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Claudia’s Guide to Tahoe

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The 7 Best Snow Resorts in Tahoe

Whilst California is known for its beautiful beaches, Hollywood movies and tall palm trees, what many people forget is that it also hosts some of America’s best skiing. Lake Tahoe, just a three-hour drive from San Francisco, or just one hour from Reno, is the accessible, family-friendly destination with something for everyone!

The Tahoe region, known for its open blue skies, scenic mountain views and laidback Californian vibe; hosts 13 ski resorts scattered around the big blue lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Having spent almost five years living and skiing Lake Tahoe’s resorts, I put together my incredibly subjective list of reasons you should be choosing northern California for your next ski holiday.

Counting down, here are seven Lake Tahoe ski resorts that should be at the top of your family’s bucket list.

Counting down from 7...

7. Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort

Known for: Some of the best tree skiing in the Tahoe basin, you can’t beat the deep pockets of powder found between the pines at Sierra-at-Tahoe.

Sierra-at-Tahoe is 25km from South Lake Tahoe town and there is a shuttle bus that operates all winter long.

Terrain: 25% beginner, 50% intermediate, 25% advanced

Pros:  

Fewer crowds, more space

Protected from the wind, fewer lift closures

The longest groomed run is over 4km long!

Daycare and Ski School

Cons:

No lodging at the base of the resort

Less accessible than other resorts


6. Sugar Bowl Resort

Known for: Stunning views, light fluffy powder and the closest resort to the San Francisco and Sacramento area. Also known for their open boundaries, which is great for those who hope to take their adventures past the piste.

Sugar Bowl is a locals favourite, offering an old-school ski vibe and receiving some of the highest snowfall in the region!

Terrain: 17% beginner, 45% intermediate, 38% advanced

Pros:  

Close and easy from San Francisco

Two base villages, walking distance between

Open boundary policy

Ski-in-ski-out accommodation

Daycare and Ski School

Cons:

Less vertical terrain than other Tahoe resorts

Due to high snowfall, one of the access roads can close in mid-winter – this can cause high traffic leaving the resort

(Image: SIMON TUNBRIDGE/FLICKR)


(Image: Tripadvisor))

5. Northstar California Resort

Known for: An unbeatable terrain park, stunning views and a village fit for a king.

Northstar, A Vail resort on Tahoe’s north shore is easily accessible from both San Francisco and Reno and has everything you could ever need. Northstar’s luxe village boasting an ice-skating rink, endless dining options and warm cookies in the lift line make this resort a must-visit for both riders and observers.

The best part, your Epic pass will allow you to ski Northstar as well as Australia’s Falls Creek, Hotham and Perisher.

Terrain: 13% beginner, 60% intermediate, 27% advanced

Pros:  

Accessible to San Francisco and Reno airports

The village has something for everyone

Very snowboard friendly, with Burton academy - the best in the country for snowboard lessons

The terrain park is littered with stars such as local Shaun White

Included on Epic pass

Ski School and Daycare

Cons:

Not as steep as other resorts in the area

Due to its accessibility, Northstar can get very crowded on weekends and during holiday periods

One of the more expensive resorts in the area


4. Alpine Meadows

Known for: An oldschool vibe like no other, hike-to-ski terrain and wide-open bowls.

Alpine Meadows is the little sister of Squaw Valley, skiable on the same day pass and accessible by a shuttle so you can ski both resorts in a day.

Alpine has kept the old school heritage of a family-run ski resort going through its long history. The base lodge is small and only open during the day, but still provides everything you need for a day on the hill. There is no lodging at Alpine itself but there is plenty of lodging in Squaw Valley, nearby Tahoe City and Truckee towns.

Terrain: 20% beginner, 50% intermediate, 30% advanced

Pros:  

Wind protection

Beautiful lake views

Fewer crowds than neighbouring resorts

Wide-open groomed bowls, high-quality grooming

Massive terrain park

Two resorts, one pass

Ski School

Cons:

No lodging

No nightlife

Older lift system can mean slower chair rides and longer lines

North facing aspects may be icy in the mornings but soften up throughout the day


3. Kirkwood Mountain Resort

Known for: Breathtaking views and the highest snowfall in the area (third highest average snowfall in the country). The absolute beast for inbounds powder.

