Food & Drink

The best damn places to drink in Squaw Valley

Published On 04/11/2014 Published On 04/11/2014
Squaw Valley Drinking Guide (yes that's a to-go boot of beer)
Esteban Martinez

It's hard not to love Spring in Squaw Valley... and not because you can basically ski in a t-shirt, or because the gear is all 50% off, or because that's when the mid-mountain hot tub bar opens, or because it's basically the best time of year to après-ski your face off. Actually wait, no, those are EXACTLY the reasons to love Spring in Squaw.

With less than a month to go before they start stowing away the shotskis, here's your definitive guide to drinking in Squaw, from clandestine on-mountain beer gardens, to one of the top 100 PBR-selling bars in the entire country.

Esteban Martinez

First stop: Le Chamois. Half-loft bar, half-drinking lawn, The Chammy is tucked down an alley on the far West side of The Village, and filled with all kinds of skiing fraternity awesomeness (old lift chairs, framed jerseys, even a sometimes-operational miniature tram above the bar). Despite the fact that it's only open six months a year and basically closes when the sun ducks behind the mountain at 8pm, The Chammy is still the No. 2 Budweiser seller in all of Northern California, second only to the 17,000-person holding Arco Arena.

The Chammy deck
Esteban Martinez

You're gonna want to drink your Bud with all the cool kids on the roof. Just turn left at the top of the only staircase inside...

The Chammy view
Esteban Martinez

... slide open the window around the corner, climb out on the roof, and your view will look something like this.

Girls at The Chammy
Esteban Martinez

Or, brave the massive crowd out front and your view will look something like... this.

Grant Marek

Just around the riverbeeeeend... err... um, corner from The Chammy, you'll run into KT Base Bar. Things to know about the bar: 1) it's basically a giant boozing patio, 2) it faces KT peak (and the consensus No. 1 chair lift in the country), 3) there's a little 10-stool bar inside by the locker room if you're allergic to giant boozing patios, and 4) their funitel ski lift goes awesomely right over the patio. Get the Bloody Mary. Yes, even if you're not hungover.

Esteban Martinez

Because you're probably gonna be skiing at some point, you're gonna need some sitting-around-the-hot-tub-after-skiing beers. You can get a $30 sixer at one of the bars in The Village, or you can not be an idiot, and go to Alice's, where you can get a sixer of 16oz Olympia pounders for $10.

Alice's mini bottles
Esteban Martinez

Also important: they have a selection of on-mountain pick-me-ups you can stuff into your Patagonia vest.

Alice's DVDs
Esteban Martinez

And an entire wall of critically-acclaimed, definitely award-winning DVDs.

Grant Marek

Ah, Mamasake. Home to the annual wasabi-eating contest and the $5 Happy Hour Beer and a Hand Roll. From 3-5pm, you can get any of three different rolls (or "Mama's Balls"... ?), and either a Bud or a Bud Light. Just like in Japan.

Esteban Martinez

That thing out in The Village parking lot? Yeah, it's a bar too. It's Cornice Cantina, though it was originally the Olympic tuning and waxing center during the 1960 Games, before being turned into a movie theater, and now one of the Top 100 PBR sellers in the entire country.

Grant Marek

You're gonna want to skip the margs entirely (don't let the Mexican theme fool you!), and ask for a "Shifter" -- it's a one-time-per-night PBR they give you for $1 if you're coming off your shift/say sorta convincingly you're coming off your shift.

Esteban Martinez

The Slot. Where to start. The Slot is a 300sqft bar with no bathrooms or even a storage closet -- which is because it used to be an employee locker room for a next-door restaurant. This is a pretty special place: 1990s ski videos play on loop on the TV behind the bar, famous skis adorn the walls and ceiling, and there's a bar dog that does laps around The Village and ducks back behind the bar for treats.

The Slot Fernet
Grant Marek

Like any good 3ish-hours-from-San Francisco bar, they have Fernet.

The Slot coozy
Esteban Martinez

And like any good free-stuff-giving bar, they'll hook you up with this koozy from Arcade Belt Co. for your beer can.

Grant Marek

The real magic, though, comes courtesy of Fritz. One of just three bartenders (they had a fourth who just moved to Alaska to work for a Heliski operation), Fritz will play an awesome bar game with you: order a Mickey's grenade, figure out what the picture puzzle under the cap means, and he'll fill your cap with a free shot of Jaeger. Oh also: Fritz has a shotski with glass boot shot glasses that click in. Yup.

