70 Days At Squaw-Alpine, CA with Ikon Pass

Rochelle Swanson | | Trip ReportTrip Report
Airbrush art for Ikon Pass and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Photo: Airbrushed May 1, 2019, by Rochelle Swanson | SnowBrains

The IkonPass was my first multi-resort pass and I used it primarily at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows in Northern California. While the resorts are now owned by the same parent company and are working on plans to connect the two by gondola, my experience was different at the two resorts which complemented rather than copied each other to create a more robust skiing experience.

At Squaw Valley you can expect big reactions from people on the chairs. It’s Squallywood, baby! Hit major air in the Gold Coast terrain park or hike to the Palisades and everyone can see to cheer you on. Whether you are just a beginner or an avid skier, you can’t help but feel the excitement.


Squaw Valley Photograph by SwansonFineArts April 2018 with Ikon Pass
Photo: Squaw Valley April 18, 2018, by Rochelle Swanson | SwansonFineArts

But at Alpine Meadows, things are more relaxed and the best lines are hidden gems that no one sees but you. The tree skiing is unparalleled, and you can’t beat the accessibility of Achieve Tahoe for people seeking ADA accommodations.

Drawing by R. Swanson showing Achieve Tahoe Adaptive Ski School at Alpine Meadows SVAM
Photo: Achieve Tahoe. Painting 4/20/2019 by Rochelle Swanson | SnowBrains

My journey to SquawAlpine started in Olympic Village at the heart of Squaw Valley last spring. Initially, it was daunting because I couldn’t see any terrain that I was capable of skiing at that point in my rehabilitation, but locals all assured me that beginner and intermediate terrain was available above the ridge and accessible by either Tram or Funitel.

We made our way to the top of the Funitel and were relieved to find a wide range of green and blue terrain. After warming up on Gold Coast and Big Blue we made our way to Shirley Lake and enjoyed groomed runs, moguls, and a little bit of spring tree skiing.

Squaw Valley Shirley Lake photograph by R. Swanson at SwansonFineArts and shared with SnowBrains
Photo: Shirley Lake at Squaw Valley by Rochelle Swanson | SwansonFineArts

In the fall, we returned to ski the Kangaroo chair at Alpine Meadows on opening day. It was before the first natural snowfall so snowmaking and grooming teams were working around the clock to open as much terrain as possible. The first day there was only one run available but we all had great fun sharing tips and tricks while doing our best snow dances.

Video: Opening Day 2018-2019 at Alpine Meadows. SVAM on YouTube

Mid-winter brought insanely deep snow to both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. On more than one occasion, I-80 and all major roads were closed due to the inability to clear the snow as fast as it was falling. The avalanche risk was rated as “High” by the Sierra Avalanche Center but the SquawAlpine Ski Patrol did an excellent job mitigating the risks and opening as much terrain as possible as quickly as possible while also looking out for our safety.


Skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels were able to enjoy the powder, and there was no limit to the free refills! The powder skiing was amazing.

Video: Eleven feet of Snow in Eleven Days at Squaw | SVAM Shred Report 2/11/19

This spring we learned how to ski a variety of off-piste terrain, including a trip to lower Mainline Pocket. The snow was creamy and almost mimicked fresh powder. Our group was the first to venture off of groomed runs that day and got fresh tracks all morning under bluebird skies.

We drove every day between Reno and SquawAlpine, listening to music and talking about skiing. I sketched, typed, and worked. Some days I had important phone calls and other days I took time for myself. We enjoyed the view and each day compared the snow to the days and weeks before. My team enjoyed the drive and loved traveling in our rented Subaru Forester which got us safely through deep snow, kept traction on icy roads, and even helped us to outrun a small natural avalanche!

Video: 70 Days Driving the I-80 Pass | SwansonFineArts

Both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows had holiday events like Merry Days & Holly Nights, L.E.D. “torchlight” parade open to all on New Year’s Eve, and the Winter Wondergrass Festival. My favorite activities were definitely mid-winter and Squaw-Alpine became part of our extended family.

On Easter Day SVAM held a hunt for a Golden Egg containing a 2019-2020 season pass and their next event is a Nacho Eating Contest this Friday, May 3rd at the Rocker. With more than fifteen feet of snow still remaining, Squaw Valley will be open until July 7th so there is still plenty of time to get your spring turns in.


Our first year on the IkonPass was truly life-changing. We had opportunities to meet new people, improve ourselves physically and emotionally, learn new ski techniques, travel, practice photography, and become more connected with the outdoor sports community.

Video: 70 Days at Squaw-Alpine with Ikon Pass | SwansonFineArts

Now my year on the IkonPass is coming full-circle. It was this time last year that I started my journey, and time to renew for another year of adventure.

Where will adventure take me in 2019-2020? Where will it take you?

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