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Lake Tahoe Ski & Snowboard Resort Guide


Lake Tahoe is one of the most famed ski and snowboard destinations in the world. The region that straddles the California and Nevada border is home to some of the United States’ best ski and snowboard areas, as well as a long history of skiing and snowboarding. The region is known for beautiful scenic views of the lake and huge snowstorms, with up to 600” of average annual snowfall at some areas. Lake Tahoe is about 90 minutes from Sacramento, three hours from San Francisco and 30 minutes from Reno.

Skiing in Lake Tahoe dates back to the 1850s when miners raced down the snow covered slopes with 15’ wooden skis. The area’s first ski area was opened in 1924, and the first chairlift appeared in Tahoe in 1939, just three years after the chairlift was invented. Since then, Tahoe has developed into a world class ski and snowboard destination, that has launched the careers of some of the best skiers of all time, like Scott Schmidt and Shane McConkey. Snowboarding also has deep roots in Lake Tahoe, as the home of legendary riders like Terry Kidwell and Shaun Palmer.

Lake Tahoe and its ski and snowboard areas can be divided into several smaller regions, Donner Summit, North Lake Tahoe, and South Lake Tahoe. Homewood is the lone area on the West Shore. Over the years, a friendly rivalry has developed between North Lake and South Lake locals, however, both offer amazing skiing and snowboarding. The long history and strong winter community is reflected in the amazing density of ski and snowboard areas in Lake Tahoe (it’s only 32 miles by road to get from the north end of Lake Tahoe to the south). While in many other parts of the world small community ski areas have disappeared, Tahoe still has several of these old school areas mixed in with larger destination resorts like Squaw Valley, Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood.

The ski resorts at the Donner Summit are: Boreal, Donner Ski Ranch, Soda Springs and Sugar Bowl. These are the closest ski and snowboard areas to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. None of these areas have lodging at the resorts, Truckee is the closest town.

North Lake Tahoe ski and snowboard areas are: Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, Northstar, Diamond Peak, and Mount Rose. Squaw and Northstar have a full complement of lodging. Incline Village, Truckee, and Tahoe City are popular places to stay while visiting these areas.

South Lake Tahoe ski and snowboard areas are: Heavenly, Sierra at Tahoe, and Kirkwood. Heavenly and Kirkwood both have lodging available at the bases areas, while the casino town of South Lake Tahoe offers access to all three areas.

Lake Tahoe Ski Resort Map

Boreal


Boreal is the closest ski and snowboard area to Sacramento and the Bay Area. While it isn’t the largest resort in Lake Tahoe, Boreal is a great place to learn with family friendly facilities and good beginner terrain. The resort also offers night skiing. Boreal’s lift ticket prices make it one of the cheapest ski and snowboard areas in Lake Tahoe. Boreal’s terrain parks, built by Woodward at Tahoe, are a big draw to this Donner Summit ski and snowboard area, too.

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Heavenly


Heavenly is the largest ski and snowboard area in Lake Tahoe at 4,800 skiable acres. Located on the border of California and Nevada in South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly is known for its great intermediate terrain and fun advanced tree skiing. There are multiple base areas, which can be a bit confusing (you can end up in the wrong state if you miss your turn!), however, the huge selection of terrain offers a surefire good time. The mountain is covered with well spaced tree skiing, and groomed intermediate pistes. While there isn’t an abundance of scary-steep terrain, Milkyway Bowl is an open bowl with some steep and fun terrain.

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Kirkwood


Kirkwood has some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the Lake Tahoe area, with a great mix of terrain. The resort is located just south of Lake Tahoe itself, and has it’s own base area village. At 2,300 skiable acres, Kirkwood is one of the larger ski and snowboard resorts in Lake tahoe, and also has a higher elevation than average. This equates to lighter snow. The mountain is a playground for advanced skiers and snowboarders with everything from gullies to open bowls to explore. The mountain’s backside keeps fresh powder a bit longer after storms and is a great place to ride after the huge snowstorms that Lake Tahoe is known for.