Grant Marek

The Dubliner is kind of like The Slot, in that it's where you'll probably find yourself at the end of the night. Not only is this the only Irish bar in all of not-South-Lake-Tahoe, it's also a ridiculously legit one with a crazy-good Irish whiskey selection overseen by Randy, who'll pour you three shots at a time in Jameson bottle-shaped serving trays. God bless you Randy.

The Dubliner
Grant Marek

And God bless 1) the actual Irishman who opened this place, and 2) every single piece of decor in the bar, all of which was shipped over in a container from Ireland.

The Dubliner darts
Esteban Martinez

Also: darts! Also, also: live music! Also, also, also: they have a Jameson snowboard!!!

Grant Marek

Home to Squaw's (California's??) only 4lb burger, Rocker is largely an homage to Shane McConkey, an extreme Squaw skiier and base-jumper who died in a 2009 base-jumping accident in Europe. Not only is the name of the restaurant in reference to Shane (and a technology he pioneered)...

Grant Marek

... but so is this drink: The Shane McConkey (aka a vodka-Red Bull). When you order it (and you should), not only do you get to feel warm and fuzzy inside because all the money goes back to a foundation in his name, but you get to keep the glass.

Esteban Martinez

What, you thought we were only gonna be drinking in The Village? This is High Camp, 8,200ft above sea-level, and an entire tram ride up the mountain.

Esteban Martinez

Once you get there, you're gonna want to head here: The Umbrella Bar, a hot tub bar (A HOT TUB BAR!!!) that'll pour you a "Stabbin' Cabin" w/ Sailor Jerry, Amaretto, Irish cream, hot choco, and whipped cream. Two things are almost guaranteed to happen while you're here: 1) someone will dare someone to do snow angels in the bank of snow that surrounds the hot tub, and 2) you will travel back in time to 1986.

Esteban Martinez

Even though the view is clearly terrible, you should maybe also pop into The Terrace a hallway away. The bar here is actually sunken, so the tender doesn't block the mountain backdrop.

The Terrace Forrest Fire
Esteban Martinez

The menu includes four "Chuters and Brews". Two totally worth getting? The Forest Fire (Fireball + Angry Orchard Hard Cider), and...

The Terrace Peebermint
Esteban Martinez

... the all-time-greatly-named Peebermint (peppermint schnapps + a PBR).

Esteban Martinez

Kind of a hidden gem, The Arc is a mid-mountain porch bar where you can do a sometimes-available 'Beer and Ear and a Deer' combo (PBR, ear of corn, Jaeger shot) and do some people-watching of people like...

Beer snow guy
Esteban Martinez

... this guy...

Girl skiing
Esteban Martinez

... this girl...

360 Squaw skier
Esteban Martinez

... and this guy. He's mid-360 here.

Esteban Martinez

Located next door to The Arc, this may not be a bar, but it IS the only ski-in, ski-out Starbucks in the world. Also if you loaded up at Alice's, it's got the other half of your Irish coffee.

Esteban Martinez

What, you didn't think we were only going to be drinking in The Village and at High Camp, did you???

Esteban Martinez

The German crown jewel of Alpine Meadows, The Chalet is a Bavarian beer garden in the middle of the mountain that YOU CAN ONLY REACH IF YOU SKI THERE (... OR ARE REALLY GOOD FRIENDS WITH JEFF, WHO WORKS AT SKI PATROL AND HAS A SNOW MOBILE). Outside, they've got communal tables for beer drinking, plus slope-facing lawn chairs.

The Chalet interior
Esteban Martinez

Inside, it's all blond woods, Lederhosen tees, working fireplaces, and Austrian brats.

The Chalet Das Boot
Esteban Martinez

You're gonna order any of four Sierra Nevadas (that's all they serve), and you're gonna order it in a 34oz Das Boot, which has a lanyard so you can wear it while skiing.

The Chalet Scott Lift
Esteban Martinez

Best of all, the Scott lift is right behind The Chalet, so you can put back a $20 boot, ski down a black diamond run ('natch), and refill it for only $11!

Esteban Martinez

The main lodge at Alpine has two bars side-by-side: Alpine Bar (which has a cool upper-deck drinking floor), and Last Chair, which has a much, much cooler Pay It Forward drinking board where you can pre-buy a drink for a buddy, so next time he's at the bar...

Esteban Martinez

... he'll get that shot of Tullamore Dew from the ceramic jug fo' free.

Grant Marek is a Senior Editor at Thrillist and did at least two shotskis during the making of this drinking guide. Follow him on Twitter at @grant_marek.

