This year has not been kind to California, and the reviews that I've been reading reflect this fact. Take all of this into account as you consider your ski trips. I know I did; I skipped Squaw this New Year's and went to Crystal in Washington. Over the years, I've had the privilege of skiing some very good mountains on some very good days, and I can say that hands-down the best days I've ever had were at Squaw Valley. With a little encouragement from some semi-pro friends who have lived there for ages, I've had the most epic days of my life hucking the Fingers into bottomless pillows of pow, straight-lining the Light Towers, and doing other questionably advisable things that I reflect upon with great fondness as I currently sit at home recovering from shoulder surgery (which was not a result of skiing there, actually).
Squaw is a place that encourages people to do things they've never done before, and flat-out forces you to ski better than you ever had. Two weeks in Squaw improved my skiing, personally, more than a year (100+ days) of skiing in Colorado. On big snow days, you just can't help yourself but push the limits. Especially after watching the pro riders and their friends, who have been waiting for over 2 hours in the lift line, launch themselves right underneath you as you ride the KT-22 chair over the Fingers. Who in their right mind, you might ask, would wait in a 2 hour lift line? Anybody who has skied a 3 foot powder day at Squaw Valley USA, and chased the terrain openings all day long, will tell you that it's an experience not unlike the earliest opening of a long-awaited movie. People trade turns going to get breakfast and coffee as others watch the much-coveted positions that their skis are holding in the lift maze. It is an incredible mountain on a good day, and I run out of superlatives to tell just exactly how good it is on an epic day. In fact, I used to get up at 4 AM in San Francisco in order to make the drive to Squaw early enough to get a reasonable place in that KT line. Oh, the parks are pretty good too; a friend of mine swears by the kid's ski school where her kids got to be pretty darn good; and apres ski is a blast at the "Shammy." And no, Squaw does not pay me a penny to write this.