Having spent years skiing the Tahoe area and living at the foot of Heavenly, I’ve come up with the top 6 resorts you need to ski at! I’ll give you the lowdown on the terrain, crowds, town – both the good and bad. The list is subjective but I'm sure it'll impress!
Heavenly is the largest ski resort in Lake Tahoe with plenty of wide-open, well-groomed slopes as well as runs that traverse into peaceful pine forests. There is a good variety of intermediate slopes with lengthy runs, while expert skiers can head to the epic double-black diamond runs. What makes Heavenly stand out from the other Lake Tahoe ski resorts is the wide selection of hotels, restaurants and entertainment options. There are pubs for apres and nightlife as well as a host of casinos and nightclubs. For these reasons, Heavenly is a favorite destination among those who seek plenty to do on and off the slopes.
Together, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows include more than 6,000 ac of skiable terrain and 270 runs accessed by 42 lifts, all of which are covered with one lift ticket. Skiers of all abilities will find enough runs to explore without having to repeat any trails, however, Squaw and Alpine are best known for its advanced and expert terrain with big open bowls, classic moguls, cliff drops, gullies … the list goes on. Squaw has a vibrant après-ski atmosphere with many restaurants and lodgings to choose from. The low profile of Alpine Meadows is great for those who want an uninterrupted skiing experience, however, a downside is that there is no slope-side lodging or village with restaurants and bars.
Kirkwood is known for its peaceful, unspoiled alpine scenery, and receives some of the best powder-snow due to its high elevation. Kirkwood is best suited for experienced skiers as more than half of the resort’s runs are rated advanced and their legendary black diamond runs are not to be missed. Although the Mountain Village and Timber Creek base areas don’t have a village experience like Squaw Valley, and certainly not the robust entertainment of South Lake Tahoe, however, if you’re an advanced skier looking for some steep terrain, this would be the place.
Northstar is one of the more family-friendly resorts with activities to keep the kids occupied and ski school. Northstar is geared more towards intermediate skiers with the resort covering 3,170 ac and 100 well-groomed trails that are serviced by 20 chairlifts. Northstar also has the best base village out of all the Tahoe resorts with a charming European feel that is lined with dining, shopping, spas and lodging options. If you wish to drive to the resort, you may want to go early as parking spots will fill out quickly, however, their efficient lift system will get you up the mountain in no time.
Sugar Bowl is one of the most convenient resorts to get to from the San Francisco Bay Area. It has a classic ski atmosphere and offers a wide variety of terrain for skiers of all levels. The two main base areas, The Village and Judah, is where you’ll find the same facilities as other ski destinations minus the glitz and glam. Both areas offer ski-in/ski-out accommodation, but if you’re driving, Judah has slope-side parking, whereas you need to take a gondola from The Village parking lot. While there are crowds here, they tend to be fewer than the neighboring resorts.
Sierra at Tahoe is a local’s favorite! It’s the incredible grooming, side-country and inbounds tree skiing that keeps skiers coming back every time! The base areas at Sierra offer a variety of great dining options making it easy to grab a bite. The outdoor plaza though is the spot to be for après ski with fire pits to warm up and rest up. That being said, there is no lodging at the base of Sierra itself which means driving to a nearby town for the night. Another issue is the lack of close parking, especially on busy powder days.