California's winter wonderland

WHITEOUT: California’s Squaw Valley has a vast area to ski and a considerable choice of chairlifts.
WHITEOUT: California’s Squaw Valley has a vast area to ski and a considerable choice of chairlifts. Lynette Brown

STANDING at the top of the mountain, I look left and right. Everything is white and icy.

I push off, slow and steady, gathering speed and momentum, gaining confidence, smiling to myself.

Next minute, I’m crashing into a bank of snow – head first, ski and poles scattering all around me.

I try getting up quickly, looking around for anyone who could be laughing at my spectacular wipe-out.

Nobody knows me here but, no doubt, it created a laugh for those zipping past or sitting on a chairlift watching from above.

In less than 24 hours from home, we were enjoying the slopes of southern California’s Squaw Valley.

It was an icy fantasyland.

The snowball fights, making snow angels, indulging in hot chocolate and warm chocolate-chip cookies were unexpected delights on a mountain with endless terrain and amazing ski conditions.

With a vast area to ski and a considerable choice of chairlifts, beginners and experienced skiers or snowboarders will find their perfect run.

The 33 chairlifts include North America’s largest cable car.

Thrillseekers have a choice of three terrain parks, including the super-pipe for extreme adventure.

The ski season in Squaw Valley starts in November and continues through to May.

We took advantage of the beautiful spring weather, where the first day was a balmy 10 degrees.

We couldn’t believe our eyes, as we saw some crazy locals skiing in T-shirts and shorts.

We couldn’t believe our luck that we had so much snow, the sun was shining and the crowds were low.

All that changed overnight.

With a drop in temperature and a massive dump of snow, the crowds flocked to take advantage of the perfect conditions. Squaw Valley is not a party town but a good choice of bars attracts weary skiers and snowboarders, all sharing their stories at après-ski gatherings.

As the lifts closed at the end of the day, we would stroll through the pedestrian-only village with its good choice of restaurants.

A mini-market for supplies, several equipment hire shops, retail outlets and the obligatory Starbucks also are available.

As the soft snow continued to fall on our faces like wet kisses, we reflected on a fabulous week and started dreaming of the next time we would visit this winter wonderland.

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