8 Top-Rated Ski Resorts in Lake Tahoe, 2023
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Sunny skies, gorgeous mountain scenery, and a relaxed California attitude make Lake Tahoe one of the most desirable ski destinations in North America. 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.
Skiers of all abilities will find suitable terrain at all of the resorts at Lake Tahoe, 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. Palisades Tahoe and Heavenly offer a good mix of runs, from beginning to expert.
If you are planning a day trip from San Francisco or Sacramento, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Sugar Bowl provide the advantage of a relatively short and easy drive. 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.
Find the best place for your mountain adventures with our list of the top ski resorts in Lake Tahoe, California.
1. Palisades Tahoe
A world-renowned ski resort, Palisades Tahoe 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.
Palisades Tahoe is suitable for all skiing abilities. About 25 percent of runs are suited for beginners, 45 percent for intermediate level skiers, and 30 percent for advanced skiers. At an elevation of 6,200 feet to 8,200 feet, the Palisades Tahoe 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 areas, including the Big Blue zone with its gentle slopes. Palisades Tahoe is also popular with snowboarders because of its steep slopes and long chutes.
For those spending a few days in Palisades Tahoe, a highlight of vacationing here is The Village at Palisades Tahoe, a European-style ski village. With many restaurants, shops, and art galleries, the village offers a vibrant après-ski atmosphere. Other things to do at the resort include snow tubing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
Comfortable accommodations are available at the Resort at Squaw Creek. Just steps away from the slopes, this three-star hotel provides ski-in/ski-out lodging, excellent dining options, and mountain views.
The neighboring Alpine Meadows ski area is a short drive or shuttle bus ride from Palisades Tahoe. 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 Alpine Meadows ski area 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.
Official site: https://www.palisadestahoe.com
2. Heavenly Ski Resort
Fittingly named to describe its sublime scenery, Heavenly Ski 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, including 97 different trails accessed by 28 ski lifts.
The spectacular views set Heavenly apart from other Tahoe ski areas. 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: five percent of the runs are easy, 43 percent are intermediate, 26 percent are advanced, and 23 percent are designated as expert runs. (The remaining three percent of the resort is used for ski lessons.)
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. The resort's longest trail extends for five miles.
For extreme skiers, Heavenly has one Terrain Park, where it's possible to attempt ski jumps and other freestyle skiing tricks.
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.
Within the Heavenly Village just steps away from the gondola that ferries skiers up the mountain, the Marriott's Timber Lodge offers apartment-style accommodations with four-star amenities. Guests will appreciate the concierge; valet parking; the casual restaurant that's open for breakfast and dinner; and the on-site market that sells coffee beverages, snacks, and take-away meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Recreational facilities include a large outdoor swimming pool and hot tub, a sauna, fitness center, and gift shop.
Address: 3860 Saddle Road, South Lake Tahoe, California
Official site: www.skiheavenly.com
3. Northstar California
Northstar California is a family-friendly ski resort that is ideal for intermediate skiers. The extensive terrain covers 3,170 acres with 100 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. The remaining 27 percent are designated as advanced runs.
The longest run (Logger's Loop) extends for 1.4 miles. For those who enjoy glade skiing, the resort allows access to over 600 acres of trails through tranquil forest clearings.
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 award-winning snowboarding terrain parks including the Pinball for medium jumps, Pipeline and The Straits Park for large jumps, 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. The resort also has an ice-skating rink with convivial wintertime ambience, including a hot cocoa stand and festive music.
One of the highlights of Northstar is its village atmosphere. The area at the base of the slopes offers a wide selection of shops and restaurants. Conveniently situated in the village, the four-star Northstar Lodge by Vacation Club Rentals offers ski-in/ski-out accommodations and provides access to the resort with its own gondola. This hotel has excellent amenities: concierge services, a fitness center, movie room, sauna, hot tub, and heated outdoor swimming pool.
At the mid-mountain level, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe provides luxurious ski-in/ski-out accommodations. Decorated in chic contemporary style, this five-star resort property features guest rooms with mountain views and fireplaces. Guests may take advantage of the resort's spa, which has a fitness center and two outdoor pools, as well as ladies' and mens' saunas, steam rooms, and Jacuzzis. The resort also offers a selection of dining options, from comfort food to barbecue and contemporary cuisine.
Address: 5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, California
Official site: www.northstarcalifornia.com
4. 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 accessed by 15 lifts. 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.
The Timber Creek area is designed just for beginners and intermediate skiers, with five easy blue runs and eight very easy green runs.
