or black-level runs. A lunch break is included for all-day students.
Kids 8 to 13-years-old explore the mountain trying lots of runs alongside similarly-skilled kids. The Mountaineers Ski Program and Jibbers Snowboard Program will be on the snow the majority of the day and includes a lunch break for all-day students.
All kids’ programs (ages 3 to 13) feature an afternoon first-time package. Teen group lessons are available though they meet in the adult lesson area.
Squaw Valley Programs and Clinics
Squaw Valley features a couple of programs geared towards Moms looking to move up the mountain. For blue or black-level skiers, check out the 3-day Women of Winter Camp in January.
Looking for a guide to showcase the best that Squaw Valley offers? A non-instructional guide and priority lift access will allow for more exploring. A complimentary jacket is included and guide services are for blue or black-level skiers.
Private lessons are available and accommodate up to four people. Discounts for multiple days are available.
For families with a special needs child, Achieve Tahoe offers private lessons for kids with physical, sensory or intellectual challenges with adaptive ski and snowboard equipment and trained instructors.
Where to Eat at Squaw Valley Ski Resort
At the end of a killer day of skiing, I love to grab a bite to eat before I head back. The Village at Squaw Valley offers lots of options for families.
During my visit, we ate at Rocker and my kids dominated a plate of nachos as big as the state of California. With a little kids’ menu, big kid pleasing hamburgers, a choice of farm fresh salads, the whole table left happy.
For snacking during the day, I stopped by the Euro Snack trailer for savory and sweet crepes. Of course, I ran into Starbucks for coffee and hot chocolate. I also found pizza, sushi and grill options.
For adults looking to unwind, the Auld Dubliner Irish Pub draws a crowd along with several other bars in the Village area. Be sure and visit the World’s first ski-in, ski-out Starbucks located in the Gold Coast Lodge at the top of the Gold Coast Funitel, the only funitel in the U.S.
Squaw Valley’s Olympic History
Squaw Valley’s skiing is not the only thing that’s legendary. Their successful Olympic bid is as legendary as the games themselves.
In 1954 Alex Cushing, the chairman of Squaw Valley, saw a newspaper article announcing Reno as the possible site for the 1960 Olympic games. He threw his resort in the mix, boasting only a single chairlift and a couple of rope tows at the time.
The place to beat—Innsbruck, Austria, an international favorite. Cushing had the U.S. vote since the State of California backed the cause. Though it took a scale model so enormous it couldn’t get into the presentation room to win over the rest of the Olympic Committee.
After the successful bid, roads and facilities had to be built and fast. Even Walt Disney helped make the 1960 Olympic Games a success by orchestrating the pageantry.
After an unseasonable warm winter a fierce snowstorm dumped the much needed snow days before the start of the Olympic Games. Then the games needed the clouds to clear to light the eternal flame.
As if orchestrated by Disney himself, the clouds cleared and the torch was lit. Then 2,000 doves rose into the air above Squaw Valley signaling the start of the 10-day long games.
Be sure to walk through the Olympic Museum at High Camp. The Olympic podium offers a perfect picture spot for kids.
Family Fun Without a Lift Ticket:
Taking the entire family skiing requires more than a few lift tickets. Squaw Valley Ski Resort offers a village packed full of fun for everyone on a family ski getaway, not just the skiers and boarders.
During my visit, I found a spa, yoga and shopping for Mom and Grandma. The kids can craft at the craft studio, roast marshmallows, sled, snow tube, and ride a mini-snow mobile.
Try a new sport. I found dog sledding, cross-country skiing, and snow shoeing. I even found trampolines and climbing walls.
If celebrating the holidays, Squaw Valley offers horse-drawn carriages, Santa visits and special seasonal performances. Nightly fireworks are a must. And the chefs at Squaw Valley turn out special holiday meals.
Is it Your First Family Ski Trip?
What do you need to pack for family ski trip? I’ve been there and pulled together a list to help you out.
Need some advice on picking a ski school for your kids? I’ve got some tips for families to find the best program.
More Lake Tahoe Fun for Families
A day at the resort is fun but so is finding a perfect sled hill in a nearby forest. Got a couple of my favorite spots to share.
Then discover a quaint town to spend an afternoon, like Tahoe City.
Where’s Squaw Valley Ski Resort
Squaw Valley Ski Resort is located at 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, California. Squaw Valley is 12 miles south of Truckee, California, along California Highway 89. Tahoe City, California, a quaint mountain town on the western shores of Lake Tahoe is 10 miles away.
If flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) to visit Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley is 48 miles from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport via Interstate 80.
Squaw Valley hosted my family for one ski trip. Though I have skied Squaw Valley on numerous occasions without any sponsorship.
Know Before You Go:
- Reservations are required during holiday breaks and long weekends. Ski School sells out.
- Arrive early to ski school to allow for smooth transition.
- Kids helmets are mandatory in Squaw Valley’s Ski and Snowboard School.
- Pack lip balm, googles, a small snack and an extra set of gloves for your kids.
- Kids in ski school (ages 3 to 13) will ride ski lifts when they can turn and stop.
- I found several fire pits so pack a bag of marshmallows and a couple of roasting sticks for a perfect for an après-ski treat for the kids.
- If your kids are afraid of heights, keep them in the center of the tram and focused on the view in front of them.
- Before heading out check out road conditions at NVroads.com for tire chain requirements. I use Nevada’s website for the Lake Tahoe region since it’s easier to use on a mobile device than California’s website.