It’s been quite some time since I have skied regularly. However upon an invitation to visit the Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows resorts in Northern California, I thought it would be worth giving it another go. What harm could a mere 16 years of aging and bad habits really do?
Please note: This press trip was provided at no cost to me. However, I was not required to write a positive review, I did not receive any monetary compensation, and the honest opinions I have expressed are my own.
Upon checking into my room at The Village at Squaw Valley and taking in the view of both the mountains and adjacent hot tubs, I soon did what any sane man would do after an 11-hour series of flights and sought out some whiskey at the local Irish pub. The place was called The Auld Dubliner and was staffed at the time by the owner Randy, and a bartender named Ben. Reintroducing me to a glass of 2 Gingers and then some craft ales, we bantered for a while of beer and travel and water, and of the stories of others.
Soon after that and a brief glance at the menu, I set off and met with the other attendees of the resorts public relations press invitational. Among them were a food and travel writer, a Canadian photo blogger, a writer with Men’s Health magazine and three PR reps from the company, all to meet for dinner with Andy Wirth, the president and CEO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. While somewhat expecting a standard PR push, Wirth did interestingly go rather aggressively after what he hopes for his mountain’s energy plans to accomplish.
Working with Elon Musk, Wirth has ambitions to improve renewable energy storage and transmission throughout the resort. Boasting both of what an environmentally conscious effort this and his efforts to eliminate bottled water on the mountain were, as well as how such simply made obvious business senses regarding energy consumption and waste respectively, he spoke as both a caretaker of the mountain and of shareholder interests evenly. The talk however of Olympic athletes and world class skiers which perforated our dinner otherwise though largely eluded me.
Finishing an impressive surf and turf and pale ale by Deschutes Brewery, we all bid each other good evening and set off on our separate ways. Though the reasonable thing to do on only five hours of in-flight sleep with a gut full of Irish whiskey, craft beer and steak would be to retire to the room, I set out instead in search of some genuine local culture. I found such at a place across the parking lot called The Cornice Cantina.
Built in what was once simply a base lodge, the small, somewhat dive-like place was at the time filled with resort employees and locals and had a very relaxed feel to it. With pretty much the standard cheap tap options and enough whiskey to keep folks happy, it was a welcoming local watering hole where I would come to learn that a great many of the locals themselves are New England transplants as well. I spent a few hours drinking with them and one particularly friendly dog before returning to the room for some rest.
Up the next day, I hustled to meet up with the group, already late and having missed breakfast. Finding them at the demo shop, some very helpful staff outfitted me with boots, skis and poles and soon we were off with our guide, Karl. Following a beautiful gondola ride up the mountain, I was rather surprised to see some muscle memory as to how to ski still within me. Skiing the wide, gracefully curving trails with one, two and then three runs around the mountain coming off seamlessly before an ascent to the top, the view from the summit was simply breathtaking.
With Lake Tahoe resting off in the distance, it is upon even reviewing the photos that the absence of scale becomes striking to me, as little could have prepared me for the vista I was presented with. It was from this point however, that after another good run down the mountain without issue or hesitation, that upon a return to the top and another run down, the crash inevitably came.
It was not of the sort wherein I hit anything more than the snow below me. A disagreement between my skis over how best to come to a full stop sent me toppling over onto my shoulder. An injury which would prove to keep me off of the mountain the following day entirely. However, even after the fall, which did not seem as punishing at the time, another run followed before lunch, with gorgeous views and plenty of room to maneuver around every rock and tree.
Descending the mountain via the tram cable car after some fish tacos and Saint Archer pale ale, I achingly returned to my civilian footwear and returned to my room to do some writing. Even sitting there upon the balcony, with a freshly poured Hops of Wrath double IPA beside me, the view of the mountainside was enough to lull me into a Zen like comfort, which lingered until what remaining senses I had of schedule beckoned me down to meet up again with the group for “après” (general term to mean “after”) cocktails at yet another Village watering hole. This time meeting at La Chamois (The Chammy) I found myself as I often do, sharing beers with locals who worked in various capacities around the mountain, before I’d even been recognized by other members of the press trip itself.
An affable and laid back lot, we sat and swapped jokes and stories for the better part of an hour before the dim lightbulb that is my sense of scheduling began to flicker once more. This time, I was to meet the group yet again for a gourmet, multi-course dinner and wine tasting at the nearby restaurant, Plumpjack. As dim a bulb as it may be, it did manage to roust and deposit me somewhat early to the meal, allowing me just enough time to enjoy a cocktail at the bar and find myself in a conversation with an area representative for Glenfiddich, who was there pitching a new line of bourbon cask-aged scotch.
Sampling some, yet sadly without my phone charged, I was unable to either photograph or document the sip, short of noting an exceptional smoothness and lowered peat profile, which I am sure in time will be expanded upon in a future review.
The dinner soon commenced, with the sommelier waiter pairing California wines to the dishes of duck and designer salads which arrived. Idle chatter between the mountain reps, the attending press and myself carried on until it was soon time to retire for the evening. Awaking the next morning, a familiar sort of hellfire shot through my left shoulder and it was only after dragging myself from the luxurious king sized bed and slugging down a cup of coffee upon the balcony that I informed my contacts that I would be foregoing the day’s activities, in favor of some further exploration of the Village.
Following a brief bout of window shopping, perusing the discounted yet still pricy winter gear on sale throughout the various shops, I stopped in once more to the Auld Dubliner for a brief whiskey, then again at The Cham, for a craft brew from Firestone Walker beneath the bright mountain sun. Soon however it was time to pack up and get once again on the road.
Roughly forty-five minutes later, I was again checked in for my flight in Reno and within an hour after that, embarking again on the 12-hour journey back to New Hampshire. All told, though I spent roughly the same amount of time either in the air or awaiting a flight as I did in the resort itself and though even as I write this now, both my senses of temporal awareness and comfort level within my still achy shoulder are both still maligned in general, the trip was something I shall not soon forget.
Reminding you, dear reader that I am not a skier in reality, I would nevertheless, where I a younger or fitter man, happily take either a week or weekend to enjoy the spring season at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Staffed by a courteous and friendly bunch, inhabited by travelers from all over and boasting an impressive selection of beers, wines, spirits and of course food, it is the sort of place which, if one can afford it, they would be hard pressed not to enjoy themselves.
Now as for me, I believe some ibuprofen and a hot shower are in order. So to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, to the people of the Auld Dubliner, Cantina, The Chammy, and to Karl the ski guide for his patience, as well as of course to you, I say as always…
Nicholas Goroff is an actor, writer and craft beer reviewer at EveryJoe.com. Certified as a Cicerone beer server, he is working towards obtaining certification as a beer judge while employed at Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett, NH. When not reviewing beer, wine and spirits, he is typically writing political essays, screenplays and short fiction. Follow him on Twitter @wizardofcause.
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