The self-proclaimed “Spring Skiing Capital” of North America halted their lifts, shut their gates and closed ticket booths this weekend, effectively ending Squaw skiing for the season.
With a reputation for excellent snow conditions well into May, a quality 74-inch base and first-hand accounts of near-perfect snow conditions on Sunday, guests and media alike were puzzled by their decision to close. Squaw has closed at the end of April for the past two years, since their merge with nearby Alpine Meadows, but long-time regulars fondly remember the days when Squaw would run lifts to the end of May.
We met with Squaw Valley’s Senior Public Relations Manager, Amelia Richmond, to gain a better understanding of why Squaw shut down despite great spring skiing conditions. She said that April 27 was the budgeted closing date this year, the date they had selected ahead of time.
When Squaw partnered with Alpine in 2011, the two mountains that once competed over who could stay open longest, no longer needed to “battle it out,” she said. Now, Alpine Meadows remains open on weekends into mid-May and Squaw offers constant shuttle service to Alpine for those still looking to ski.
“We’re not going to leave people without at least one mountain to enjoy,” said Richmond, but noted that most people are done skiing for the season and the two resorts wouldn’t be able to fill both mountains. Essentially, it wouldn’t make sense to keep both open, as the crowds of skiers and boarders are gone for the season, moving on to warmer weather activities.
Meanwhile, several other U.S. slopes are still open this year. One such resort is Mammoth Mountain, located roughly 180 miles south of Squaw; they said they plan to keep lifts running until May 26, or later, depending on conditions.
Season pass holders and regulars at Squaw are disappointed in what they see as a premature closing. Many who have frequented the mountain for years have seen a direct correlation between more affordable season passes and shorter seasons. Squaw offers season passes starting at just $409, and a few customers have speculated that the steep drop in price has led to the cost-effective early closing. Those same regulars also said that the lower prices make semi-frequent skiing available to more people, which they consider a drawback, but many others would consider a benefit.
It seems, then, that when it comes to the trade-off, locals might be getting the short end of the stick. Peak-season tourists, however, are enjoying the savings, while remaining virtually unaffected by April closings.