Gorgeous mountain scenery, sun-filled skies, and a relaxed Cali attitude allow Lake Tahoe to be one of the most desirable ski destinations in North America. Add on top of all that bliss several world-class ski resorts with spectacular snow conditions, state-of-the-art ski lifts, and tons of extensive terrain, the area is even more of a winter wonderland.
With dozens upon dozens of resorts on hand—many of which are world-renowned—skiers and snow bunnies of all sorts can and will find exactly what they are looking for. Spots like Northstar are perfect for intermediate skiers, while Kirkwood and Mount Rose challenge the more advanced skiers. Other resorts, such as Squaw Valley and Heavenly are ideal for weekend getaways or longer vacations, especially since they’ve got an array of cozy lodges or rustic cabins with wood-burning fireplaces and forest views that’ll provide a true alpine experience. Whatever kind of Tahoe getaway you are seeking, there are over 22,000 acres of skiing and snowboarding adventures that will await, along with numerous world-class ski resorts and one unforgettable lake. Start wintering away in Lake Tahoe with this handy dandy guide to the best ski resorts in the area.
This Winter, Head To These Tahoe Ski Resorts
1. Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows
As host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley has maintained a vibrant ski culture and mountain energy that spans from village to peak and all the way back. The legendary resort offers the true spirit of outdoor adventure with stellar views of Lake Tahoe’s translucent waters, challenging slopes and forgiving learning zones set among dramatic alpine scenery, as well as a wide variety of trails, bowls, and chutes that provide skiers and snowboarders alike with endless fun activity. Plus, with consistent snowfall that stays around well into the spring, Squaw Valley boasts one of the longest ski and snowboard seasons in the nation.
Get down and dirty across 6,000 skiable acres, in a resort that features 42 lifts and 270 trails, as well as a European-inspired Village featuring nearly 60 restaurants, bars, boutiques, and art galleries that offer a vibrant après-ski atmosphere. The resort also has an ice-skating rink, along with areas for snow tubing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Luxurious ski-in and ski-out accommodations with mountain views top it all off at spaces such as the Squaw Valley Lodge further make this a perfect choice just steps away from the slopes.
With over 4,800 acres full of off-the-grid terrain and some of the most incredible views of Lake Tahoe around, you can ski just about two states all in one day at this huge and renowned resort. It’s got over 34 miles of wide-open groomed cruisers, 1,600 foot plunges within double-black-diamond canyons, and the most outrageous tree skiing to be had in North America. Its name fittingly describes the sublime surrounding scenery that dazzles visitors with inspiring mountains and sensational lake views.
Straddling the borders of California and Nevada, Heavenly is the largest ski resort in Lake Tahoe, offering wide-open, well-groomed slopes as well as runs that traverse peaceful pine forests. It’s also got the advantage of having a wide selection of hotels, cabins, and restaurants close by, all of which maintain a lively ambience that makes it a favorite destination among anyone seeking a fun-loving ski vacation. Seriously, the possibilities at this adventure destination are endless, so put on those boots and spend the day skiing and boarding your worries away. Once the sun goes down, make sure to kick off the evening at Unbuckle, which offers half-priced drinks, live DJs, dancing, and the Heavenly Angels- all at 9,150 feet! There’s even DJ Cat, Heavenly’s custom-built mobile DJ station on the back of a snow cat, which brings the party up to the slopes with 52 high-output speakers and 1,200 watts of power.
It’s got the deepest, driest snow around—not to mention some of North America’s most diverse and challenging terrain, providing snowbound adventurers with big mountain riding along with a small town attitude. Wild fun and challenges await at this magical, raw, expansive, and remote locale tucked away about 35 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe in a unique location atop the Sierra Crest that combines with elevations ranging 7,800 to 9,800 feet to create what locals know as the “K-Factor” –– a geographical predisposition to receiving the lightest, the driest, and the most plentiful snow in the Tahoe region.
From calm groomed beginner runs, to super complex cornices, cliffs, and some of the most high-angle grooming around, there’s something for everyone at the ‘Wood in Eldorado National Forest. The nearby village also contains ski in and ski out accommodations with adjacent shops and restaurants that regularly help host activities including cross country skiing, snow shoeing, dog sled tours, and backcountry access.
