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Whistler vs. Squaw

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Let`s put it quite clear? these 2 mountains are much easier to compare than for example Snowbird and Squaw.
Both get coastal (or at least rather wet) snow and lots of it that allows to open steeper terrain, both have extensive bowl skiing and some great trees, both are popular destination resorts with well balanced terrain for all levels.
Having never been to Squaw I cant say anything on the issue and ask those with full experience to compare.
post #2 of 18
They are both nice resorts and they both have really good skiing. Whistler is a little better for nightlife, because the town is right at the base.

The weather seems to be a bigger factor in Whistler. Even though they have over 5000 feet of vertical, it was rare that I would ski more than 2000 of it at a time. The top was often closed and it was raining at the bottom, plus it's pretty flat down there. When they open up the alpine, pretty much everyone wants to ski there, so it gets crowded. I was there during Presidents weekend once and the lines were the biggest I have ever seen.

If the top is closed at Squaw, at least you have Kt and a couple of other lifts, that have expert skiing close to the bottom.
post #3 of 18
I wasn't exactly thrilled by the Sierra cement of Tahoe. So at first I thought the more northerly location of Whislter might make things a bit better. But then, I kept hearing about the infamous rain of Whislter!

Well, at least for all the years I skied Tahoe, I hardly ever encounter real rain. Slush, yes. Rain, no. So, are the nay-sayers exaggerated the wet weather of Whistler?

A little digging got me this little bit of info: Whistler base village starts at 2200' and tops out at 7500'. Squaw starts at almost as high as where Whistler ends: 6200'!

And Squaw top out at almost 9000'! In fact, most of Squaw except the base itself, are higher than the top of Whistler! Little wonder it can escape the notorious rain Whistler is so famous for!

I'm sure in good weather, both places are great. But Squaw don't really suffer too badly in iffy weather, baring rare cases of super-warm years. While Whistler, from the sound of it, do often suffer badly from "normal" weather fluctuations.

That's for skiing.

But the base village of Whistler is lovely (for family) and lively (for the young in heart). Squaw's base? What base? Do you mean the parking lot?
post #4 of 18
NYC: By that reasoning, winter in Quebec City is just as nice as NYC... they're both around sea level... but what a difference the 6deg latitude makes.

Whistler is 10deg higher in latitude than Squaw... Lower in elevation, yes. But its not all about elevation... hence the long seasons in the low elevation Canadian Rockies.
post #5 of 18
Whistler is just fine, particularly if you can pick the times to ski there. If you were local it would be the best ski hill on the continent. The real discussion is snow quality. If you have to plan a vacation and book flights and lodging well in advance, then you might have problems. If you live close and can go on a whim, then it can't be beat. For skiing. I'll argue that the village is the biggest problem with the place. I don't like going there much because of it. I only live three hours away but it's like going to Mall of America and Disneyland at the same time. Yuck.
post #6 of 18

What are you interested in?

How do you like your resorts? What's important? Terrain, weather, snow quality, dining/nightlife, lodging, access, cost, crowds, type of group/family, time of year, etc. That said, from the perspective of someone who has skied W-B over 25 days over the course of 6-7 years (usually in late January), and skied Squaw countless times, here are some discussion points:

Terrain:
W-B: huge, lots of steeps, lots of variety, although the marked part of the bottom 2K of 5K elevation is usually frequented by Gumbys on crummy snow. After 25+ days, still have plenty to explore.
Squaw: smaller in size than W-B, but lots of steeps. there are lots of lines to take off the same chair that give you a much different experience. skis bigger than acreage. can feel limited to an intermediate lacking in adventurous spirit

Weather:
W-B: can have bad visibility days and/or rain days. Most of my days there have had some vis issue somewhere on the mountain. 3-4 of 25 days pretty much had rain top to bottom. Have also had incredible pow days.
Squaw: Generally much better than W-B, except for high wind days.

Snow quality:
W-B: some years had nice cold pow, most years had coastal snow, one year had crummy snow & rain in late Jan.
Squaw: the term sierra cement means coastal snow; but that's better than you'd think. usually at least as good, if not better than W-B due to elevation/exposure

Dining/Nightlife:
W-B: fantastic if you're young, excellent otherwise, don't know about family choices
Squaw: getting better with village; otherwise you have to drive to Tahoe City or Truckee. W-B has big advantage here.

