A Safer Approach to Chutes and Steeps: Squaw Valley, CA


"Squaw is like a jungle gym that you can train on," says former pro Robb Gaffney, the resort's best-known guest instructor, of its varied terrain. Last year Squaw acquired nearby Alpine Meadows, bringing the total skiable area, accessible under one lift ticket, to 6,000 acres encompassing eight different peaks (each of which has a blue-run backdoor, in case you chicken out). But there's black-diamond terrain off every peak too. Gaffney says Squaw is a great place to start tackling diamond runs, since Sierra snow is wetter and denser than that of the Rockies, giving you the cushion and stickiness you need while letting you get used to more extreme angles.

Monday's Chutes and Hikes clinic tackles intimidating runs that take a little extra work to get to. According to Dee Byrne, who runs Squaw's snow-sports school, "We almost named it Chutes 101 – it's meant for the advanced intermediate, the first-time chute rider." But it's not Squaw's only innovative teaching program: The ski school also offers the Masters Program race clinic. After skiing a few gates in the morning – an exercise that forces quick improvement – it's a day of free skiing with Olympic-level coaches, former pros, and even ex–national ski team members.

More information: Chutes and Hikes, $90; Masters Program, $70 per day; squaw.com.