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Squaw v.s. Heavenly

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 

Hi,

 

Thinking about a week long ski vacation first week of March and wanted to get opinions on both resorts. We are 6 adults ranging from intermediate to expert. Don.t care about nightlife or casinos, looking for variety of terrain, beauty, vertical, slopeside condo, great snow and no crowds. It appears that Heavenly has a huge amount of terrain and vertical, but Squaw might be less crowded and low key. IWe would appreciate your thoughts on this. IS the first week of March a good time period in that area?

 

Thanks

 

IMG_3493.JPG

post #2 of 56

First week of March tends to be a good time to come to Tahoe. Consider that if you go to Heavenly you will also get Northstar and Kirkwood (Squaw-like skiing) on your ticket and if you go to Squaw you also get Alpine Meadows on it's ticket. As far as crowds, All the resorts get busy on powder days and Squaw i far from "low key", they don't call it Squallywood for nothing. Being from Mass, I will say that Heavenly is the west coast version of Killington, it is very vast and very easy to spend the majority of you time trying to get from here to there. Heavenly does have a ton of slope side condos, Squaw not as much but Squawlpine will give you much more if a Tahoe experience. Both have very good views of the lake. 

post #3 of 56
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the info. I'm from MA as well and really do not enjoy the Killington experience, love The Loaf and Sugarbush best.

post #4 of 56

North shore without a doubt.  Squaw, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl, Northstar and Homewood give you plenty of options for all kinds of different days and conditions (i.e. gusting winds in particular).

 

First week of March is generally a great time to go.  The last two years (which were polar opposites) it's been one of the best weeks of the season, for example.

post #5 of 56

I vastly prefer the north shore.

post #6 of 56
I am biased to Squaw, but objectively speaking North Shore has more of more challenging terrain. South Shore- you need to drive to Kirkwood to get a comparable experience.
post #7 of 56

Another vote for north shore.  When you say "slopeside condo", does that mean the group mainly wants to stick with one place?  Or still willing to drive a bit to explore other options?  Plenty of good deals to be had on VRBO on the north shore, especially if not staying slopeside.

 

There will be crowds on the weekend.  Unless the roads are closed from CA. ;-)

 

Don't forget about Mt. Rose.  If taking a red-eye home from Reno is an option, pretty easy to spend a full ski day at Mt. Rose before heading to the airport.

post #8 of 56
Quote:

Originally Posted by binobear View Post

 

Don't care about nightlife or casinos, looking for variety of terrain, beauty, vertical,

 

If you cared about casinos, that would be the only reason I could think of to go to Heavenly.

 

Squaw FTW for sure. If you like the Loaf, you'll love Squaw. If Sugarloaf = Squaw, Sugarbush = Northstar (those are not accurate comparisons, but given the two places you mentioned, that's the best I could come up with).

 

FYI, you can fly BOS<->RNO on Southwest with one stop and no bag charges. Pretty cheap too. Easy drive with no 4WD needed from Reno to Squaw (assuming you can drive in New England w/out 4wd). Having a car isn't necessary if you're staying at Squaw and skiing there and Alpine. But it is nice to have, especially if you want to go to dinner in Truckee or Tahoe City, or do a day trip to Northstar or someplace else.

post #9 of 56
The best mountain in the Sierras for expert skiers is unquestionably Squaw, IMHO. That said the terrain in the Sierras, to say nothing of the snow, is not nearly as nice as the Rockies. Plus Tahoe gets crowded on weekends, unlike Aspen or other areas further from Denver. If you must do Tahoe, then ski north shore.
post #10 of 56
Just noticed Slope Side comment, I think you will struggle to find reasonable ski in ski out at Squaw.
post #11 of 56

I'll give you the snow in CO is better, but the terrain?  Squaw, Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood all within an hour or so.  And near a larger airport (Reno).  Where in Colorado are you going to find that?  Yes, Crested Butte, Telluride, Silverton, A-Basin and Aspen Highlands have the terrain, but they're not exactly near much else (in some cases) or one another.  Plus, for the amount of area you're talking about in comparison, Tahoe could also include Mammoth.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love Colorado, but I wouldn't say the terrain being better than Tahoe on average is a given.  Actually, nevermind, I take it back.  Tahoe sucks.  Don't come here.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cats Meow View Post

That said the terrain in the Sierras, to say nothing of the snow, is not nearly as nice as the Rockies.
post #12 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by JayT View Post

I'll give you the snow in CO is better, but the terrain? 

