Best Tahoe Ski Resorts
Lake Tahoe is one of the most desirable ski destinations in North America. When you think about Tahoe Ski Resorts you can expect sunny skies, gorgeous mountain scenery, and a relaxed California attitude. Add to that several world-class ski resorts with excellent snow conditions, extensive terrain, and state-of-the-art ski lifts, and it’s hard to rival this winter wonderland. Lake Tahoe has several resorts to choose from, and many are world-renowned, such as Squaw Valley and Heavenly. Skiers of all abilities will find suitable terrain at all of the resorts, although some are better suited to certain skiing levels. Northstar and Homewood are great for intermediate skiers, while Kirkwood and Mount Rose challenge advanced skiers. If you are planning a day trip from San Francisco or Sacramento, then Sugar Bowl is the best choice as it’s the closest and most easily accessible. The other resorts are best for a weekend getaway or longer vacation, which is especially enjoyable when staying at one of Lake Tahoe’s cozy lodges or rustic cabins. Most accommodations have wood-burning fireplaces and forest views for a traditional alpine experience. We have reviewed some of our favorite Ski Resorts to make it easy for you to pick the one that best suits what you are looking for.
A world-renowned ski resort, Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games and offers some of the best ski runs in Lake Tahoe. The resort has 3,600 acres of skiable terrain, 29 ski lifts, and more than 170 trails, with the longest run extending for 3.2 miles.
Squaw is suitable for all skiing abilities. About 25 percent of runs are suited for beginners, 43 percent for intermediate level skiers, and 32 percent for advanced skiers. At an elevation of 6,200 feet to 9,050 feet, the Squaw Valley ski resort has good snow coverage, on average 450 inches in a season. Wide powdery slopes traverse the mountainside, lined by pine forests. Those learning to ski will appreciate the dedicated beginners’ ski area on top of the mountain (accessible by trams), and intermediates will find many lovely runs in the Shirley Lake and Pacific Crest Bowl skiing areas. Squaw Valley is also popular with snowboarders because of its steep slopes and long chutes, plus a halfpipe.
For those spending a few days in Squaw Valley, a highlight of vacationing here is the European-style village. With many restaurants, shops, and art galleries, the village offers a vibrant après-ski atmosphere. The resort also has an ice-skating rink as well as areas for snow tubing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. For luxurious ski-in and ski-out accommodations with mountain views, the Squaw Valley Lodge is the perfect choice, just steps away from the slopes.
The Squaw Valley resort has a sister resort, neighboring Alpine Meadows. This picturesque, family-friendly ski resort has charming chalet-style lodges and runs for every ability level: 25 percent beginner runs, 40 percent intermediate runs, and 35 percent advanced runs. The resort covers 2,400 acres and boasts more than 100 trails accessed by 13 lifts. The terrain ranges from wide-open bowls to steep slopes for advanced skiers. From March 9-12, 2017 Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is hosting the Audi FIS Ski World Cup.
Address: 1960 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley, California
Official site: squawalpine.com
Heavenly Mountain Resort
Fittingly named to describe its sublime scenery, Heavenly Mountain Resort dazzles skiers with its inspiring mountains and sensational lake views. Straddling the borders of California and Nevada, Heavenly is the largest ski resort in Lake Tahoe, with 4,800 acres of ski terrain and 34 miles of ski runs, including 97 different runs accessed by 29 ski lifts. The spectacular setting makes it one of the most unique ski resorts in the world. The resort offers wide-open, well-groomed slopes as well as runs that traverse peaceful pine forests. Sometimes skiers stop midway through a run just to marvel at the sparkling blue waters of Lake Tahoe glistening in the sunshine or the surprisingly barren landscape of the Nevada desert.
