Review: Squaw Valley Skiing and Ski School

If you’ve been reading my travel posts you’ll know that my girls and I are big fans of skiing. Our 6th and 2nd grader have been skiing since they were each in kindergarten; we love the confidence the sport gives our girls and we enjoy seeing their abilities grow every year. This ski season, both girls have officially surpassed me in my skiing ability — and its because of the amazing instruction at Squaw Kids at Squaw Valley that could make it happen!

Thank you to Squaw Valley for providing ski school (which includes lift tickets and rentals) for our girls and my lift tickets.

If you’re in the market for a family-friendly ski vacation, you must visit Squaw Valley which is located on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe in California, and about 42 miles of Reno, Nevada. (FYI: starting May 28th, you’ll be able to fly direct from NYC to Reno via JetBlue.)

Entrance to Squaw Village in Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley is at the tail-end of a $50 million dollar 5 year Renaissance, and boy were we treated to the last of the improvements that make Squaw Valley a world-class family-friendly resort. We did not stay on-resort (we stayed at our friend’s condo 40 minutes away), but the drive to Squaw Valley is well worth it.

Skiing at Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley and its mountains are HUGE. They have 29 lifts, including an aerial tram and a funitel. (Fun fact: a funitel holds up to 30 people versus a gondola which holds up to 16). The lifts take you to over 4,000 skiable terrain that is a fantastic mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced trails — 25%, 45%, 30% respectively to be exact.

The view of Mountain Run from the Funitel

Most AMAZING views riding down the Funitel

During its $50 million dollar renaissance, two new chairlifts were built to service the beginner’s and advanced beginner’s terrain which gives new skiers all this new terrain to learn their new skills, while feeling safe having their own side of the mountains. (It’s also spectacular that the beginners get a full mountain experience and don’t have to ski near a parking lot, which you may get at some mountains.)

There were spring skiing conditions which I LOVE because you can ski under bluebird skies, in minimal layers, get a great goggle tan and be able to focus on skiing instead of your numb toes and fingers. I skied from 10am until 2pm because after that it got too slushy for me. I’m a solid intermediate (blues) skier and there was more than enough terrain for me to be challenged. I especially loved Mountain Run, which is a blue trail that runs 3.2 miles from the middle of the mountain to the base with challenging turns and some moguls.

Tons of snow at Squaw – and my favorite run, Mountain Run

The only constructive criticism I have for Squaw is to upgrade its signs for its runs. I noticed that some runs didn’t have names with difficulty and arrows. It’s just important for large mountains who attract all kinds of skiers to communicate where they could be going — without any surprises.

Squaw Ski School Review

First things first: the Squaw Kids ski school ROCKS. They are organized, streamlined and they have the process down. They took our 6th grader who was comfortable skiing blues and black diamonds and took her to skiing double-blues, black diamonds and moguls in a super-fun environment. She literally covered 90% of the mountain in the three days she was at Squaw Kids. For our 2nd grader, she was a green skier and graduated to a solid blue skier. And most of all, they both so confident in their skiing and athletic abilities which is priceless.

Some apres-lunch domino playing at Squaw Valley’s ski school, Squaw Kids

Watching our 2nd grader do some blue runs (like Emigrant) just makes my jump with joy!

Squaw Kids has an extremely seamless online sign-up, sign-in, and drop-off process. Once your child has signed in, received their ski lift ticket and all forms are signed, you drop them off and say goodbye until 3:15 p.m.! (Can you say ultimate day date with your significant other?!)

7 Squaw Kids Ski School Tips that will Buy You 30-Minutes in the Morning.

  1. Plan ahead and reserve your spot at Squaw Kids ahead of time either by calling or online.
  2. Once you get inside the Squaw Kids building, head to the computers and put in your last name so that you can print out your reservation information. Then, you can stand in line.
  3. If it’s your 1st day of ski school, get there by 8:30 a.m. so you can sign in via the computer, fill out forms and the kids have enough time to get their equipment (which Squaw Kids takes care of without you present).
  4. Get your kid’s lift tickets for the next day. If you are planning multiple ski-school days, go into the Squaw Kids office after 3:15pm and get their tickets for the next day.
  5. Use the Squaw Kids Ski Storage. Put your kids skis into the outside shed so you don’t have to bring them back to your room or trek them back home.
  6. Bring sunscreen + one snack. Have your kids put a travel size sunscreen in their ski pants pocket so they can re-apply after lunch; also put in a granola bar just in case they get the munchies before or after lunch.

Truly the best treat is picking up the girls from ski school and doing several runs with them and seeing how much they’ve grown as athletes. Making memories and growing skills that will last a lifetime, folks.

For ski moms and dads who don’t go ski, you may still catch a glimpse of them on the mountain. Just buy a $39 ticket at the ticket window to go up the aerial tram or the funitel. You can have a snack, take it some rays on the deck. Or, just hang out at the base to do some shopping and eat at the many restaurants in Squaw Village.

Be on the look out for my next post where I share where to eat at Squaw Village & other family activities besides skiing and boarding.

About Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley was founded in 1949 and hosted the 1960 Olympic Winter Games, the first televised Olympics. Squaw Valley is one of the largest and most diverse mountain resorts in North America, with incomparable outdoor recreational amenities that attract both local residents and visitors from around the globe. For more information, please visit

Thank you to Squaw Valley for providing ski school (which includes lift tickets and rentals) for my girls and my lift tickets. They also provided vouchers for mini-snowmobiling and snow tubing.

We provided our own transportation, lodging, my ski rentals, rock climbing and all meals.