Twice the Lake Tahoe region has garnered international attention.

The first occasion was in 1846, when a party of California-bound cov - ered-wagon travelers found themselves trapped for the winter by tremendous snows north of Lake Tahoe. An unusual diet enabled many to survive. Of course you’ve heard of them. The Donner Party.

The second was in 1960, when Squaw Valley, a ski area west of Lake Tahoe, had already become a winter playground because of its tremendous snows. Of course you’ve heard what happened. It was the Winter Olympics. They were held in the United States that year for the second time.

The event, widely covered by television, a medium then comparatively new to winter sports, helped spark a national boom in skiing. In the Lake Tahoe region, new ski areas popped up faster than daffodils in spring.

For years, Squaw Valley was content to let the publicity laurels it garnered from its Olympic winter attract skiers to its fabulous terrain, basically monstrous, wide-open bowls with usually plentiful snows. The Lake Tahoe region, when viewed from the tops of Squaw Valley lifts, is one of the dramatic mountain areas in the world.

Then suddenly, a few years ago, Squaw Valley began a major effort to move into the class of world resorts.

It expanded its long-inadequate lift capacity to serve the 4,200 acres of skiable terrain and built more hotels, condominiums, shops, gourmet restaurants, bars, and amenities. However, despite this welcome expansion, the leaping apres-ski nightlife is in nearby Truckee, on the California side, and Reno, across the border in Nevada.

Approximately 25 percent of the trails at the six peaks that make up the ski complex are for those who seek the wild challenge of extreme mountain skiing, or double black diamonds. The rest of the bowls and the few carved runs are about 50 percent for intermediate skiers, and 25 percent for beginners and never-evers.

Snowboarders are welcome and enjoy a special park and the inevitable snow pipe in an area reserved for shredders.

Three hundred km of cross-country trails can be skied from Squaw Valley throughout the Lake Tahoe district.

As with all the resorts in the area, one other reason for Squaw Valley’s popularity - let’s face it - is Nevada’s roaring, never-silent, always-beckoning next-door gambling casinos. To ensure that skiers who’d rather gamble than frolic on the mountains can get to them quickly, free buses run regularly between the snowy slopes and the clattering slot machines begging for nourishment from tourist bucks.

Squaw Valley’s skiers are served by a 125-person cable car, a 6-passenger gondola, and 24 chairlifts, ranging from doubles to high-speed detachable quads.

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