Lodging:
W-B: lots of it, and big range in prices/locations/quality. Advantage W-B
Squaw: not that much near hill; see, Truckee/Tahoe City

Access:
W-B: Beautiful 2.5 hour drive from YVR; depending on size of group, may/may not want to rent car v. take shuttle. Have to go through customs.
Squaw: 45 mins from Reno, 3.5 hours from SFO (depending on time of day; could be 5 hours in traffic).

Cost:
W-B: not that cheap anymore
Squaw: never was cheap

Crowds:
W-B: Have been in 20 minute lineups at Harmony, for example. also, has bottleneck areas, i.e. Excelerator on Blackcomb to slow you from getting to higher elevations.
Squaw: lots of high speed lifts move people better, but there are a lot of people. Advantage Squaw.

Hope that helps a little...
post #7 of 18
Great analysis, Dino!!!


Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post
NYC: By that reasoning, winter in Quebec City is just as nice as NYC... they're both around sea level... but what a difference the 6deg latitude makes.

Whistler is 10deg higher in latitude than Squaw... Lower in elevation, yes. But its not all about elevation... hence the long seasons in the low elevation Canadian Rockies.
Actually, that's not a valid comparison, Joe. A better comparison would be between Chicago and Quebec. Although the latitude of Chicago is similar to New York, it's much colder because it's inland, so is Quebec. While NY is right at the coast, warmed by the water surrounding it.

In this regard, Whistler loses to Squaw even more. It's right at the coast while Squaw is actually quite a bit inland. The cloud from the Pacific had to lose a fair bit of its moisture on the coastal California mountains before it even gets to the Sierra. So the so-called Sierra cement is a relative term, relative ONLY to the more inland resort such as Utah/Colorado. It's by far better than Whistler, from those who ski both frenquent enough.

Reality being, there's rain in Whistler, even sometimes in mid-winter, which rarely ever happens in Tahoe except in early/late season.
post #8 of 18
I've spent a lot of time at both. Whistler is much larger mountain. But in the end you spend most of your day skiing the top 2000 feet of vert at whistler anyway, so it makes little difference. Still, there is a lot of backcountry at Whistler and just tons of acreage. The nightlife in whistler is 10x squaw.

On the flip side, whistler snow is worse than sierra cement, no matter what anyone tells you. KT-22 (squaw) is my favorite all time chairlift of anyplace on this continent. Alpine meadows is also a great little mountain with a big heart, right next to squaw. Not far away, SugarBowl is also worthy. Tree skiing in the sierras is way better than Whistler. The trees are naturally spaced. IN whistler there is no tree skiing except where they have artificially thinned out the trees. Most forests in the pacific NW are THICK. The overall weather in the sierras is way better than whistler too. Don't get me wrong, whistler is a great mountain, I lived there and love it. Squaw and the sierras are great in their own way. One is not clearly a winner over the other. They are both great. Ski them both.
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Dino, what a fantastic analysis!
Thanks a lot everyone! =))
post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post
Actually, that's not a valid comparison, Joe. A better comparison would be between Chicago and Quebec.

I live in a similar climate to Chicago, and it's night and day weather-wise compared to Quebec City. I guess what I was saying is that everyone jumps on low altitude resorts (typically people from warmer areas), when latitude plays just as big a role. The rain in Whistler isn't the altitude, it's the proximity to the ocean.

One thing I never understand though is the concept of poor snow if you live close to the ocean. Where I live, we get a lot of lake effect snow, which you would think should be wet. However, the type of snow we get is all about the temperature. If it's cold out, the snow is fluffy like in the Rockies. If its warm(er) out, you get "Georgian Bay" cement.
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post
The rain in Whistler isn't the altitude, it's the proximity to the ocean.
Actually, both play a significant role. That's why the top of Whistler gets snow even when the village gets the rain. The base of Squaw is so high it doesn't get much rain in mid-season.

Quote:
One thing I never understand though is the concept of poor snow if you live close to the ocean. Where I live, we get a lot of lake effect snow, which you would think should be wet. However, the type of snow we get is all about the temperature. If it's cold out, the snow is fluffy like in the Rockies. If its warm(er) out, you get "Georgian Bay" cement.
I used to live in Michigan so I know what the snow is like. It's the temperature alright. Only the Great Lakes are not big enough to keep itself (and the surrounding plains) warm. So it's cold in general.

