The Ultimate Guide To Skiing Squaw Valley With Kids

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Skiing at Squaw with kids has been on my bucket list for just about as long as I’ve been a mom.  Thanks to lots of amazing ski movies that feature the amazing terrain that Squaw Valley has, I’ve been dying to check it out myself.  

I’m here to tell you that Squaw Valley is perfect for family skiing.  The setup is amazing for skiing with kids, and the expert terrain for the more advanced skiers in the family is hard to beat.  

On our family ski trip to Squaw, we took our 5 kids ages 3, 6, 8, 11, and 13 and their abilities are just as varied as their ages.  Our 3-year-old is an advanced beginner (confidently skiing greens and starting to ski blues), and our 13-year-old is an expert skier who can ski anything on the mountain.  During our family ski day at Squaw, this gave us a chance to see a little bit of everything at the resort.  So I’m going to share with you everything you need to know about skiing Squaw Valley with kids.  

What Makes Squaw Valley Good For Skiing With Kids?

Squaw has a unique set-up that’s different from most family ski resorts.  Instead of putting the beginner terrain at the bottom, they flipped things and put most of their beginner terrain at the top.  While this may seem a bit counterintuitive, let me tell you it makes skiing with kids at Squaw so much easier.  Simply take the tram or the Funitel up to the top to easily access the beginning ski area at Squaw.  

skiing kids squaw-3

Why is this set-up good for skiing with kids?  

Well, although it does add an extra step of a lift ride at the beginning (and the end to get down for beginners), having the learning area completely separate from the other parts of the resort, actually makes it safer for skiing with kids.  Instead of always having to worry about advanced riders buzzing past your kids on the way to the base area, they’re off on advanced terrain in a separate part of the resort.  As a mom, this gave me so much confidence knowing that I didn’t have to hover over my littlest skier (which I always do in high traffic areas), and that I could just enjoy skiing with kids at Squaw.  

kids skiing at squaw

Kid Friendly Features at Squaw Valley

Since you won’t have easy access to your car, plan on using the resort lockers located throughout the resort.  For families, the easiest options are usually the lockers at Gold Coast and High Mountain where you can rent a large locker for the day for $12 (you can get in and out multiple times).  Not only is this a great option for stashing extra clothing layers, but it’s also a great place to put your kids ski lunch at Squaw Valley so that you don’t have to spend as much on resort food prices.  

lockers at squaw  Valley

Also, you’ll be thrilled to know that we went into several lodges and none of them had any signage that outside food was not permitted, so you can bring outside food in (though we recommend doing it sparingly to reserve seats for restaurant guests).  What we often do is buy the kids something to eat, and then give them something small from a backpack as a snack to supplement it.  

For mom and dad, you’ll love that Squaw Valley has a ski-in ski-out Starbucks at the Gold Coast lodge as well!

Where To Ski At Squaw Valley With First Time Skiers

If you have a child who is a first time skier at Squaw Valley, you’ll want to stay down low on the mountain.  Start out on the Tucker surface lift and teach them how to stop and turn there.  Once they’ve mastered stopping and simple turns, take them on the First Venture lift that’s in the same area.  These are the best easy terrain at Squaw Valley for kids to learn to ski on.  After they have mastered stopping and turning on these slopes, take them up to the High Camp ski learning area at the top of the tram.

Where To Ski With Beginners At Squaw

If you’re skiing with a beginning skier who knows how to stop and turn, you’ll want to head to the top of the tram to the High Camp learning area.  The best ski lift at Squaw for beginners is the Mountain Meadow lift, where the runs Poppy, Lupine and Monkey Flower are all great to practice learning how to ski and help kids get confidence on skis.  If you need a little more variety, head over to the Baileys Beach chair and ski the Shooting Star trail.

Where to Ski With Advanced Beginners at Squaw

If you are skiing with someone who is getting better at skiing, but still a beginner, there is some good kid friendly terrain at Squaw for advanced beginners.  I recommend heading over to the Big Blue Express.  This lift is bigger and longer than the basic beginner lifts, so it’s great for kids who have a bit more endurance and can stay on their skis a bit longer.  For advanced beginners, check out the Mules Ear and Snow Flower lifts. 

Where to Ski With Intermediate Skiers At Squaw Valley

If you are skiing with and intermediate skier at Squaw Valley (someone comfortably skiing blue terrain), there are so many amazing options for places to ski.  I recommend starting off at Gold Coast Express where most of the terrain is a good fit for intermediate kids.  If you’re ready to try your hand at some more off piste skiing, head over to the Shirley Lake Express.  Here you’ll find a lot of groomed runs, with smaller moguls or powder (depending on the day), off to the side, so it gives you lots of flexibility.  Our favorite runs for kids on Shirley Lake are Atkinsons and Marillacs.

kids skiing squaw valley

Where To Ski With Advanced Skiers at Squaw Valley

If you’re skiing with advanced skiers at Squaw, it will be incredibly tempting to simply head straight up KT-22, however, I encourage you to work your way up to that terrain.  There is no double black terrain designation at Squaw, so there is a lot of variety in what the advanced runs look like (and many of the blacks we skied, were more like a double black where we ski in Utah).  

