#9 in 2023 Best Ski Resorts in the USA
Lake Tahoe’s Palisades Tahoe – host of the 1960 Winter Olympics – became one of the largest ski areas in the U.S. when it aligned with Alpine Meadows in 2012.
Palisades Tahoe, formerly know as Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, now spreads out across two mountains, with more than 270 trails on 6,200 skiable acres accessed by 43 lifts. The area sees an average snowfall of 450 inches, and the resort features a vertical drop of 2,850 feet from a 9,050-foot summit. Best of all, the slopes offer beautiful views of Lake Tahoe’s pristine blue waters.
While the resort is known for its extreme runs Palisades Tahoe isn’t just for advanced skiers. The High Camp village is a great base for beginners and intermediate skiers, with four lifts providing access to shorter, more gentle runs. High Camp even has a hot tub and swimming pool.
There are plenty of rental operations to choose from, including Palisades Tahoe Ski & Snowboard Rental, near the Village at Olympic Valley. There is a child rental and ski lift package available. From child and adult private lessons, family lessons to season-long camps, the resort’s Ski & Snowboard School Program accommodates just about everyone. Night skiing until 7 p.m. is offered on select dates, while those not interested in skiing or snowboarding can go tubing or snowmobiling. Palisades Tahoe is an Ikon Pass destination and Mountain Collective member resort.
Palisades Tahoe has a long season that begins in mid- to late November and often runs until the end of May (the resort features snow-making across 1,000 acres). While the winter holidays are always popular for ski trips, it’s the spring conditions from March onward – and the bonus of being able to ski in a T-shirt – that tends to attract the crowds.
Daily lift tickets for Palisades Tahoe for the ’22/’23 season vary based on the date: Adult (18-69) $119 – 195, Young Adult (13-17) $107 – $176, Child (5-12) $83 – $137, Senior (70+) $107 – $176, 4 & under ski free.
All tickets and packages can be booked online or by calling 1-800-403-0206, and discounts are available for those who book in advance. Packages include the Tahoe Super 4-Pack, with discounted rates on tickets for four days or more, and the Romantic Getaway Package, which includes a two-night stay and two massages at the Trilogy Spa. Ikon Pass holders save 20 percent on lodging if booked Sunday to Thursday.
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While much of Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows is for advanced skiers and snowboarders, 25 percent of its runs are ranked beginner and 45 percent are ranked intermediate. Here are the best Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows trails for each level, according to resort staff.
If you are a true beginner at Squaw Valley, take the aerial tram up to High Camp. From here, you can experience the best gentle terrain off of Mountain Meadow. After you feel comfortable here you can explore terrain off of Big Blue, Bailey’s Beach and Gold Coast. Park riders will want to take the Funitel up and wrap around to the bottom of Gold Coast Express.
At Alpine Meadows, beginners can conveniently park by the Subway chairlift and work their way to the right for more challenging terrain. Take Summit Six Express to access top to bottom skiing and get the full experience of this zone.
At Alpine Meadows, Blue Room offers up a laundry list of terrain for intermediates to explore – long, consistently pitched groomers, bumps, tree skiing, terrain park features, bowls, chutes and gullies. Squaw Valley’s Big Blue zone has wide open, groomed, beginner intermediate terrain, including Mountain Meadow that allows for quick learning and progression.
Big, wide open bowls, long, wide groomers and vast views of Tahoe are the calling cards for Pacific Crest South Bowls at Alpine Meadows. At Squaw Valley, KT-22 is an expert’s nirvana and an iconic chairlift – not just at Squaw Valley, but in the world of skiing and snowboarding. The zone is 2,000 vertical feet of steeps, chutes and cliffs, and hands-down the best expert terrain.
There is no shortage of dining and drinking options at Palisades Tahoe. For a taste of old Ireland, step into the Auld Dubliner Irish Pub & Restaurant in the village for corned beef sliders or blackened Ahi salad with a choice of more than 100 whiskeys from around the world. Stunning views and an extensive wine list are part of the attraction of 22 Bistro, at the base of KT 22 in the village, which offers wild boar and bison chili, miso braised beef short ribs, and cedar plank roasted ora king salmon. The family-friendly Fireside Pizza offers salads, pasta and gluten-free options at this gourmet pizza restaurant. Try the fire-roasted medley with four cheeses, basil olive oil, peppers and roasted garlic, or go for the signature pear and gorgonzola pizza, finished with arugula and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette .
There are plenty of places to stop for for a quick après-ski drink, or settle in for a longer evening of wine and tapas, at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows. At Alpine Meadows, The Last Chair Bar in the Main Lodge has local beer and wine with favorites like nachos, wings and seared tuna tagarashi. The Le Chamois & Loft Bar is a local favorite at Squaw Valley – flash the Buddy Pass and you’ll get 20 pints of Budweiser for you and your friends for $80. For a Bavarian-style beer garden, stop into The Chalet at Alpine Meadows for their signature melted Swiss cheese and one of their on-tap beers before cozying up in a booth or enjoying a bluebird day on the outdoor deck.
By car, Palisades Tahoe is 42 miles from Reno, 96 miles from Sacramento and 196 miles from San Francisco. The closest airport is the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which has daily departures to major U.S. hubs. Some area hotels offer complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport. Paid shuttle services, like the South Tahoe Airporter, are also available. Another option is flying into Sacramento International Airport, just under two hours from Palisades Tahoe.
Once at the area, there is a free shuttle between the base areas of Palisades Tahoe beginning at 8:30a.m., with the last shuttle leaving the mountain at 4:30p.m. A SnoVentures shuttle also runs continuously through the day between the Squaw Valley Village and the SnoVentures Activity Zone.
There are numerous accommodation options for most budgets close to Palisades Tahoe. The Squaw Valley Lodge has ski-in/ski-out condominium suites at the base of Squaw Valley, with a spa, steam room and kitchenette facilities in the larger suites, and is just steps from the village. The Village at Squaw Valley has apartment-style suites and an on-site spa, with lift packages available near the slopes. The cozy PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn on Squaw Valley Road has hotel rooms, family suites and penthouse suites with in-room dining, plush robes, and an on-site cafe and bar. PlumpJack also welcomes pets.
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||Donner Ski Ranch||Tahoe Donner|
|Vertical Drop (ft)||2,280||1,650||1,500||750||600|
|Skiable Area (ac)||350||450||500||400||400|
|Number of Trails||100||67||103||52||17|
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