The ocean, on the other hand, is so vast (bigger than our continent itself) it stays much warmer than the air. So, when you midwesterners get dumped on with buckets of snow, we New Yorkers get buckets of rain.
post #12 of 18
OK hands up, I don't know anything about skiing at Squaw but I do know that I keep going back to Whistler for a reason. It's fantastic! The whole resort village with the mountain on your doorstep thing does it for me (but then I'm used to that kind of setup in Europe) and there's such a huge range of accommodation options that it's easy to find somewhere to stay. The skiing is amazing and, yes, sometimes it does rain in the village but that usually means snow up in the alpine. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend 3 months there the season before last. I thought that I might want to go somewhere else afterwards and that I might get bored with the Whistler/Blackcomb terrain. On the contrary, those mountains have so much to offer that I love them even more. I'm going back for a week in December and again for 3 weeks in January. Fingers crossed for as good a start to the season as the last one!!!!

Anyway, follow this link and compare the acreage.

http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/mou...maps/index.htm
post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeSchmoe View Post
NYC: By that reasoning, winter in Quebec City is just as nice as NYC... they're both around sea level... but what a difference the 6deg latitude makes.

Whistler is 10deg higher in latitude than Squaw... Lower in elevation, yes. But its not all about elevation... hence the long seasons in the low elevation Canadian Rockies.
Latitude isn't everything. Distance form the ocean is a major factor for Whistler's finicky weather. Same is true for NYC and Quebec. Heck Anchorage, AK, which is way north is not as cold as Minneapolis. The Canadian Rockies are not the same as the Coast Range, which is where Whistler is located. .
post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by geetee View Post
Anyway, follow this link and compare the acreage.

http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/mou...maps/index.htm
Having skied both W-B and Squaw I can say both are great places to ski. I find the 'compare the acreage map' of W-B a bit of hyperbole as the lower third of W-B is frequently slush or ice. My experience has been the high alpine is usually has the best conditions at W-B.

Squaw is a lot easier to reach from most US destinations than W-B. Fly into Reno and skiing is minutes away versus traversing downtown Vancouver on surface streets and driving the Sea to Sky highway for hours.
post #15 of 18
Well I guess if you look at it literally then you would see that. ;-) However, the purpose of the map is to show just how much skiing there is to be had at WB. And it's a lot!
post #16 of 18
I think for european skiers who typically spend a minimum of 2 weeks skiing in N.America, the acrage plays a much bigger factor than for "local" N. Americans who may only go for a long weekend of 4-5 days!

Squaw definitely has enough acreage for a week, which is a luxury for most American skiers. The fact WB is even bigger doesn't really matter that much for most of us. Plus, once you combine the "other" Tahoe resorts that are all within day trip distance. There're actually more acreage there than Whistler.
post #17 of 18
I have skied both a number of times. they are in fact 2 of my favourites. It is tough to compare. although Dino has done a commendable job. here is my take.

If I want to spend a week skiing and I am going with family - I go to Whistler. there is no way I (let alone my non-skiing wife) can spend a week in N. tahoe. I will get bored of squaw in 2 days. maybe alpine for a day or two. maybe a day at sugarbowl. what after that? Northstar? no thank you. also involves a fair amount of driving on 80, 89 in traffic.

If I want to do a quick trip (1 or 2 days) - there is no place like squaw. Lifts/acreage - is probably the highest of any place. very little(not none) traversing involved. if you want a quick vertical fix - no better place to get it - than at squaw.

Snow quality - I would say about the same. Yes - it does in rain in Squaw. not often but it does. I remember driving up from the Bay area for the day to squaw in jan 06 - it was raining top to bottom. I was debating whether to pay the $65 for the lift ticket to ski in the rain. I decided to drive back. I typically go to whistler during christmas or President's week. There has been only one time in all these years(7) that there was rain (dec 05 - worst year in whistler's history). Maybe i am just lucky.
post #18 of 18
Obviously, latitude, altitude and proximity to the ocean all play a factor in rain incidence. By observation and experience the "safe" altitude for minimal rain is about 5,000 feet in western Canada and 8,000 feet in the Sierra. At least half of Whistler's skiable terrain is above 5,000, so my experience is that Whistler has more consistent snow surfaces than Squaw. Make the comparison to Kirkwood or Mammoth and I would have the opposite view.

The latitude and coastal proximity do result in much more fog, overcast and flat light at Whistler. At Squaw it's usually either sunny or dumping like crazy with high winds. Both will have lots of lift closures in major storms. Precipitation is much more consistent at Whistler. Everyone remembers the mid-season drought there in 2005 because it was such a rare event. The Sierra has lean years 10-15% of the time, like last year. Squaw is more sensitive to those lean years because its steep terrain requires 6-8 feet of base to realize its full potential.
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