Toothless in Reno: An escape to Squaw |

Toothless in Reno: An escape to Squaw

summit daily news

SQUAW VALLEY ” Thirty-one miles west of Reno’s infamous 4th Street hookers (toothless, said the card dealer. The porn stars live in Carson City), all that ring-ding and ching-ching of the casinos is taken over by a more subtle and serene environment.

Just south of Truckee, Calif., Nevada’s scourge is replaced by 4,000 acres of cliff bands and powder, although to say one can forget the high-rise gambling shelters one sees upon flying into town is, perhaps, too optimistic.

Yet, when entering the mountains, the sudden change in attitude is enough to make one realize that A) you are a city person or B) you are not.

Just think of the word “toothless,” for example. In the mountains, “toothless” becomes an adjective for an easy run, whereas in the city, even an “easy run” has more to do with a 2 a.m. jaunt from a casino to the unbathed underbelly of Reno, where matrons pace the curb in dire need of some Aquafresh.

So thank heavens for the short trip away from the glamourless glitter of Reno, where I spent a few days holed up in work-mode in the sparkling guts of The Nugget.

A carload of us escaped into the Sierras (in case you hadn’t noticed, I discovered I favored realization B), to a minefield of resorts and one highly anticipated trip to Squaw, which, quite frankly, I had grown to despise out of envy ” and envy alone.

Time and time again this winter, Pacific storms camped over the north shore of Lake Tahoe and made a beeline to Durango, missing our mountains by an inch, in radar-speak.

“Epic” read the Squaw-area papers, and this was in late April, a week after Breckenridge and Copper had shut down their lifts. And, on the morning of the Great Escape, it snowed again.

We started with a few interrogations of locals (one John Kee previously lived in Dillon Valley, now worked at Squaw, and decided we should pay double for working with the SDN), and developed a plan of attack.

Despite the snow, the temperatures were warm, so after a bit of dilly-dallying (not to be confused with ching-chinging) with outfits at the hotel, we stepped into the tram and headed up the mountain.

We found our first run, a black off the 9,050-foot Granite Chief, and quickly discovered our theme for the day: have fun, but don’t fall off a cliff. This area had been puffed up with snow which, set against a healthy gallery of cliff bands, looked inviting ” despite the signs warning us of imminent death.

Still, the snow was near-perfect, and we found chutes between the cliffs to dig our skis into. Run after run, we made our way into fresh tracks, prompting one in our crew to comment, “This is quickly becoming a favorite place to ride.”


he mountain, quite simply, is breath-taking. Large rock formations and spines bulge through the snow (one could imagine Frodo and his merry fellowship hiking the nearby cornices looking for a pit of hell to drop their legendary Ring. And one could also imagine that pit of hell being somewhere in the basement of The Nugget 31 miles to the east.)

We lapped the cliffed areas, all the while giggling at our own fortune (again, not found in The Nugget). And, these cliffs are lapable, as we got clean runs for a good hour before venturing to other sides of the mountain.

History also plays a part of Squaw’s edgy countenance. Remnants of the 1960 Olympics were everywhere. The Olympic rings guided us into the resort, where the Olympic Village and the Olympic General Store awaited.

Eventually, we made our way to the KT22 lift ” the opposite side of the mountain ” where our Dillon Valley friend had recommended. We ran runs like Women’s Downhill, GS Bowl and Johnny Moseley’s Run, a landmark dedicated to Tahoe’s most recognized local.

There, we found 40-plus degree slopes filled with corn snow. These steeps, thankfully, were deep, as well.


fter returning to the base area, we learned the value of local’s knowledge. One snowboarder in our group had attached his lift ticket to a key ring, and the liftie informed us he would need to remove it.

“It needs to be attached to something permanent,” she said, so she told him to attach it to his coat. Coats in California, apparently, do not come off.

However, as we sat holding up the lift line and rearranging our gear, a young man slid between us and asked the liftie if she accepted “green tickets.” She said yes, he handed her two joints, and he and his girlfriend made their way to the lifts.

Apparently, “green tickets” are more valuable than “real tickets,” and after making the necessary corrections to our “real tickets,” we too got to join the party on the mountain.

Alas (and I only use this word before the coming-down of a story), the day ran short. After calling for our make-believe Sherpas, we packed the car, overcame a strong bout of boot-stink, and ventured back to Interstate 80 and returned east to Reno.

I love the mountains, and it never became so clear as when I sat in the airport, surrounded by slot machines, waiting for a flight back to Denver.

I couldn’t help but laugh about a sign in front of me reading “Tahoe-Reno Airport,” because there was nothing Tahoe about it.

Yet for the next few minutes, the ching-chinging and ding-dinging filled the terminal and, for one freaky second, I sware I felt a toothache coming on. I put on my headphones, closed my eyes, and saw home, sweet home in the jagged terrain of my mind.

Other stuff to do:

– Alpine Meadows: A ski area just 10 miles from Squaw, Alpine Meadows features a large back-bowl area and signs explaining the art of cornology. Visit, or call (800) 441-4423 for more information.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User