24. Alpine Meadows, California

With all the hype and hoopla surrounding Squaw Valley, it’s easy to forget that there are over thirteen ski areas in the Lake Tahoe area, one of them right next to Squaw¿Alpine Meadows. Still hidden in the shadow cast by her more glamorous neighbor, in the minds of many Alpine is the hidden jewel in Tahoe’s heavily encrusted crown.

New for this season is the rebirth of Alpine’s man-made terrain. The resort has invested serious money to improve pipe maintenance and the size and shape of their terrain features¿check out the Kangaroo terrain park and the Gravity Cavity halfpipe. Alpine also dedicates an entirely separate kids’ terrain park accessed by the Tiegel Poma and Hot Wheels triple chair. Although the resort only has two high-speed chairs (the other lifts are older, slower three- and two-person chairs), 2,000 acres, less than 2,000 feet of vertical, and only one on-mountain restaurant, Alpine is less crowded than Squaw and has more natural protection from the wind and sun¿and thus hangs on to its snow longer.

Alpine also has one of the most liberal open-boundary policies of any American ski resort, giving it an additional 1,000-plus acres that are easily accessible from several of its twelve lifts. And the resort has better grooming and carving terrain than Squaw.

Alpine has developed a following amongst snowboarders seeking out terrain that is less crowded and ego-driven than Squawllyworld. Inbounds, Alpine has less consistently steep pitches than Squaw, but the often solitary hikes to get to the steeper goods just out of bounds are what separate the poseurs from the locals.

There are only a few hardboot riders at the resort, but this faithful band sing praises of Alpine’s excellent trail maintenance and diversified runs. The lifts access an entire spectrum of groomers from wide-open beginner to heart-in-your-throat black-diamond precipice drops.

The area, inbounds and out, is in the shape of an hourglass. The waist is formed by 8,289-foot Scott Peak to the northeast and 8,637-foot Ward Peak to the southwest. The front bowl of the hourglass is serviced by seven lifts, the back by five. Snowboarding within these bowls is no problem; it’s getting between them that can be tricky. There are a few screwy flat spots and traverses snowboarders should be aware of lest they curse the place while hiking out from one of these traps. The biggest problems arise when traveling back from the Lakeview and especially the Sherwood lifts to the frontside. Pay close attention to what’s going on below as you ride up on the chair, and when in doubt, ask any of the helpful liftees, many of whom snowboard.

¿Chris Salisbury