 

Actually, he/she said "nice," which might be true. :-) As in "agreeable" or "polite" or "kind"....

post #13 of 56

^^^ I can't argue with that.  Keystone was very nice.

post #14 of 56

Well, not trying to start an argument with a loyalist ....  Tahoe is great and I love all the areas you mentioned.  I lived for 10 years in the Bay Area and did a lot of skiing there.

 

I also lived in Colorado for about 15 years where I skied most of the state and have made dozens of trips to Utah.  What I find is that the Sierras tend to have more jagged terrain with lots of big rocks, a steep chute and then long flats.  As a very general comment, I find places like Aspen/Snowmass or Vail to have massively better snow (especially powder) but also that the pitch of the mountains is more regularly undulating and the skiing more pleasurable.  Long runs with somewhat even steepish grades (think the Ridge of Bell or Gentlemans Ridge or Ruthies or the Big Burn)  Just an opinion, I am sure you can think of plenty of beautiful long pitches at Alpine or Squaw too.  

 

But as for concentration of great skiing with *zero* to low crowds I think Aspen/Highlands/Snowmass/Buttermilk is pretty hard to beat. The mountains are big and tall with great vertical: Snowmass has 4,400 of vertical feet to Alpine's 1,500 or Northstar's 2,300 or even Squaw's 2400.  Highlands has 3600 vertical and for true double-black skiing name me anyplace in Tahoe that matches the Highland Bowl!  Ajax is small, but fun for a few days with 3,267 vertical.  I can totally occupy myself in that valley for 2 weeks of hard skiing and great night life. (Lift tix good on all 4 mountains are $88 with a multi-day purchase)

 

Kirkland is a nice little area (1620 vertical), but it is more like an hour and a half to two hours from Northshore, so I can't really seeing doing that drive.  If you are up for that then you'd include Vail as a possible if staying in Aspen since it is under 2 hours away - but not worth the drive on the weekends due to the Denver crowds. 

 

So, I'd say that the true points of differentiation for me are, in order of importance:

1)  the much higher quality of snow,

2)  the lack of lift lines, even on weekends in Aspen/Snowmass vs Tahoe, and probably of less importance

3)  terrain which I find to be more enjoyable and evenly challenging with lots of true double-black stuff if you like that.

 

Just one man's opinion.  And, if I lived in Northern California, I'd consider myself blessed to have Tahoe within 4 hours! Good for you.   But I live overseas now and if I am coming to the States, I am going to the Rockies to ski.  (Don't get me started on Whistler...)

 

PS access - yes Aspen Airport can be difficult to access sometimes, but in 5 trips we have never not been able to fly in.  If you are nervous, a safer option with direct service from NYC is to fly into Eagle which almost never closes and grab a shuttle to Aspen which takes 90 minutes.  You don't need a car once in the Valley as free buses take you anywhere.  So compared to into Reno, rent a car (which you need in Tahoe), it is an hour to Squaw or 90 minutes to South Lake Tahoe. 

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by JayT View Post

I'll give you the snow in CO is better, but the terrain?  Squaw, Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood all within an hour or so.  And near a larger airport (Reno).  Where in Colorado are you going to find that?  Yes, Crested Butte, Telluride, Silverton, A-Basin and Aspen Highlands have the terrain, but they're not exactly near much else (in some cases) or one another.  Plus, for the amount of area you're talking about in comparison, Tahoe could also include Mammoth.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love Colorado, but I wouldn't say the terrain being better than Tahoe on average is a given.  Actually, nevermind, I take it back.  Tahoe sucks.  Don't come here.

 

post #15 of 56

^^^ I will give you that for a small localized area Aspen is pretty amazing.  I take far less issue with that than Colorado > Tahoe, if that makes sense.

 

"Highlands has 3600 vertical and for true double-black skiing name me anyplace in Tahoe that matches the Highland Bowl!"