Heavenly is popular with both skiers and snowboarders and has runs for all ability levels: 20 percent of the runs are beginner, 45 percent are intermediate, and 35 percent are advanced. The most challenging runs include the 1,600-foot plunge double-black-diamond canyon runs, the 1,800-foot drop of the Gunbarrel Run, and the “pillow drops” in the Nevada Woods. For extreme skiers, Heavenly has the Highroller Terrain Park, where it’s possible to attempt 80-foot ski jumps. One advantage of Heavenly over other Tahoe ski resorts is the wide selection of hotels, cabins, and restaurants nearby. The resort’s lively ambience also makes Heavenly a favorite destination among those seeking a fun-loving ski vacation.
Address: 3860 Saddle Road, South Lake Tahoe, California
Official site: skiheavenly.com
Northstar Ski Resort
Northstar is a family-friendly ski resort that is ideal for intermediate skiers. The extensive terrain covers 3,170 acres with 97 impeccably groomed runs accessed by 20 lifts. The majority of the slopes are rated as moderate, with 13 percent beginner runs and 60 percent intermediate runs. At an elevation of 6,330 feet to 8,610 feet, Northstar generally has good snow coverage, and when the snow is sparse, the resort employs snowmaking machines. Skiers enjoy gliding through powdery slopes enclosed by lush pine forests. Northstar is also known for its Snowboarding Terrain Parks including The Straits for a variety of jumps, Pinball for “jibs,” and the Burton Progression Park for those learning freestyle skiing. Besides alpine skiing, Northstar is a great place for telemark skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow tubing.
One of the highlights of Northstar is its lively village atmosphere. The area at the base of the slopes offers a wide selection of shops and restaurants as well as an upscale spa and the stylish Hyatt Residence Club Northstar Lodge. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel lies right in the resort at the mid-mountain level, offering ski-in and ski-out convenience. Decorated in a rustic-chic style, this five-star hotel has cozy lounges with warming fireplaces and contemporary guest rooms with all the amenities.
Address: 100 Northstar Drive, Truckee, California
Official site: northstarcalifornia.com
Kirkwood Ski Resort
Although the Kirkwood Ski Resort is one of the furthest from San Francisco (180 miles away), its exceptional terrain makes it worth the extra drive. Kirkwood offers pristine mountain scenery and an impressive variety of terrain. Skiers appreciate the resort’s peaceful setting; long, wide runs; and open bowls. The resort has an average snowfall of 354 inches a year and a high base elevation of 7,800 feet, which helps ensure a consistent coverage of powdery snow. Kirkwood has 2,300 acres of terrain and 86 trails for skiers and snowboarders. The longest trail stretches for 2.5 miles.
Kirkwood’s summit reaches an awe-inspiring 9,800 feet, and the resort is known for its challenging terrain. Only 12 percent of the runs are beginner, 30 percent are intermediate, 38 percent are advanced, and 20 percent are for experts. However the Timber Creek area is designed just for beginners and intermediate skiers, with two lifts and two “magic carpet” lifts. Freestyle skiers and snowboarders can try some extreme athletic adventures, like jumps and twists, at Kirkwood’s four terrain parks. Kirkwood also offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sled tours.
Address: 1501 Kirkwood Meadows Drive, Kirkwood, California
Official site: kirkwood.com
Sugar Bowl Ski Resort
Sugar Bowl is the closest and most easily accessible ski resort to the San Francisco Bay Area. When traffic is light and weather conditions are favorable, it takes about three hours to drive from San Francisco (179 miles away) and only 1.5 hours to drive from Sacramento (92 miles away). For added convenience, the resort offers plenty of parking near the slopes. Located on the magnificent Donner Summit, this picturesque ski resort typically gets the most snowfall of any resort in Tahoe. Skiers will enjoy the wide slopes covered in a thick blanket of powdery snow. Despite its appearance as a quaint, old-fashioned ski resort, Sugar Bowl boasts modern amenities and 13 chairlifts, including the modern high-speed Crow’s Peak chair. The resort extends over 1,650 acres with some slopes that feature 1,500-foot vertical drops. Skiers who enjoy peaceful runs will appreciate the resort’s open access to the backcountry terrain. Sugar Bowl has ski runs for all ability levels, from beginner to intermediate and advanced. The resort’s ski lessons teach beginners the basics and help intermediate skiers improve their techniques. Sugar Bowl also has a Terrain Park for adventurous skiers and snowboarders.
