If you want to go the top of the mountains, you might as well travel in style. An aerial tram (cable car for the Brits out there) runs from the center of the resort to the top of High Peak. We went in to buy our tickets only to find out that they were running a special for the last weekend of the ski season and both of us could go up for less than I was expecting to pay for one of us! Nice result.
Whenever I see these contraptions, I can’t help but think of them in the context of so many movies I saw as a kid. Invariably, someone would end up on the roof in a perilous situation. The real thing is of course a lot less dramatic. The larger these things are the smoother the run seems to be. The only disturbance is when you pass over the towers but this one was large enough that the transition was very gentle. The swing was nicely damped too so it was really a non-event.
The thing I find quite amusing is how the cables sag under the load of the car. As you get towards the steepest part of the climb, the car seems to head straight for the cliff face before it pulls up to the next tower. It is all very simple really but it still looks cool. Our trip up was pretty quiet because we were early. By the time we came down, things were quite a bit busier. I liked the display screen in the car that had all of the key parameters for the service so you could see that the loads and wind speeds were well inside limits. Just as well!
For the serious skier, nothing should get in the way of your sport – not even a lack of snow. We were in Squaw Valley at the end of the skiing season. The weather was lovely and warm with loads of sun. Shorts and t-shirts were the order of the day for many. However, in the final days of the skiing season, there was still snow on the higher parts of the mountains. We took a trip to High peak on the aerial tram and the last two days of skiing were being exploited by the faithful.
People rode to the top and then walked across the rock to get to the edge of the snow. The snow certainly wasn’t looking too great and the gentler slopes required more effort to get moving. However, you could then get across to other lifts and get higher up on the slopes. There were a lot of people making use of the few runs and lifts still open. I guess they will have to wait until the snows return so the last moments must be worth it. Watching them tromping through the town in their ski gear when others were strolling in warm weather clothes was pretty funny to see.
The top of a mountain is always going to tempt me. I love high points with unobstructed views in all directions. Taking the aerial tram to the top of High Peak from Squaw Valley put us in a great place to survey all around us. It was a bit hazy so the distant views were not too great but you could see Lake Tahoe off in one direction and the summits of other mountains around us. The surface was pretty easy going so we wandered around a lot. You did notice the altitude of course so we didn’t overdo it.
The resort buildings at the summit included a pool and hot tub (which was open while we were there) and some catering places, most of which had given up with the end of the ski season. A steady stream of people was making their way up. We had gone early in the day when it was very quiet. By the time we headed down, the numbers arriving were a lot larger and things were getting a lot busier. Still, you only had to walk a short distance to find yourself a lot more alone if you wanted to.
Squaw Valley has a river running through it. This river goes by the name of Squaw Creek – you wouldn’t have guessed would you? It is a short walk from the center of the resort to get to a series of falls that the creek goes over. A trail winds its way up into the hills a lot further if you are feeling energetic taking you to a lake (if it is early enough in the year for it not to have dried up). We didn’t explore all of this. It was the falls that were of interest.
The water was flowing quite nicely with the meltwater run off from the mountains. It would split around obstacles and take various paths down the hill but ending up together again as it descended. The falls were in some nice tree cover so it was a cool temperature as you climbed up the trail.
Ski resorts are designed around the winter season and, come the summer, they can often be rather deserted. The weather was warm and sunny during our visit to Squaw Valley Olympic Village but the place was far from quiet. There was a festival underway so the center of the resort was filled with stalls from various vendors selling all sorts of things but mainly focused on art and craft type items. Meanwhile, bands were playing at a couple of stages.
The event was obviously very popular and large numbers of people were milling about. Some of the lifts up the mountains were also still in use. Obviously a lot has changed since the days of the Winter Olympics in the 60s but there are still signs around the town of the history of the games having been there. I imagine the winter games were a lot lower key in those days but I still imagine the valley was pretty busy at that time. It would have been quite an influx of people. I wonder what the evening entertainment was like then.