Kirkwood is located south of Lake Tahoe, hidden in a pocket of high peaks and untouched pow! Offering some of the steepest slopes and have I mentioned, the best powder?!

Just like Northstar, your Epic pass will allow you to ski Kirkwood as well as Australia’s Falls Creek, Hotham and Perisher.

Terrain: 12% beginner 20% intermediate 68% advanced

Pros:  

POWDER! Highest snowfall in the region

Fewer crowds than other resorts in the area

Accommodation at base of the resort

Included on Epic pass

Ski School and Daycare

Cons:

Less accessible - 45 mins south of Lake Tahoe

Less parking than other resorts, make sure you arrive early or you may be turned away!

Less Après ski options than other resorts

Not as many options for beginners


2. Heavenly Mountain Resort

Known for: The views! Oh, the views! Beautiful white-tipped mountains framing the big blue Lake Tahoe from almost every point on the mountain is what makes this resort, well… heavenly.

Heavenly is famous for wide-open groomers, beautiful views and a mountain village like nowhere else. Situated right at the base of the mountain is Stateline town, which has absolutely everything you could ask for. From shopping to fine dining to casinos and sledding.

Two bases, one in California and one across the Nevada border make Heavenly accessible and spreads crowds out across its huge amount of terrain.

Heavenly is number two on the list only second to my absolute favourite resort in the world, but as I mentioned at the beginning, this list is by no means objective. Heavenly rivals some of the best resorts on the planet for terrain choice and amenities to suit the entire family.

The cherry on top, this is yet another Tahoe resort that can be accessed with your Epic pass!

Terrain: 20% beginner, 45% intermediate, 35% advanced

Pros:  

Terrain choice is HUGE, Heavenly is the 5th largest ski resort in the USA

Unmatched groomed runs

Two base areas to spread crowds out

Endless options for accommodation including budget options and 5-star ski-in-ski-out

Easily accessible from Reno airport

Ski School and Daycare

Endless dining options

The highest elevation in Lake Tahoe basin

Included in Epic pass

Cons:

Can be more expensive than other resorts in the region

Crowds can be bigger than other resorts in the area

Wind can be a problem during really heavy storms


1. Squaw Valley Resort

My years in Tahoe were spent skiing mostly at Squaw Valley and as mentioned earlier, I’m not trying to pretend this list is objective, this place is my number one, hands down!

Known for its Olympic heritage, gnarly terrain and awesome Après Ski party culture. Squaw has done a great job of maintaining the old-school ski vibe, with hard-charging locals and a unique ski culture that can’t be beaten.

An absolute icon, Squaw is amongst the greats and has been immortalized in endless ski and snowboard movies. There’s a reason some of the most famous and talented skiers and riders in the world call this place home. Home to more Olympians than you can poke a stick at, Squaw is an adventurer’s dream.

The village at Squaw Valley hosts accommodation and dining options but many opt to stay in nearby Truckee town or Tahoe City.

Terrain: 35% beginner, 35% intermediate, 30% advanced

Pros:  

Huge terrain choice

Easily accessible from both San Francisco and Reno

Iconic lines, chutes and cliffs to tick off your bucket list

Unbeatable ski culture

The worlds best margarita at the top of the tram

Ski School and Daycare

Two separate beginner zones

Two resorts, one pass

Cons:

Wind – due to its east-facing aspects and high cliff faces, Squaw can get very windy. This can limit the terrain on a big storm day

Off-snow activities not as vast as other resorts in the area


So there you have it, the only seven reasons you should need to choose Lake Tahoe as your next USA ski destination. With 300 days of sunshine, Tahoe is a skier’s dream. Do yourself a favour and add it to your bucket list

If you’re after any local tips for the slopes or advice on gear for your upcoming adventure, send us an email or hit us up on Facebook.

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