Dating back to 1939, the Sugar Bowl resort has a European-style lodge brimming with Old World ambience and cozy, rustic style. The Lodge at Sugar Bowl offers cozy overnight accommodations, ski-in and ski-out access, and an elegant dining room that serves fine cuisine. Another reason to stay at the lodge is its Sporthaus with athletic facilities, a yoga studio, pool, and spa.
Address: 629 Sugar Bowl Road, Norden, California
Official site: sugarbowl.com
Conveniently located 16 miles from South Lake Tahoe city, the Sierra-at-Tahoe ski resort has been named as a “Top 10 Overall Resort” in the United States because of its great value and superb ski runs. This family-friendly resort has an excellent selection of lodging and dining as well as vacation package options. Sierra-at-Tahoe is ideal for intermediate skiers. Half of the resort’s ski runs are intermediate level; the other half includes 25 percent beginner and 25 percent advanced runs. Those learning to ski will appreciate the resort’s lessons and the four lifts that are reserved for beginners only.
The resort covers 2,000 acres of ski terrain, with 46 runs accessed by 14 lifts as well as some tree skiing areas and access to 320 acres of backcountry terrain. The scenic runs are popular with both skiers and snowboarders. One of Sierra-at-Tahoe’s selling points is that the resort ski slopes are protected from the wind, which makes the ski conditions more pleasant. The resort gets an average snowfall of 480 inches annually, providing a nice blanket of powdery coverage on the slopes. Sierra-at-Tahoe’s Terrain Parks have earned a mention on the Top 10 Best Parks and Pipes in the United States list. The Terrain Parks feature seven different choices for all kinds of freestyle moves, such as extreme ski jumps, spins, and snowboarding tricks.
Address: 1111 Sierra-at-Tahoe Road, Twin Bridges, California
Official site: sierraattahoe.com
Mount Rose Ski Resort
This laid-back resort offers 1,200 acres of ski terrain, with slopes that boast stunning views of Reno and Lake Tahoe. The resort’s longest runs, among the longest in North America, challenge skiers to 1,800-foot vertical drops, and the famous Mount Rose Chutes are steep 1,000-foot slopes with impressive 40 to 55-degree pitches. Mount Rose has many black-diamond runs suited for advanced skiers as well as a good number of intermediate runs in the Slide Bowl area and a small section of Beginner Terrain. Both skiers and snowboarders will enjoy the choice of ski runs, and freestylers can choose from five terrain parks. Because the Mount Rose ski slopes face north and east, skiers can bask in the sunshine on east-facing runs in the morning. Mount Rose is conveniently located 25 miles from Reno (about a 35-minute drive) and just 14 miles (about a 20-minute drive) from Crystal Bay on Lake Tahoe. During the ski season, Mount Rose offers a daily shuttle service from Reno hotels and properties to the ski resort.
Address: 22222 Mt. Rose Highway, Reno, Nevada
Official site: skirose.com
Homewood Ski Resort
About 50 miles from Reno and 200 miles from San Francisco, the Homewood Ski Resort offers one of the best values on ski season passes in Lake Tahoe. The Family Season Pass allows two adults and two kids to ski all season long without any blackout days. Homewood has more than 30 ski runs for skiers and snowboarders; the majority are intermediate slopes, and the remainder of the resort’s terrain includes a handful of beginner runs, about 15 advanced black-diamond runs, and six terrain parks with scenic views. Homewood is a favorite Tahoe ski resort because of its well-groomed trails, manageable compact size, and its on-mountain restaurants that offer gourmet dining in elegant alpine style. For skiers staying overnight, the West Shore Café and Inn offers upscale lakeside accommodations and delicious California cuisine. The area around the Homewood resort also has many options for hotels and cabin rentals.
Address: 5145 West Lake Blvd, Homewood, California
Official site: skihomewood.com