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1. Rocker@Squaw 1960 Squaw Valley Dr, Olympic Valley, CA 96146

The burgers here are huge: you get a whole half-pound of beef, and a choice of two toppings. Grab the buffalo mac & cheese if you wanna get your mind blown.

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2. The SLOT Bar The Village at Squaw Valley, Squaw Valley, CA 96146 (Tahoe)

Pop down into this base mountain locals' dive bar, decorated with retired skis, after a day on the slopes for $2 PBRs - a welcome change from most ski lodge prices which border on extortion - and tunes on the old jukebox.

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3. Cornice Cantina 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, CA 96146 (Tahoe)

Quesadillas, double-layer nachos, and burrito bowls make for the perfect Mexican spread at this Tahoe cantina. With the ability to go from a family-friendly grill when the sun is high to a DJ dance party once night has fallen, the budget-friendly destination is stocked with a full bar that serves margaritas in pint glass and even hot chocolate for the little ones.

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4. Auld Dubliner Irish Pub 1850 Village South Rd, Olympic Valley, CA 96146 (Tahoe)

It's the full Irish experience: an interior hand-crafted in Dublin to recreate a cottage pub, live Irish bands making a stop by while on tour, and Guinness served by the "perfect pint."

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5. The Terrace Restaurant & Bar High Camp, Olympic Valley, CA 96146

One of the most magnificent venues at Squaw Valley, this resto/bar is located at High Camp (elevation 8,200ft) and features awe-inspiring views of Lake Tahoe, elegant fare, and a classy interior.

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6. Umbrella Bar The Village at Squaw Valley, Squaw Valley, CA 96146

Umbrella Bar is an ideal spot to hit in the Summer at Squaw Valley because here, you can take a swim in their pool, grab a drink, or lounge in their massive jacuzzi at 8,200ft.

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7. KT Base Bar , Olympic Valley, CA 96146

This warm and inviting bar is perfect for everyone coming down off the mountain to enjoy a beer, cocktail, or great bar food including KT's signature flatbread pizzas and tasty nachos.

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8. The Arc , Olympic Valley, CA 96146

One of the many eateries around Squaw Valley, The Arc offers a number of different food stations where you can grab up salads, gourmet 'za, grilled items, Asian fare, and other options.

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9. Alpine Bar 2600 Alpine Meadows Rd, Alpine Meadows, CA 96146 (Tahoe)

This cozy bar, tucked into a lodge at the Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, serves up their own specialty cocktails -- try the Local's Lemonade or the Tahoe Toddy next time you stop by.

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10. Ski in, Ski out Starbucks 1960 Squaw Valley Rd, Olympic Valley, CA 96146

For all the times you find yourself saying, "Ughhh, I want my caffeine fix but I JUST DON'T WANNA QUIT SKIING", fear not! Squaw Valley's Gold Coast complex is bringing you the first-ever ski in, ski out Starbucks, where you can ski straight up to the window, order your caffeinated beverage, and then hit the slopes.

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11. Mamasake 1850 Village South Rd, Olympic Valley, CA 96146 (Tahoe)

With high ceilings and an open floor plan, Mamasake has an inviting atmosphere in which Chef Elsa Corrigan delivers her takes on Asian-inspired dishes, ranging from sushi to veggie tempura.

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12. Le Chamois & Loft Bar 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, CA 96146 (Tahoe)

Part bar, part loft, and part drinking lawn, Le Chamois serves up traditional American bar bites (think wings, jalapeno poppers, onion rings, etc) plus plenty of brews, so you can bask in that comfort good-glow after a day on the slopes.

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13. Alice's Mountain Market 1850 Squaw Valley Rd, Olympic Valley, CA 96146

Save your Apres-ski money and head over to Alice's Mountain Market to pick up your supplies -- beers taste much better from the comfort of your own hot tub.

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14. The Chalet 2600 Alpine Meadows Road, Tahoe City, CA 96145 (Tahoe)

This mid-mountain Bavarian beer garden is literally the only (and perfect) place to stop for a refreshing brew on your way down. In a rush? Their signature ‘Bierstiefln’ is a liter of beer in a plastic boot you can ski away with.

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15. Last Chair 2600 Alpine Meadows Road, Tahoe City, CA 96145 (Tahoe)

Last Chair is the ultimate boozing destination for those in no rush after a long day of hitting the slopes. Within the Main Lodge, their après menu caters to all walk of life -- from nachos to wings to seared tuna tagarashi.

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