 

Well, obviously Tahoe has several places that are significantly more "extreme" than Highland Bowl (as do other places in Colorado), but of course nothing close to that kind of consistent vertical.

 

Anyway, we may now resume your previously scheduled discussion...

 

/ End ThreadJack

post #16 of 56

While the comparisons of Colorada (Aspen) vs Tahoe are interesting and thought-provoking, I thought I'd just reply to the OP.

 

My view is that of a weekend warrior in the PNW who sampled the Tahoe area at the Gathering, so superficial tourist perspective rather than local expert perspective.  My responses in blue.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by binobear View Post

Hi,

 

Thinking about a week long ski vacation first week of March and wanted to get opinions on both resorts.

 

Ski both areas.  You may feel now that you want to stay near one resort for convenience, but both areas, and others around Tahoe are worth a visit.  I stayed at South Shore the week of the Gathering and drove to the North shore four of the days.  While I had an hour or so to drive, other people staying in condos and cabins at the North shore had to dig out of snow and took just as long to get to the ski resort.  What I'm getting at is it's not all that far away. 

 

We are 6 adults ranging from intermediate to expert.

 

Does your group intend to mostly stick together as a group, or will the experts want to go off on their own, regardless of whether you can all meet up at a lift?

 

 

Don.t care about nightlife or casinos, looking for variety of terrain, beauty, vertical, slopeside condo, great snow and no crowds. It appears that Heavenly has a huge amount of terrain and vertical, but Squaw might be less crowded and low key.

 

As it turns out, Casinos and nightlife are at the base of Heavenly, but not actually on the ski slopes.  You won't even notice it while you're skiing. 

 

Squaw is not low-key, and not necessarily less crowded.  Squaw is Squawllywood, the center of radness, where some truly excellent skiers and some truly obnoxious wanna-be's show off their stuff.  Squaw devotees believe, rightly or wrongly, that Squaw is the only place in the universe worth skiing and they're not averse to saying so. 

 

OK, that's not all it is.  Squaw is known more for it's advanced and expert and uber-expert terrain, but actually does have a lot of intermediate terrain as well.  The small part of the resort that I was actually able to ski, due to weather and wind hold, was really great.

 

OTOH Heavenly has some steeps, but really geared more towards intermediate terrain. Double black at Heavenly is a black diamond at Squaw.  What Heavenly does have is some nice tree skiing.  Squaw seems to have cut most of those down. 

 

Heavenly has the views of Tahoe.

 

Both will be crowded on weekends, in a normal snow year.  Squaw will be crowded, in some areas (like KT-22) on a powder morning.  Otherwise both ares are so huge that initial crowds at the bases are dispersed pretty well.

 

IWe would appreciate your thoughts on this. IS the first week of March a good time period in that area?

 

Yes.  The Gathering was the end of Feb/first week of March, and it dumped the first four days were were there, and this was in a very unusually low snowfall year.

 

Thanks

 

You're welcome.

post #17 of 56

I haven't skied Heavenly in more than a decade.  I have about 40-50 days at Squaw and 300 at Alpine.

 

One great thing about Squaw that I've noted in other threads is that particularly on the lower mountain, it's an excellent place for a mixed-skill group of intermediates and higher to ski together.  While my wife was learning to ski, we skied primarily at Squaw.  At first, she would stay on the groomers, we would start and finish runs together, but I would duck off-piste into areas signed for advanced or expert skiers for part of the run before rejoining her.  As she improved, she started heading off-piste with me, knowing that she could dip her toe in and back out if needed.  That pattern continued when we moved up to the Silverado area, which has a large open run and multiple treed cliff lines leading down to it.  I don't think we would've been able to turn skiing into the family sport many other places.

 

As for the Colorado/Tahoe debate, I haven't skied Colorado, but I have a fair amount of time in Utah and Val d'Isere under my belt.  I like vertical, but don't see why people fetishize it.  I'm just as happy taking two 1800-2000 foot runs broken up by a six-minute lift ride than taking one 3500-4000 run broken up by a couple of opportunities to catch my breath.  If you aren't like me, you should probably consider somewhere with more continuous vertical than Tahoe.

post #18 of 56

"Slopeside" to me means the rental housing on the short stretch of road next to the Stagecoach lift at Heavenly. I hate walking 

 

At Squaw there's more in the village or over at Resort @ Squaw Creek.

