The Lake Tahoe region of northeastern California has some of the best skiing to be found on the west coast. The lake itself is a worthy attraction on its own, but when the snow starts falling, the surrounding mountains hold some great skiing opportunities. There are actually over a dozen different ski resorts scattered around the area.
Options are great, but too many can also be a bit overwhelming. In this guide, we’ll help sort the resorts out by looking at some of the best in the Tahoe area. Each one listed below is well worth a visit and offers some of the best skiing in California.
Heavenly Mountain Resort, or Heavenly as it’s more commonly known, is one of my personal favorite spots to ski in California. First and foremost, it’s absolutely gorgeous. With a fresh blanket of snow covering the surrounding mountains and a view of the crystal blue waters of Lake Tahoe in the distance, Heavenly provides a stunning backdrop for many of your winter-related activities.
However, views alone don’t make a great ski resort. Heavenly has the snow and terrain to back it up. The resort sees decent snowfall every year (an average of 360 inches) and allows for a handful of solid powder days. That snow combines with plenty of sunny blue skies to provide tremendous skiing opportunities all winter long.
Another reason why Heavenly is one of the best ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area is its size. It’s an immense resort that has nearly 5,000 acres of skiable terrain ranging from chutes and long cruisers to mellow beginner areas where you can learn the basics. The 28 chairlifts, nine of which are high-speed, give you access to this amazing terrain. The 3,500-foot vertical drop also beats out many other west coast resorts.
Convenience is also a consideration when looking at some of the best ski resorts around and Heavenly stacks up here as well. The resort is a three-hour drive from San Francisco, making it a great option for anyone who lives in the Bay Area and Reno, Nevada is only an hour away. This makes for some great dining and accommodations in the major metropolitan areas and you can always take advantage of the many activities found in the closer towns nearby.
2. Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley is another awesome ski resort in the Lake Tahoe area. This one sits on the northern side of the lake and offers plenty of great terrain to keep you occupied if you’re in the area. Another huge bonus of this resort is the sheer amount of snow it gets each season. The valley gets 450 inches of snow each year, which greatly increases your chances for a powder day.
Squaw Valley has always been a large resort, but about a decade ago it became even larger by combining with the nearby mountain of Alpine Meadows. With these two resorts combined, you have access to over 6,000 skiable acres. That’s enough to keep you busy for weeks. There are also 42 lifts to help you spread out over the snow and explore any type of terrain you want to ski on any given day.
Another reason to love Squaw Valley is if you’re a fan of the terrain park. The resort boasts five different terrain parks, all of which have a huge number of features to practice high-level maneuvers. They run the gamut of ability levels as well, so no matter how experienced you are at catching big air, you’ll surely be able to take advantage of all of the rails, jumps, and other options in the park.
The Village at Squaw Valley is another reason why it makes the list. It has a classic European-like ski resort feel, but brings in many elements that scream California. You’ll find plenty of great shopping in the village as well as all types of amazing food. There are also plenty of lodging options here, which means you can catch a good night’s rest before hitting the slopes.
If you’re looking for a laid back atmosphere with fewer tourists while still having access to some incredible terrain and snow, Northstar is well worth exploring. This is also in the North Lake Tahoe region and is only a few miles away from the mountain town of Truckee. It’s not stuffy, and you can escape the crowds easier than some other places in the area.
With around 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, Northstar isn’t quite as large as some of the other Lake Tahoe resorts. Even so, it still has more than enough area to keep you occupied. The terrain here is diverse, but I would recommend it to anyone who loves tree runs. There’s just something magical about bouncing through the powder in between Evergreen trees. The resort also does a good job of keeping a good chunk of runs groomed if you love the corduroy as well.
Northstar averages 350 inches of snow a year and boasts a vertical drop of 2,280 feet. That’s not the largest drop out there, but it’s still enough to allow you to take advantage of the resort’s unique terrain. There are also some awesome terrain parks here for those park rats who want access to amazing features without waiting in line all day. All in all, there are eight different terrain parks here, making it a favorite Lake Tahoe resort for pros and amateurs alike.
The three above resorts are some of the best Lake Tahoe has to offer. Each has plenty of areas to explore and gets consistent snow so you can get great opportunities to ski all winter long. Plus, they all have access to some good dining, lodging, and shopping. However, they are not the only options in the area. Be sure to explore any of the other good resorts in the area if you have the time on your next California ski trip.
Do you ski in Tahoe? Where do you like to go and why? Let us know in the comments below!