Freestyle skiers and snowboarders can try some extreme athletic adventures, like jumps and twists, at Kirkwood's two terrain parks. Kirkwood also has areas for tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
The area around Kirkwood has preserved its rugged mountain atmosphere, and the lack of over-development allows visitors to appreciate the area's natural beauty. Although the tourist facilities are less numerous than at other Lake Tahoe resorts, Kirkwood has a charming village with a general store, as well as a handful of snack bars, casual restaurants, and ski rental shops.
For accommodations during the ski season, visitors usually opt for cabin or condo rentals. However, there is also an excellent hotel right in Kirkwood village. Steps away from the chairlifts, The Mountain Club provides convenient ski-in/ski-out accommodations with top-notch resort amenities such as a hot tub, sauna, and steam room. The Mountain Club lodge is within easy walking distance of Kirkwood village, ideal for enjoying the après-ski ambience at the local restaurants.
Address: 1501 Kirkwood Meadows Drive, Kirkwood, California
Official site: www.kirkwood.com
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Kirkwood
5. Sugar Bowl
Sugar Bowl is one of the closest and most easily accessible ski resorts 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 (180 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 (on average 500 inches annually) of any resort in Tahoe. Skiers will enjoy the wide slopes covered in a thick blanket of powdery snow.
Dating back to 1939, the Sugar Bowl resort has a charming lodge inspired by European alpine chalets. The Inn at Sugar Bowl provides cozy, rustic-chic accommodations; ski-in/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, an outdoor swimming pool, and spa.
Despite its appearance as a quaint, old-fashioned ski resort, Sugar Bowl boasts modern amenities and 12 chairlifts, including a gondola that takes visitors into the snowbound ski-in/ski-out village and the high-speed Crow's Peak chair, which provides access to secluded glades.
The resort extends over 1,650 acres with some slopes that feature 1,500-foot vertical drops. For skiers who like the refreshing sensation of off-trail runs, the resort allows access to the backcountry terrain but requires that individuals consider their own safety precautions.
Sugar Bowl has 103 trails for all ability levels, from beginner (17 percent of runs) to intermediate (45 percent) and advanced (38 percent).
Two terrain parks appeal to adventurous freestyle skiers and snowboarders. The Coldstream Park offers plenty of challenges, including boxes, rails, ramps, rollers, jump lines, half pipes, and quarter pipes. The Caboose Park incorporates natural terrain and bump features.
The resort's ski lessons teach beginners the basics and help intermediate skiers improve their techniques. Group lessons or private lessons are available for adults. There are also group lessons for children.
Address: 629 Sugar Bowl Road, Norden, California
Official site: http://www.sugarbowl.com/home
Conveniently located 16 miles from South Lake Tahoe city, the Sierra-at-Tahoe resort is the closest ski area to San Francisco (176-mile drive). 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, which take place on 11 acres of gently sloped bunny hills. There are also two lifts reserved for beginners only.
The resort covers 2,000 acres of ski terrain, with 47 trails accessed by 14 lifts, as well as six terrain parks plus a Burton Progression Park for freestyle snowboarding and skiing.
The longest run, the Sugar n' Spice, is a scenic 2.5-mile trail that runs from the top of the mountain to the base.
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.
Address: 1111 Sierra-at-Tahoe Road, Twin Bridges, California
Official site: http://www.sierraattahoe.com
7. Mount Rose - Ski Tahoe
This laid-back resort offers more than 1,200 acres of ski terrain, with slopes that boast stunning views of Reno and Lake Tahoe. The resort's steepest runs challenge skiers to 1,800-foot vertical drops, and the exhilarating Mt. Rose Chutes feature impressive 40- to 55-degree pitches that only expert skiers can handle.
A great place for advanced skiers, Mt. Rose - Ski Tahoe has many black-diamond runs. With over 60 trails accessed by eight lifts, the resort has 20 percent beginner runs, 30 percent intermediate runs, 40 percent advanced, and 10 expert runs. The longest run is 2.5 miles.
A good number of intermediate runs are found in the Slide Bowl area. Both skiers and snowboarders will enjoy the choice of ski runs, and freestylers can choose from a wide variety of adventurous experiences at two terrain parks.
Because the Mt. Rose ski slopes face north and east, skiers can bask in the sunshine on east-facing runs in the morning. The resort's average snowfall is 350 inches annually.
Mt. Rose - Ski Tahoe is 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. The popular tourist area of Incline Village at Crystal Bay has many restaurants, shops, hotels, lodges, and vacation rentals.