 

Re Terrain, I think Squaw/Alpine suits your group. My guess is your group will all be very happy at Alpine Meadows.  You'll have night life too at your back door. And you can always 'pick up' at Squawparty at squaw 099.JPGheavenly jan 2011 009.JPG


Edited by veteran - 6/9/12 at 2:18am
post #19 of 56

/\/\ Veteran's experience and opinions are probably worth more than those of us who live here. He spent a bunch of time this winter at both places. He has a funny accent, but he's definitely viewed the situation as a keen skier who doesn't have the luxury of a permanent or seasonal residence in either place. I'd PM him if you want more info.

post #20 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cats Meow View Post

So compared to into Reno, rent a car (which you need in Tahoe), it is an hour to Squaw or 90 minutes to South Lake Tahoe. 

Do you know any good place to hire a car in both North shore and South Lake Tahoe?

post #21 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scavenger View Post

Do you know any good place to hire a car in both North shore and South Lake Tahoe?

 

Reno. Particularly the airport.

post #22 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by binobear View Post

Thanks for the info. I'm from MA as well and really do not enjoy the Killington experience, love The Loaf and Sugarbush best.


Ah, we must be twins, I hate K, and consider Loaf to be THE BEST in the east.

 

Skip Tahoe and go to Mammoth, it will blow you away in every aspect.  Along with Snowbasin, my favorite mountains in US.  Heavenly is Traverse city, and Squaw is crowded. 

 

If open, spend a day at June, 20 minutes away from Mammoth.

post #23 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by gpaulski View Post

Skip Tahoe and go to Mammoth, it will blow you away in every aspect.  Along with Snowbasin, my favorite mountains in US.  Heavenly is Traverse city, and Squaw is crowded. 

 

If open, spend a day at June, 20 minutes away from Mammoth.

 

Scratch that.

Quote:
June Mountain ... will be closed for winter 2012/2013

 

<http://www.junemountain.com/> Unless it gets sold, I think it's probably history.

 

Anyway, Mammoth is a great mountain, although my experiences there are limited to the period between mid-June and July 4th.  It is more remote than the Tahoe resorts.  It is at higher elevation as well, which has positives (rain can fall in Tahoe when it's snowing in Mammoth) but negatives as well (altitude sickness and the fact that it's colder).  Also, its location means that it gets less snow over the course of the season than the Sierra Crest resorts (Squaw, Alpine, Sugarbowl, Kirkwood) -- according to Tony Crocker, 20% less.  It ends up being a bit more like Utah -- less snow, but if you like it dry, higher quality snow.

 

As a practical matter, the first week of March will not be crowded at any of these resorts, and should come at the beginning of the best skiing of the season.  Even in a crappy year -- like this year and 2007 -- California has good coverage by then.  March is one of the snowiest months in the Sierra, and as a plus, if it's not snowing, it's usually sunny and pleasant (highs in the 30s or 40s).

 

Tony Crocker has good data here.

post #24 of 56

Love Tahoe but I prefer Mammoth any day. Never had altitude sickness there, and colder is a positive - they may get less snow but it's stays skiiable later.

 

I'd choose the town more in Mammoth as well (unless you like casinos).

post #25 of 56

If your driving a rental car, depending on your flight arrival or departure, you can usually get a half day of play time at Mount Rose which is close to the airport, sometimes it can be a really nice experience, the Chute's are usually filled in nicely in March!

post #26 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinecure View Post

/\/\ Veteran's experience and opinions are probably worth more than those of us who live here. He spent a bunch of time this winter at both places. He has a funny accent, but he's definitely viewed the situation as a keen skier who doesn't have the luxury of a permanent or seasonal residence in either place. I'd PM him if you want more info.

