Paintball | Squaw Valley’s latest in a line up of summer activities |

Paintball | Squaw Valley’s latest in a line up of summer activities

Story and photos by Amy EdgettSierra Sun
Zack Fike takes aim in the boulder-strewn woodsball park at Squaw Valley USA.Find paintball photos online at

The hills are alive with the sound of pop, pop, pop, splat, andamp;#8220;I’m hit!andamp;#8221; Squaw Valley USA opened its new mountaintop paintball course at High Camp, accessed by a scenic Cable Car ride of 2,000 vertical feet, open seven days a week from noon to 5 p.m.The brainchild of andamp;#8220;Paintball Ambassadorandamp;#8221; Neil Smalley and paintball enthusiast Chris andamp;#8220;Bootsieandamp;#8221; Birdsall (a former downhill racer who recouped from an injury in a boot cast), the paintball course is a wide expanse for woodsball, with natural bunkers of granite boulders, windswept cedars, perfectly perched bales of hay and huge sideways wooden spools along Squaw’s Silverado ridgeline.andamp;#8220;It was always Alex Cushing’s goal to follow the European tradition and have recreation at two elevations,andamp;#8221; said Amelia Richmond, media and public relations director at Squaw Valley USA. Paintball, a sport that is sweeping the nation and now Squaw Valley USA, is a game in which players compete in teams or individually to eliminate opponents by hitting them with capsules full of paint (hence, paintballs). Rules for play vary but popular games include capture the flag, elimination, defending or attacking a particular area or capturing hidden objects.andamp;#8220;Don’t worry about whether you win or lose,andamp;#8221; said Smalley. andamp;#8220;Just use that adrenaline to play hard and have fun.andamp;#8221;To prep for the adventure, Squaw Valley Paintball provides players with coveralls, brand new V-Force masks and a lightweight, aluminum alloy Tippman 98, a revised version of the original marker.andamp;#8220;We call them markers, to disassociate them from firearms,andamp;#8221; said Bootsie. They use compressed air, which is cleaner and more efficient than CO2, especially at elevation 8,200′. Each player receives 500 biodegradable paintballs.Gear up and get ready for the safety talk. Smalley lays down the rules for participants, emphasizing mask down, safety on and by all means stop when the referee blows the whistle. As a parting shot, he requests andamp;#8220;Don’t shoot the wildlife.andamp;#8221;andamp;#8220;Paintball started with a bunch of roomies shooting each other in the forest,andamp;#8221; said Bootsie.According to Wikipedia, it was first played in 1981 in New Hampshire, and is now regularly played in organized competition with worldwide leagues, tournaments with professional teams and players. andamp;#8220;The next logical thing to do was to hold tournaments,andamp;#8221; said Bootsie. A tournament player himself, he looks forward to his teammates and savvy players training at the high altitude venue. He joked, andamp;#8220;You could sweat off about five pounds.andamp;#8221; He also foresees paintball as an Olympic sport.Local boys Zack Fike and Sig Wohlfahrt were the first paintball players on the mountain: the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. They’ve played other courses, but were excited to scramble around of rocks, behind gnarled trees and through the high mountain sage. The expert tutelage of Smalley and Bootsie included a little flora tip: andamp;#8220;Try the gooseberries, they are all prickly on the outside, but so sweet when you eat them.andamp;#8221; Bootsie is a andamp;#8220;back man,andamp;#8221; directing his players with a andamp;#8220;Go! Go! Go!andamp;#8221; when he sees an opening.Watching them play, childhood memories rushed back, the exhilaration of hiding, sprinting and ultimately thwacking your opponent with projectiles. In my day it was hard, clay balls we made from mud. I had to suit up and do it. Mask down, marker in hand, I relived that exquisite rush of play combat. Of stealth maneuvers crouched low in forward attack mode. The markers shoot a satisfying 200 yards, pam pam pam. When else could you use the children for target practice? Unfortunately, not when they hit you first. Splat!Paintball is open for players 13 years of age and up. It is perfect for families, individuals, bachelor parties and corporate team building. And it is just one of many High Camp activities. After you work up a sweat, dip in the swimming lagoon, pamper tired muscles in the spa, dine at the Poolside Cafe or have a barbecue lunch. Squaw will also welcome disc golf, mountain biking and a children’s zip-line to their host of mountain adventure, scheduled to open by mid-July.Call 583-6985 or visit

Purchase a paintball and Cable Car package for $45 for adults or $40 for youth (13-18). Games can also be purchased separately for $29. Prices include one hour of play, 500 rounds of paint, safety equipment and paintball gun. Open daily to the general public, Squaw Valley’s paintball course will also be available for parties, corporate events and team building exercises.Summer at Squaw Valley USAJuly 2-4, Squaw Valley Fourth of July Fine Arts andamp; Crafts FestivalJuly 2, Summer night operations begin. Sunset dining will start Friday, July 2 and run every Friday and Saturday night through Saturday, Aug. 21.July 10-11, Wild Wild West Weekend at High Camp, el. 8200’July 17-18, 9th Annual Art, Wine andamp; Music FestivalJuly 29-Aug. 1, Wanderlust FestivalAug. 12, Perseid Meteor Shower Mountaintop Campout

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