Features, stories, and reported articles written by Julie Brown.

Life's A Beach At Squaw Valley

Powder Magazine | November 2013 (Volume 42, Issue 3)

On a sunny afternoon atop Squaw Valley, I was laying out on High Camp’s sun deck, bronzing my winter-white stomach, when a news anchor on assignment to find the world’s most “extreme” bars pushed a microphone into my face and asked me a question.

“Would you say this place is like Miami Beach?”

I looked at her dubiously. At 8,200 feet above sea level, surrounded by high-alpine mountains, where the trees wear pine needles not palms and the ground is frozen, the only thing that was reminiscent of Florida was my bikini.

“Um, sure… ”

PHOTO: Richard Hallman/Powder Magazine November 2013

PHOTO: Richard Hallman/Powder Magazine November 2013

Spotting a bikini-clad skier amid a crowd decked in Gore-Tex in the middle of winter might seem novel. But here in California, I wear my bikini skiing all the time. And it’s not for the attention—I’m just embracing the strange, something we skiers can get away with more than others. When it’s sunny in March, and the midday sun turns the snow to the consistency of mashed potatoes, a signal to skiers mountain-wide that it’s time to go to the hot tubs at High Camp on the upper mountain, I plan in advance—for the sun tanning, not the skiing—and dress accordingly. At the end of the afternoon, when the sun dips behind the Tram Face, the light turns flat, and ski patrol announces last call to ski to the bottom, we run out of the hot tub buzzed on PBR, pull on our ski boots, and race down Mountain Run dripping wet with the cool air whipping against our bare skin.

My friends and I wear our bikinis so often that we’ve become known as the Tahoe Bikini Chicks, but we are certainly not the only ones to do so. A few years ago, Tahoe had more snow in July than in January. To celebrate, Squaw reopened for the Fourth of July weekend, and skiers across the board came out showing so much skin you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a beach. There were patriotic suits, pink ones and blue ones, tops with sequins, and a few brave males in boardshorts. My birthday also happened to fall on that weekend. So I wore the PG-13 version of my birthday suit and skied Palisades. Like any other day in the middle of summer, it was blue and warm. Instead of a bootpack over snow, ice, and rocks, we hiked on a dirt road. The mountains in the distance wore shades of blue, green, and brown—a contrast from the blanket of white that usually spans the view. The Palisades are north-facing, so they held snow well into the late summer that year. At the top, I stepped into my bindings and my friend and I tapped poles before we dropped in.

Our timing was perfect, and we skied the line just as the top few inches of snow softened. When I got to the bottom, my friend called my name and said they were heading in. It was time to go jump in the lake.