Of all the tantalizing and iconic lines at Squaw Valley — Tram Face, Eagle’s Nest, the Palisades — perhaps one of the most coveted is National Geographic bowl.
Overhung by an massive cornice, made famous by a photograph in National Geographic magazine many years ago (hence the area’s name), the chutes and cliffs that define the northeast-facing bowl have been tempting skiers and riders who have made the hike to the top of Granite Chief, which offers a view of the nearby bowl in all its splendor. But because National Geographic bowl lies outside Squaw’s permit area, the only people who have ridden it are those who have skinned or hiked up through Shirley Canyon.
Until this year.
The Forest Service recently allowed Squaw to put a backcountry entry gate off the Granite Chief boundary line, with one proviso: Only those skiers and snowboarders who are under the guidance of Squaw Valley-based Alpenglow Expeditions can access the terrain from that gate, using Squaw’s lift system to get there and return to the resort’s base.
Generally, this is an expensive proposition: It can cost $645 for a single person or $895 for a group of two to four people for an all-day guided outing. However, Alpenglow is offering a free ride to as many as eight skiers and riders for a full-day outing sometime in the next week or so.
“This trip will be a mirror image of the paid-for product,” says Logan Talbott, a guide and director of operations for Alpenglow Expeditions.
Alpenglow, which also conducts lift-assisted backcountry guided tours out of Alpine Meadows, has already led a couple of free trips to National Geographic bowl this winter, and the response has been beyond enthusiastic.
“People around here are so stoked,” Talbott says. “I think we are planning to do the same thing next year with 2 or 3 (free) trips to National Geo bowl.”
Who gets a place on these trips of a lifetime, with options to ski or ride Needle and/or Lyon peaks, will be determined by lottery, says Talbott. Those interested — and who isn’t? — should contact Alpenglow Expeditions at 877-873-5376.