Donner celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2017. The area is small, with only eight lifts, but that is part of the charm of "mom and pop" ski area. Friendly, good skiing, and great value.
Bear Valley is plopped somewhere between Tahoe and Yosemite, so you know that the views are perfect. This resort is highly aimed at the families out there with moderate level of difficulty on most of the runs (65% are green or blue), only a handful of lifts, and lodges very close making an ideal environment for a young family to enjoy an alpine vacation without breaking the bank.
Bear Valley is a bit of no-frills resort in central California. The staff is friendly and the resort has a laid-back country vibe to it.
Probably best known for the incredible views of the lake, Homewood is one of Tahoe's smaller resorts. Homewood also draws in the high-flyers that enjoy the two terrain parks.
Sierra is a good resort for families, and it is relatively affordable. For advanced skiers, there is some good back-country terrain available. Sierra has a laid-back vibe that appeals to people who are tired of the mega resorts.
Sugar Bowl is the closest resort to the Bay Area. At 500” of snow per year on average Sugar Bowl shares the title of Highest Average Snowfall in California with Kirkwood (though Kirkwood has a higher single-season record). As one of the oldest ski areas in the nation Sugar Bowl embraces its roots and still has slope-side parking, which is a rarity for ski areas anywhere in the world.
On the north side of Lake Tahoe, is aptly-named Northstar. The resort is best known for having a glitzy village with high-end hotels, dining, and shopping. Be prepared to max out your credit card on a week-long trip here.
The skiing is best known for some fantastic terrain parks, including a half pipe designed by snowboarding legend, Shaun White.
Heavenly is HUGE... nearly 5,000 skiable acres and a 3,500 vertical drop makes this California's largest ski area.
Heavenly is located near South Lake Tahoe, and the views of the lake from the runs are stunning. This darling of Tahoe is committed to minimizing your time on lifts since they have a whopping seven high-speed quads, two high-speed sixes (octos?), and two gondolas. Afraid of heights? They even have eight surface lifts! The best part is while we love California, it wouldn’t hurt to stay close to the Nevada border in South Lake Tahoe where a street divides the two states, and casinos hug the line as tight as possible. Gamble with your life during the day on the slopes, just bet your life-savings in the evenings at the casinos.
Kirkwood and Squaw are neck-and-neck for the best resort near Lake Tahoe. Kirkwood is known for its difficult terrain. Nearly 60% of the runs are either black (advanced) or double-diamond (expert) runs. Only 12% are greens (beginners).
Squaw was home to the skiing at the 1960 Winter Olympics. The resort gets a ton of snow... about 450 inches annually. Squaw makes a fantastic ski vacation, as there is plenty of entertainment and ski in / ski out lodging. Squaw has a sister mountain, Alpine Meadows, that caters to families and beginners.
Mammoth is the most popular ski destination for SoCal. The resort is technically closer to San Fran (310 miles) than LA (330 miles), but NorCal skiers tend to head to the Tahoe resorts.
Mammoth has a lot to love... the highest peak in the state (11,052 feet), over 400 inches of snow, 3,500 acres of skiing, a great terrain park, a diversity of runs, and a full ski destination town.
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