You could head out on your own. You’ll find trail maps and mountain hosts that can point you in the right direction for great ski terrain that matches your interests. But if you’re visiting Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows or you just want to see an insider’s perspective on the mountain, then booking a skilled mountain guide to show you their favorite secret stashes might just be the way to go. Instead of standing around saying, “Where should we go next?” you’ll be dropping into terrain without another soul in sight and wondering what took you so long to hire a guide.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has two kinds of inbounds guiding services. There’s The North Face Mountain Guides, geared toward private groups of intermediate to expert skiers and riders, where you’ll be paired with a pro guide who will tailor the day to your needs. You’ll also score a Men's Fort Point Flannel or Women's Tekno Hoodie from The North Face for up to four members of your group, plus reserved seating at lunchtime.
Or, new for this winter is the Squaw Alpine Guides, where you’ll be paired with others for a more affordable group tour of the mountain. Picture it like an intermediate or expert group ski or ride lesson but instead of focusing on instruction and technique, your guide will hand-pick select zones to show you where the mountain is holding the best snow.
We’ve got 6,000 skiable acres and if you hire one of our guides, you’re going to be guaranteed one of the greatest days you’ve ever had. You don’t have to wonder if you’re missing out.”
Billy Haupert, a guide with The North Face Mountain Guides program at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for the past five years.
Here are six reasons why hiring a guide is the smartest thing you can do on your next day on the mountain.
1. Discover Hidden Terrain
This is the most obvious reason, but it’s worth repeating. If you go out on your own and you don’t know the mountain well, you’ll be left following the crowds or wondering where to go next. Hire a guide and they’ll make all the tough decisions for you, plus they’ll point out landmarks and share backstories of the hidden locales on these storied mountains. “Our guides will show you the best spots and the rhythm of how our mountains work,” says Robyn Scarton, Adult Ski and Snowboard School Director for Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. “You’ll get to check out secret places you’ve never been to before.”
2. Find the Best Snow
Whether it’s a powder day or a sunny spring day, snow conditions across the mountain can vary wildly. A guide who skis these slopes everyday knows where the best snow is at any given moment. “As the sun moves over the mountain, the snow conditions change throughout the day,” says Scarton. “Someone who’s been studying these mountains and has been a local for a long time knows exactly where the good snow is, depending on the time of day.”
3. Cut Lift Lines
Ah, yes. Don’t forget priority lift access. On a busy powder day, this is worth everything. You’ll glide to the front of the KT-22 line or have your own shortcut line on Alpine Meadows’ Summit Chair. No standing around means more fresh snow and more skiing and riding for you.
4. Get Helpful Tips
If you’re looking for instruction or tips to improve your technique on steep or deep terrain, you can find that here. (If you’re not, you can skip it.) “Because I’m taking people on new or steeper terrain than they’ve ever been on, we’ll work on keeping our shoulders square to the fall line, reaching down the hill, and picking up our line of sight,” says Haupert, who worked for many years as a PSIA-certified ski instructor before becoming a guide. “If it’s a storm day, it can turn into a powder lesson.”
5. Ski and Ride with Legends
In addition to experienced pros like Haupert, who worked for many years as a paramedic firefighter, you can also book guided outings, pending their availability, with verified snowsports celebrities, like eight-time X Games champion in snowboard cross Nate Holland, Olympic ski cross athlete Errol Kerr, and big-mountain ski movie star Jamie Burge—all guides with The North Face Mountain Guides.
6. Make New Friends
Sign up for a Squaw Alpine Guides adventure—the new group option versus the private—and you’ll be paired with other skiers and riders of a similar ability and interest level as you. In other words: You’re about to meet a bunch of rad new friends. “It’s definitely a social experience,” says Scarton. “If you’re skiing alone but you don’t want to poke around by yourself, it can be a great way to go.”