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California’s multiyear drought has taken a toll on the Golden State, but tourism entities in the Lake Tahoe region are still welcoming travelers with off- and on-mountain diversions.
If the limited number of ski runs — or the icy snow on them — has got you down, never fear. A recent multigenerational trip to Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Olympic Valley, Calif., uncovered plenty of sweet entertainment options, from sky-high tram rides to delish chocolate chip cookies.
Ride the Aerial Tram to High CampHome to the 1960 winter Olympic Games, Squaw Valley Ski Resort is well-known for its scenic peaks and its Aerial Tram, which takes riders up to High Camp at 8,200 feet. Though a popular year-round attraction, the ride is especially beautiful when the mountains are shrouded in snow and teeny skiers and boarders glide below you.
After arriving at High Camp, families can sit down for lunch at The Terrace Restaurant & Bar, where most tables provide stunning views of Lake Tahoe in the distance and The Village at Squaw Valley at the base of the mountain. Above-par mountain resort dishes here include the signature smoked pheasant soup — opt for the bread-bowl version — and tempura portobello strips.
Another attraction at High Camp is the recently renovated Olympic Museum, a one-room gallery that houses team uniforms from 1960 and other Olympic memorabilia. Admission is included with Aerial Tram tickets.
Children ages 4 and younger ride for free, though they still need to pick up a ticket at the village’s entrance. Ticket prices for older children, adults and seniors range from $10 to $39.
Go Ice SkatingThe top-of-the-mountain Olympic Ice Pavilion is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays; hours may change depending on weather and conditions. Guests with lift tickets can skate for free. If you took the tram up the mountain to skate and enjoy the views, rink admission is an additional $12 for skaters 13 years old and older and $6 for children ages12 and younger.
Just beyond of the village, Resort at Squaw Creek offers guests a private ice rink on which to practice spirals and bunny hops. The rink isn’t on a mountain top, but it is next to the resort’s waterfall and heated pool. Rent a pair of skates at the adjacent rental window, and you’re off! Skates are $15 for adults and $8 for children.
Tube or SnowmobileSnoVentures Activity Zone is tucked off of the main Squaw Valley parking lot and offers plenty of family-friendly fun without boards or skis.
There are three hills for tubing as well as “magic carpets” (ski conveyors), which eliminate the need to trek an incline with a tot and a tube. However, riders must slide on their own — if you had hoped for banding arms or if your child is a bit timid, this may not be the right place to go tubing.
Tubing sessions are 55 minutes and cost $29 per person. On select holiday weekends, the rate increases to $34. Children must be 40 inches tall to participate.
Whizzing around on mini snowmobiles is another option for kids ages 6 to 12 (and who are 40 inches or taller). There’s a groomed, oval loop for young riders, and 15-minute sessions are $29 per person on regular days and $34 on select holidays. SnoVentures Lodge also offers refreshments and snacks, as well as a play room with games and a television.
Set on 3,600 acres in Olympic Valley, Calif., the family-friendly Squaw Valley Ski Resort is one of the largest ski areas in the U.S. // © 2015 Chris Beck
Squaw's scenic aerial tram brings guests to the eateries and sights of High Camp at 8,200 feet. // © 2015 Trevor Clark
There are multiple ice rinks in and around Squaw Valley in the winter, but the Olympic Ice Pavilion is a favorite. // © 2015 Ben Davidson
Squaw Valley Resort hosted the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, and this one-room museum showcases memorabilia from the event. // © 2015 Squaw Valley
Mini snowmobile At SnoVentures Activity Zone, children can fly across the snow on miniature snow mobiles. // © 2015 Trevor Clark
Squaw's Skyjump trampolines let children (and adults) catch some serious mountain air — even brave 2-year-old children. // © 2015 Chelsee Lowe
A full day of play in Squaw Valley is best rounded out with cookies and hot chocolate from Wildflour Baking Company. // © 2015 Squaw Valley
Trampoline TimeLocated just outside of the Aerial Tram station in the village, Skyjump is a set of bungee trampolines designed for jumpers between 20 and 220 pounds.
After feeling defeated when we found out that my daughter was too small to tube or snowmobile, we were delighted to strap her into the Skyjump and watching her initial fear turn into sheer happiness as she bounded into the air. During our visit, one turn on the trampoline was $8, though the website lists the cost as $12 for five minutes. Pro tip: Visit Skyjump in the early morning, and the attendants are more than likely to let you jump for more than the advertised five minutes.
Eat CookiesVacation just isn’t vacation unless cookies are involved, and Squaw Village has its own beloved sweets shop, Wildflour Baking Company. Set inside the cozy Olympic House and next to an indoor play area, Wildflour delivers excellent pastries, breakfasts and lunches with a side of good humor — visit the bakery’s website to read some cookie-inspired poetry.
We bellied up to the counter for fresh-baked cookies. My daughter opted for a Snow Ball, Wildflour’s version of a shortbread cookie. My mom and I opted for way too many chocolate chip cookies, scarfed down with coffee under the Tahoe sun.
Squaw Valley Adventure Centerwww.squawadventure.com
Squaw Valley Resortwww.squawalpine.com
The Resort at Squaw Creekwww.squawcreek.com