For good warmups into advanced terrain, ski Siberia Express (Killy’s is a great run and then onto SIberia Bowl) and then head over to the Granite Chief run for the Granite Alley and High Voltage Lifts.  

kids skiing squaw valley

How To Ski With Kids of Different Abilities at Squaw

Skiing with kids of different abilities is always a challenge, and one that I can absolutely relate to as a ski mom of 5 kids.  First of all, remember that it’s NEVER okay for kids to ski alone.  Kids always need to ski with an adult, or with a competent buddy (and both should be at least solid intermediate skiers).  

kids skiing squaw valley

If you do split up with the buddy system, I recommend having the group that’s skiing with beginners ski on the Big Blue Express, while the more advanced skiers ski on the Shirley Lake or Solitude lifts.  All of these lifts meet at the top, so it’s an easy way to regroup, and regularly check in with everyone to see how they’re doing.  

If you have advanced skiers in the family who are skiing KT-22, and are looking for beginner ski terrain on the front side of Squaw Valley to ski while they’re skiing blacks, head over to the Far East Express.  From there, take the Champs Elysses run, until you see signs for “easiest way down”  While this is rated as a blue, it is definitely an easier blue, as most of the run is a large cat track and not too steep.  

Best Place To Warm Up At Squaw Valley

If you’re skiing with kids at Squaw Valley, you’ll inevitably need to go inside and warm up from time to time.  The best place to warm up at Squaw with kids is at the Gold Coast lodge in The Arc or up at High Camp at The Terrace.  If you have kids who really just need a break from skiing for a bit, head over to High Camp and take them on a tour of the Free Olympic Museum at Squaw Valley.  This museum is packed full of memorabilia from the 1960 Winter Olympic Games and will surely inspire your kids.

For a warm drink, visit the ski through Starbucks just outside the Arc.

starbucks squaw valley

What Is Spring Skiing At Squaw Like?

Squaw is well known for having some of the best spring skiing in the United States.  If you’re going spring skiing at Squaw Valley with kids, you’ll appreciate that the beginner terrain is up high so the snow for your family ski trip will last much longer than the snow down close to the parking lot.  In the spring, you’ll regularly see skiers dressed up in costume, live bands playing outside on the weekends, and even a pond skimming competition.  

kids skiing squaw valley

With great weather, you’ll love spring skiing with kids at Squaw Valley.  Make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and dress in layers since the weather can change in a heartbeat, and the sun is absolutely brutal at higher elevations as it reflects off the snow!

Squaw Valley stays open full time until Memorial Day weekend, and after that is often open select dates until July 4th.  Squaw has the longest ski season in all of California.  

Best Places To Eat At Squaw Valley With Kids

There are so many places to eat at Squaw Valley with kids, that you won’t have a hard time finding good dining options.  The easiest places to eat at Squaw with kids are at The Arc in the Gold Coast Lodge and The Terrace at High Camp.  If you’re heading down to the Squaw Village, make sure to check out Fireside Pizza Company – a sure hit for a ski lunch with kids.  

Apres Ski At Squaw Valley With Kids

If you’re looking for some family friendly apres ski fun, head over to SnoVentures.  Here you can find snow tubing and mini snowmobiles that the kids will love.  While the regular hours are only open until 4pm, the popular disco tubing is available on Saturday evenings and holidays until 8pm (reservations required).

apres ski with kids at squaw valley

If you’re looking for a good apres ski meal with kids at Squaw Valley, you’ll want to head to Rocker (the nachos are HUGE) or over to Fireside Pizza.  If you’re not staying around the village area for the evening, grab a quick crepe and hot chocolate at Euro Snack, located in the village right next to the Funitel.  

Best Terrain Parks At Squaw Valley

My kids, like most skiing kids, prefer to have a little bit of variety in their ski terrain, rather than just cruising down a straight run.  At the top of the Gold Coast and High Camp learning area, you’ll find lots of great ski features for kids that will not only help your kids have fun, but they’ll also really improve their skills without ever knowing they’re doing it.  

Here are the best terrain features for kids at Squaw:

Best Beginner Terrain Park at Squaw Valley: Belmont Lift

Directly under the Belmont lift are some great terrain park features for beginners.  Here you’ll find simple boxes and rails as well as a few good jumps to teach kids how to safely use a terrain park before moving onto bigger features.  The Belmont lift is short and the terrain isn’t steep, so this is the best terrain park for beginners at Squaw Valley.

Best Skier Cross Park at Squaw Valley

Located just to the northeast of the Belmont Lift.  

Once your kids are solid intermediate skiers, they’ll absolutely love trying out the skier cross course at Squaw.  This kid friendly skier cross course is full of rollers and banked turns that kids can race head to head down or just enjoy on their own.  This area is great for families with lots of different ability levels, since kids can ski as hard or mellow as they want to.  

Best Intermediate and Advanced Terrain Park At Squaw Valley

Located between the Gold Coast and Siberia lifts

This Squaw Valley terrain park is great for kids who are ready for advanced terrain features.  The rails are steep, the tabletops are big, and the terrain is much steeper.  If you have kids who are advanced skiers and have some training in doing large jumps, they’ll absolutely love skiing here.

Where To Park At Squaw Valley

If you’re skiing with a first time skier, you’ll want to park on the far east side of the parking lot by the SnoVentures building.  This will give you quick easy access to the first time skier area from the parking lot without lots of unnecessary walking.  

If you’re heading up to the Gold Coast and High Camp areas, you’ll want to park as close to the Tram as possible, meaning the middle parking lot, as close as possible to The Village At Squaw hotel.  This will give you easy access with kid to the best ski terrain without lots of unnecessary walking!