Top ski re­sort turns into sum­mer won­der­land

Riverbank News - - MARKETPLACE 209 - By CARY ORDWAY Cal­i­foniWeek­

Cal­i­for­nia is blessed with sev­eral top-notch ski re­sorts and, so of­ten, we just don’t think about them once we get past ski sea­son. But for those who love alpine scenery and the fra­grance of a sum­mer­time for­est, ski ar­eas are even more ap­peal­ing in warm weather.

A case in point is Squaw Val­ley, a for­mer Olympics ski venue known for heavy snows through­out the win­ter months and seem­ingly end­less ter­rain to chal­lenge ev­ery kind of skier or boarder. But in sum­mer, those same moun­tain­sides turn into lush green mead­ows and col­or­ful flower fields where scenic trails take va­ca­tion­ers just about as far away from ev­ery­day city life as they’ll ever get.

It’s al­most a shock to the senses to visit Squaw Val­ley in the dead of win­ter and then re­turn on a glo­ri­ous sum­mer day. The build­ings look about the same but ev­ery­thing else has changed. What, in win­ter, is cov­ered in a blan­ket of deep snow has now emerged to of­fer a vi­brant moun­tain panorama that is paint­ing-per­fect.

The cross-coun­try ski area at the Re­sort at Squaw Creek, in sum­mer, is trans­formed into a world-class golf course. No ice skat­ing rink this time of year - just swim­ming pools and hot tubs to ri­val the best re­sort on the Mex­i­can Riviera. And be­hind it all, the scenic splen­dor of the moun­tain that Squaw Val­ley skiers have come to know and love.

For our sum­mer visit, we chose the Re­sort at Squaw Creek, a high-end but rea­son­ably priced re­sort ho­tel wit 405 com­pletely up­dated guest rooms.

TDhis place has a lux­ury condo feel with ameni­ties like large flat screen tele­vi­sions and fire­places are in­cluded along with fully fur­nished mod­ern kitchens with gran­ite counter-tops. Our condo was stylishly dec­o­rated in brown and beige tones with ev­ery­thing in it brand-new. And, like many of the units at the re­sort, ours in­cluded a stun­ning view of the moun­tains that are part of the Squaw Val­ley ski area.

That view pro­vided all the temp­ta­tion we needed to leave the condo and head for the pool and other recre­ation fa­cil­i­ties that are part of the re­sort, and part of the Squaw Val­ley sum­mer program. With its moun­tain lo­ca­tion, the Re­sort at Squaw Creek of­fers a wide ar­ray of recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties rang­ing from bik­ing to horse­back rid­ing to fly­fish­ing to white­wa­ter raft­ing. Swim­ming, tennis, golf - even a lux­ury spa -- are all avail­able right at the re­sort. Spe­cial note to par­ents: the re­sort’s wa­ter slide will be a sure hit with your kids.

The Squaw Val­ley ski area is just a five-minute free shut­tle ride from the re­sort and we took some time to ex­plore the many re­sort-style shops in the area, all de­cid­edly less busy in sum­mer than they were dur­ing a visit just a few months ear­lier. Sev­eral restau­rants are avail­able, all with that trendy ski re­sort feel and prices to match.

Dur­ing sum­mer, Squaw Val­ley op­er­ates its fa­mous ca­ble car, which will take you to the High Camp area and the jump­ing off point for hik­ers who want to ex­plore many of the area’s trails. Vis­i­tors can hike on their own or take part in one of the many guided hikes of­fered by the ski area. You can even bring your dog if you’re on a day trip to the area - it will cost you $20 to ride the ca­ble car, but there is no charge for Fido.

The trails from High Camp (el­e­va­tion 8200 feet) are var­ied. For ex­am­ple, you can take the High Camp Loop, which is a one-mile gen­tle slope that, in win­ter, is used as the area�s be­gin­ner ski and snow­board slopes. Great views of Lake Ta­hoe are the re­ward for a one-mile hike from High Camp to the top of Gold Coast Chair­lift. A lit­tle more dif­fi­cult hike would be the trail from High Camp to Emi­grant Chair­lift, about a 1.5-mile trip with a 500-foot el­e­va­tion gain. At trail’s end, though, it will all be worth it: a 360-de­gree view of the Lake Ta­hoe area and you’ll also see the his­toric Wat­son Mon­u­ment.

Sur­pris­ingly, there’s a lot of civ­i­liza­tion up at High Camp. The High Camp Bath and Tennis Club of­fers three dif­fer­ent restau­rants to en­joy a meal on the moun­tain while en­joy­ing the spec­tac­u­lar views. The Olympic Mu­seum at High Camp of­fers a look at mem­o­ra­bilia from the 1960 Win­ter Olympics and, if you’ve brought your swim­ming suit, you can even in­dulge your­self in a swim­ming la­goon that fea­tures lap lanes, wa­ter­falls and a 25-foot di­am­e­ter spa heated to 102 de­grees.

Keep in mind that Squaw Val­ley is just min­utes from Lake Ta­hoe, where an­other set of recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties are just wait­ing. Many re­sort guests spend time down on the lake boat­ing or just en­joy­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s most scenic lake re­sort area. The drive around the lake will make you want to stop of­ten to take pic­tures.

On this par­tic­u­lar trip we were con­tent to spend our time in Squaw Val­ley. One trip to Squaw in sum­mer and it be­comes very ob­vi­ous you don’t need skis or a snow­board to get a lot out of this scenic recre­ation area.

Photos con­trib­uted

Olympic Vil­lage from the Squaw Val­ley tram.

Bi­cy­cling in Squaw Val­ley.

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