Thanks Sinecure, I hope to be back in Mid March-mid April. There's a few big problems looming on the domestic front: so I might retire there, ... and live in a bus shelter if the family lawyers get me)

post #27 of 56

Being a fellow mass hole, I've done this exact trip you are describing. I stayed in SLT and rented a house for $1300 for a week w 3 BR's the first week of march 2012. Drove to kirkwood, Squaw, and heavenly. While squaw is awesome, staying in SLT is better. I'm not a nightlife guy, but it is convenient having things like thai takeout and a grocery store is nice. I would strongly recommend checking out the other mtns (kirkwood, squaw, etc), and thats part of what makes lake tahoe amazing. Within 1-2 hours, you can ski some amazing mtns, many of which are unique from one-another.

 

You have a great plan and won't regret it, no matter what you decide

post #28 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by thavwplaya View Post

Being a fellow mass hole, I've done this exact trip you are describing. I stayed in SLT and rented a house for $1300 for a week w 3 BR's the first week of march 2012. Drove to kirkwood, Squaw, and heavenly. While squaw is awesome, staying in SLT is better. I'm not a nightlife guy, but it is convenient having things like thai takeout and a grocery store is nice. I would strongly recommend checking out the other mtns (kirkwood, squaw, etc), and thats part of what makes lake tahoe amazing. Within 1-2 hours, you can ski some amazing mtns, many of which are unique from one-another.

 

You have a great plan and won't regret it, no matter what you decide

+1 on staying in SLT and exploring. Squaw is excellent and if I have to choose one resort in Tahoe, I'd pick Squaw. But if you're staying for one entire week, I'd definitely spend a few days in SLT, and try Heavenly and Kirkwood as well. While I will never tire of Squaw, I can use some variety if I'm skiing 7 days straight. On a bluebird day, it's worth skiing in Heavenly, for the view of the lake, as well as the Nevada plain. Kirkwood is especially great on a powder day.

 

As others said, Squaw is not low key. They lead in both the lift ticket price and the crowd. On almost any powder day, Squaw's KT chair is full of people, and most of the snows are tracked in the morning very quickly, whereas Mott chair in Heavenly has very little crowd even on a good powder weekend. OTOH, Squaw has many chairs that serve expert terrain, whereas Heavenly is more limited (Mott is basically the only truly expert). 

 

As for slopeside lodging, Heavenly doesn't really have "ski-in ski-out" lodging (there's some near Stagecoach but very few). Kirkwood is virtually all ski-in/out if you stay within the resort. Squaw, the price is typically outrageous. If you don't care about "ski in/out" but "minimal walking" (i.e. taking gondola down to the hotel), Heavenly has some nice options in SLT.

post #29 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by skispark View Post

As for slopeside lodging, Heavenly doesn't really have "ski-in ski-out" lodging (there's some near Stagecoach but very few). Kirkwood is virtually all ski-in/out if you stay within the resort. Squaw, the price is typically outrageous. If you don't care about "ski in/out" but "minimal walking" (i.e. taking gondola down to the hotel), Heavenly has some nice options in SLT.

My 1 bedroom with den ($120 p/night) was literally a walk past the hotub and skate 100 yards to the Funitel. The other one bedroom with den was also $120 a night. squaw village balcony.jpegSquaw Village 020.JPG

 

There's a ski club at Kings Beach which charges around $15-$20 a night for a bed. I think the annual membership fee is about $60. 

 

I know families who rented houses at SLT for a month for around $1600 to $2500 per month, not per week. 

700

This one is 2 bedrooms, fully self contained and costs me around $1500 for 2 weeks. The last pic is free, but you gotta know the owner! 7 April 2012 castle squaw 050.JPG

 

Shop around ski cheap and often.yahoo.gif

post #30 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scavenger View Post

Do you know any good place to hire a car in both North shore and South Lake Tahoe?

`If you fly into Reno, there's rental counters for Thrifty/Dollar, Hertz, Avis and a few others. 

 

If you fly into San Francisco, you can do a 'one way' drop off at Truckee Airport with Avis and then get a cab to Squaw. ditto at Avis in Sth Lake Tahoe. One way dropoffs are pricey though, and you're probably better off keeping the car for the week. Just do the maths but the shuttle services are do'able if you want to save money. I think Hairfarmr got from Squaw to Heavenly for $3 on the TART bus. 

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