An Afternoon of Springtime California Freeskiing
Growing up in Telluride I’ve grown accustomed to being unimpressed by other ski areas. In my days competing, traveling and skiing throughout Utah and Colorado, I’ve almost always been disappointed, with the exception of Snowbird (haven’t made it to Alta yet).
Squaw had been pretty well hyped to Jesse and me before getting here, with its panoramic lake views and inexhaustible open bowl faces. And when I asked Caleb where the best place to ski was, and he pointed in about ten different directions, I started getting some pretty high expectations.
After an afternoon of freeskiing here on Saturday, I feel that can safely add one more ski spot to my short list of non-disappointments.
The snow wasn’t great, a mix of springtime slush and slick, and despite all the open and even faces, I couldn’t find a steady bump line for the life of me (aside from the four on the bump course on Red Dog of course), but there is plenty to ski here, and from the looks of it, if you’re willing to hike, there’s some pretty easily accessible technical terrain as well.
I’ve never seen anything like Squaw. Right from the base you can look up into three different, open faces with lifts stretching up them: KT-22 (which tops out at 8,200 feet), Squaw Peak (8,900 feet) and Emigrant (8,700 feet). Even all that fails to mention the most impressive feature visible from the base, to looker’s right; a towering formation of cartoon-like cliffs that the High Camp Cable Car climbs directly over. Word around here is that people have even started pioneering lines down the tram face through tight little chokes between the technical cliff formations. Pretty impressive to think about as you glide hundreds of feet above them in the giant tram.
And once you reach the top of the tram, elevation 8,200 feet, which also boasts a swimming pool, hot tub and skating rink in true California style, there’s another towering face of Granite Chief which tops out at 9,050 feet, offering a total of 2,850 vertical feet back down to the base at 6,200 feet.
Jesse and I started our day with a ride up the Red Dog lift, which took us to the summit of Snow King, the smallest of the five peaks in total, elevation 7,550 feet. It was pretty fun skiing, a bit too much in the shade at that time of day, but good technical skiing that took us right back into the base.
We then gradually worked our way up the mountain and into more sunshine, starting with a few on KT-22, and a few more off the top of Squaw Peak. We ended the day with a ride up the tram to check out the freestyle pool party up at High Camp. It was a bit much for us, a palpable taste of California ski culture at its...finest.
In all it was a great day and enough to prove that there is skiing to be had in the U.S. outside of Telluride, but after hearing about the two feet of pow we missed over the weekend, I think I’m ready to come home.
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