Alpine Meadows is Squaw Valley’s introverted and less flashy sister. But they share similar terrain DNA. The same thrilling mountain features at Squaw are present at Alpine Meadows. Some require more work, but if your allergic to crowds and don’t mind older infrastructure, Alpine Meadows may be your spot. One other thing, this is a spectacular mountain. Squaw gets a lot of deserved attention. But if it’s a great snow day and you’re willing to hike and explore, Alpine is worth the trip.
On my GNASA I headed to Alpine after spending the morning at Squaw. They are only a few miles away from each other. It was a blustery Saturday in early February. Most of Squaw was closed. KT-22 was the only expert area at Squaw that had good snow and was open. But the crowds were large, and the wait was over an hour. Everything was crowded. The parking lot, the restaurants and the bars. I want to emphasize the difference; Alpine Meadows was empty. Literally empty. The base warming hut, empty. The rental shop, empty. The parking lot had 5 cars. This gives you a picture of how the crowds can differ. It should be noted that KT-22 can and does open in bad weather (wind, blizzards, fog, etc.). That’s one reason Squaw gets crowded even on terrible days. Most other resorts are forced to close all of their expert areas.
Very little was open that Saturday at Alpine. So there wasn’t much to ski that day. Alpine Meadows base is about 600 feet higher than Squaw. That day it made a difference. On what little terrain was open, I skied powder. The wind was howling and the snow blowing hard, so I tried to bring back some college memories of hiking ridge lines at Alpine on a bluebird day after a huge snowfall. Lake views, chutes, and wide-open bowls. Unfortunately, on this day the only skiable bowls were in my memory.
Alpine divides their ski areas into zones like Squaw. Unlike Squaw, Alpine’s layout is a bit more difficult to grasp, so I start with a Google Map diagram for some high-level detail.
Blue Room and Pacific Crest South Bowls are two sides of the same mountain that share a traversable ridgeline. The aspect relative to the Sun is very different so always check with Ski Patrol or locals to get a sense of what’s skiable and what isn’t.
Keyhole, a hair-raising rock chute, is this zones most famous run. To reach Keyhole and other Squaw worthy rock cliffs and chutes take Upper Saddle. You’ll find classic runs including Palisades, Lower Saddle, Our Father, Counterweight Gully, Sherwood Cliffs and Hidden Knolls. If you traverse all the way over to Expert Shortcut, things get a little less steep.
Pacific Crest South Bowls
These are the money shots of Lake Tahoe. Legal views and bowls don’t get any better in California. The backside of Pacific Crest South Bowls is Blue Room. When skiable, the bowls are expansive. They include South Face, Sun Bowl, Big Bend Bowl and further out you’ll find Grouse Saddle and Grouse Rock. In between, there are some pretty hair-raising chutes including CB Chute, Big Bend Keyhole
Pacific Crest North Bowls
Make the call, over or under the rock faces of Idiot’s Delight. Over you can access the tops of some amazing bowls including Beaver, Estelle and Bernie’s. Keep going, and you can find the Buttress. For Squaw worthy steeps drop in on Wolverine Saddle or Idiot’s Delight. Traversing underneath Idiot’s Delight grants you lower entrance access to some of the bowls.
If you’re a glade skier, this area may turn you into an Alpine Meadow’s local. Lots of trees, chutes, gullies and cliffs to explore. On skier’s right, you’ll find Gentian Gully and Lower 40 Face. Under the chair is Scott Chute. Skiers left is the Chute That Seldom Slides. All great runs. Lots of glades to explore around any of these runs.
Snow Hunting at Alpine Meadows
Lake Tahoe resorts are notorious for volatile snow conditions. Alpine is particularly susceptible to this because it has South facing bowls. Check with ski patrol or the locals for best options.
Alpine Meadows Insider Tips
Don’t expect amenities.
In a pinch, Promised Land’s Gentian Gully area usually has powder stashes.
If there’s good snow bring your camera and powder skis to Pacific Crest South Bowls for amazing scenery and skiing.