4. Mt. Rose
It’s the closest ski resort to Reno, Nevada and the only ski resort that offers a 360-degree view into Nevada's Truckee Meadows and Lake Tahoe. On any clear day, one can see a unique transition of arid desert to the east and lush evergreen forest of the Sierra Mountain Range to the west from the top of the mountain while staying at the world-class 1,200 acres resort located just about 30 miles south of Reno in the Toiyabe National Forest.
The laid-back atmosphere-- along with slopes that boast stunning views of Reno and Lake Tahoe-- will no doubt excite skiers and boarders of all sorts. There are challenging 1,800-foot vertical drops, the famous Mount Rose Chutes (steep 1,000-foot slopes with impressive 40 to 55-degree pitches), as well as a number of black-diamond runs suited for advanced skiers in addition to a good number of intermediate runs in the Slide Bowl area and a small section of Beginner Terrain. Freestylers can even choose from five terrain parks. What’s more is that because the Mount Rose ski slopes face north and east, skiers can bask in the sunshine on east-facing runs in the morning! Let’s just say that Mt. Rose is the place to kick off and wind down for any sort of Lake Tahoe ski getaway. What are you waiting for?
This family-friendly ski resort is ideal for intermediate skiers with an extensive terrain covering 1,170 acres and offering close to one hundred impeccably groomed runs accessed by twenty lifts. The majority of the slopes are rated as moderate, with 13 percent beginner runs and 60 percent intermediate runs. With an elevation of 6,330 feet to 8,610 feet, the Tahoe fave generally has pretty good snow coverage, and even when the snow is sparse, the resort employs snowmaking machines, so there’s no need to ever worry!
Enjoy gliding through powdery slopes enclosed by lush pine forests, along with the area’s well-known Snowboarding Terrain Parks, which include The Straits for a variety of jumps, Pinball for "jibs," and the Burton Progression Park for those learning freestyle skiing. Along with alpine skiing, Northstar is also a superb place for telemark skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow tubing.
What’s more is that one of the major highlights of Northstar is its lively village atmosphere, which sits at the base of the slopes with a wide selection of shops and restaurants, as well as an upscale spa and the stylish Hyatt Residence Club Northstar Lodge. The snazzy Ritz-Carlton Hotel lies right within the resort at the mid-mountain level, offering further ski-in and ski-out convenience. Immerse yourself in rustic-chic style at a five-star hotel with cozy lounges, warming fireplaces, and contemporary guest rooms chock full of all needed amenities.
6. Sugar Bowl
With classic, old-world charm, this is the first great ski destination if you drive up Highway 80 from San Francisco - meaning that you can be off the road and in a cozy ski cabin just that much sooner. Sugar Bowl first opened in 1939, and is steeped in local history. Advanced skiers will enjoy this mountain thanks to its wide selection of advanced terrain - but don't worry, there is plenty for beginners and intermediates to enjoy.
As one of the oldest resorts on the West Coast, Sugar Bowl is exceptionally family-friendly, and its location makes it quieter and more remote than some of the resort's more crowded counterparts like Squaw and Heavenly. This mountain is truly a gem and worth a visit this winter!
Named a "Top 10 Overall Resort" in the United States because of its great value and superb ski runs, this family-friendly resort boasts a fantastic selection of lodging and dining as well as vacation package options. Sierra is ideal for intermediate skiers, since half of the resort's ski runs are intermediate level—the other half includes 25 percent beginner and 25 percent advanced runs. Those just learning to ski will truly appreciate the resort's array of available lessons, not to mention the four lifts that are reserved only for beginners.
Covering 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-- Sierra-at-Tahoe's slopes are protected from the wind, which make for pleasant ski conditions and an average snowfall of 480 inches annually. There’s always a nice blanket of powdery coverage on the slopes, so get ready to show off those freestyle moves and to get practicing on those extreme ski jumps, spins, and snowboarding tricks. It’s sure to be a blast.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.