Thanks to its convenient location, a wide variety of accommodations are available near the Mt. Rose - Ski Tahoe resort. One of the most luxurious places to stay in Incline Village is the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort. This four-star lakefront property includes a private beach, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center, coffee shop, and spa.
A budget-friendly option in Incline Village is the Parkside Inn at Incline, which provides spacious guest rooms with mountain-lodge-inspired decor and forest views. Hotel amenities include a small indoor swimming pool, a game room, and indoor play area for children.
North Lake Lodges & Villas in Incline Village are ideal for those who prefer apartment-style lodging. Every studio and condominium features a modern kitchen; one-bedroom apartments have a living room/dining area. This three-star property offers concierge services, a laundry room, and an outdoor hot tub (open year-round). Large families or groups of friends should select a Villa when booking their accommodation. Each Villa features a fireplace as well as a private Jacuzzi.
Address: 22222 Mt. Rose Highway, Reno, Nevada
Official site: http://skirose.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Reno
8. Homewood Mountain Resort
About 50 miles from Reno and 200 miles from San Francisco, the Homewood Mountain Resort offers one of the best values on ski season passes in Lake Tahoe. Homewood is a favorite Tahoe ski resort because of its well-groomed trails, manageable compact size, and its mid-mountain restaurant.
Covering 1,260 acres of terrain, Homewood has 67 trails accessed by eight lifts. The majority of the runs (40 percent) are intermediate slopes, and the remainder are beginner runs (15 percent), advanced black-diamond runs (30 percent), and expert double black-diamond runs (15 percent).
The longest run, the Rainbow Ridge, is two miles in length. For freestyle skiing or boarding, there are five terrain parks.
With the Ellis mountain peak sheltering the resort, Homewood enjoys an ideal location that is protected from high winds. The resort also gets good snowfall (an average of 450 inches annually) along with sunshine (usually 300 sunny days a year).
Another highlight of Homewood is the majestic setting. Astounding lake views can be admired from every run at the resort.
For skiers staying overnight, the lakefront West Shore Café and Inn (across the street from the Homewood Ski Resort) offers classic Tahoe-style mountain lodge accommodations. At the hotel, the West Shore Café specializes in healthy California cuisine, with seasonal menus based on fresh local ingredients. Guest enjoy dining on the outdoor deck overlooking Lake Tahoe.
The area around the Homewood resort also has many options for hotels and cabin rentals.
Address: 5145 West Lake Blvd, Homewood, California
Official site: http://www.skihomewood.com
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Best Ski Resorts in California: The Lake Tahoe resorts represent the majority of California's top-rated skiing areas, but the state also offers other world-class resorts such as the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (about a five-hour drive from Los Angeles) and Big Bear Mountain Resort in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. Badger Pass Ski Area is found near the UNESCO-listed Yosemite National Park. There is also an excellent ski park at Mount Shasta.
Ski Resorts in the Rocky Mountains: For many skiing enthusiasts, one of the best places to visit is the Rocky Mountains. Colorado's world-class ski resorts offer exceptional terrain, state-of-the-art facilities, and fashionable ski villages. There are also numerous great ski resorts in Utah. Those seeking expansive skiing areas without the crowds will appreciate the sprawling ski resorts of Montana and the generally uncrowded ski resorts of Idaho.
Other Ski Resorts in the Western US: Definitely worth exploring, the ski resorts of Washington State are blessed with a beautiful winter wonderland setting. Mt. Baker Ski Area near Washington's North Cascades National Park is a dreamy resort that boats an average annual snowfall of 600 inches for the perfect powdery slopes. Near Seattle, The Summit at Snoqualmie is a popular resort with 2,000 acres of world-class terrain. What about planning a ski vacation on a budget? There are many options for affordable ski holidays at resorts in California, Oregon, Utah, and Montana.
Canada's Spectacular Ski Resorts: Whistler Blackcomb (a two-hour drive from Vancouver in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia) is Canada's premier ski resort, renowned for its exceptional slopes, as well as its après-ski scene, fine dining, and nightlife. Covering 8,171 acres, Whistler Blackcomb is North America's largest ski area. In the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the Lake Louise Ski Resort near Banff is another one of Canada's top-rated ski resorts that appeals to skiers of all ability levels. Closer to the eastern seaboard of Canada are top-rated ski resorts near Toronto, such as Blue Mountain and ski resorts in nearby Upstate New York.