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Northstar


Northstar is one of the bigger North Lake Tahoe ski and snowboard areas, and is a great destination resort. The mountain is owned by Vail Resorts, meaning skiers and snowboarders can expect high-end service, great lift infrastructure, and impeccable grooming. The terrain at Northstar is awesome for beginners and intermediates, with miles upon miles of groomed runs. While it may not be as steep or extreme as Squaw, Northstar does have some good tree skiing for advanced and expert skiers on Lookout Mountain. The mountain has a full base area village with lodging, dining, and shopping options. Northstar is also close to Truckee, and the towns on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

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Sierra at Tahoe


With laid-back vibes, 400” of annual average snowfall, and great terrain, it’s hard not to have a good time at Sierra at Tahoe. Located in the South Lake tahoe area many visitors overlook Sierra in favor of the larger Heavenly and Kirkwood, however, the mountain packs a lot of punch into its 2,000 acres of skiable terrain. Sierra at Tahoe prides itself as “Lake Tahoe’s full-service, value oriented day use snowsports resort,” and makes good on that promise with fun skiing and snowboarding for everyone.

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Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows


Squaw Valley one of the best and most notorious ski and snowboard areas in Lake Tahoe, and the United States as a whole. Alpine Meadows, just nextdoor, is a separate resort, however the two ski and snowboard areas operate as one. Squaw’s terrain is legendary for its steeps, cliffs and chutes. The KT-22 chairlift and the terrain it serves is legendary around the world, and is one of the birthplaces of modern extreme skiing. The locals here have always been among some of the best skiers in the world, and are a dedicated bunch, camping out in the liftline for first chair is common practice. Alpine Meadows meanwhile has a good variety of terrain for all ability levels, and is a little bit more laid back than Squaw, which can have a bit of an “extreme” vibe to it. There is lodging at the base of Squaw Valley, as well as planned additions to the village, making Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows a great Lake Tahoe ski and snowboard destination.

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Sugar Bowl


Sugar Bowl is the largest ski and snowboard area on the Donner Summit, and has some of the best skiing and snowboarding. At 1,500 acres Sugar Bowl isn’t huge, however it has a nice selection of terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. Sugar Bowl sees a huge 500” of average annual snowfall, although it is at a lower elevation than the average for these northern California ski and snowboard resorts. High up on Mount Judah and Mount Lincoln, Sugar Bowl has the best expert skiing on the Donner Summit, with steep chutes, cliffs and gullies. There is no lodging at the resort itself, however it is one of the closer areas to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Mount Rose

Mt. Rose Ski and Snowboard Area

Mount Rose is the closest ski and snowboard area to Reno, on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore. Sitting at a higher elevation than many Lake Tahoe resorts, Mount Rose doesn’t get as much snow, however, it is often higher quality. The mountain has a solid array of runs for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. “The Chutes” area is located between the two sides of the mountain hold Mount Rose’s expert terrain, which can be pretty fun.

 


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Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak Ski and Snowboard Resort

Diamond Peak is a small ski and snowboard area just outside of Incline Village, on the Nevada side of North Lake Tahoe. At 655 acres, it is similar in size to the small areas on the Donner Summit. The long and skinny ski and snowboard area is popular with beginners and families. All of the runs at Diamond Peak funnel back to the base area, which makes it very easy to meet back up with family and friends. There are some fun glades off of the Crystal Express chairlift, however, advanced and extreme terrain is not this area’s strongest draw. The limited terrain, and laid-back vibes do make for relatively few crowds.

 

Homewood

Homewood Ski and Snowboard Area

Homewood is the closest ski and snowboard area to Lake Tahoe itself, with the parking lot nearly across the street from the lake’s west shore. The ski and snowboarder isn’t a fancy one, which is sometimes a nice contrast to other Tahoe resorts. Homewood feels much more like a community ski and snowboard area. The mountain itself has a good mix of terrain for all abilities. There are fun trees and glades to ski on stormy days, when other resorts may be closed because of wind. Overall, Homewood is a nice mellow option in the Lake Tahoe area.

Donner Ski Ranch

 

Donner Ski Ranch is one of the oldest ski and snowboard areas in the United States. This small area on the Donner Summit is a throwback to the early days of skiing, with a tight-knit community and laid back vibe. At only 500 skiable acres, Donner Ski Ranch is one of the smaller Lake Tahoe ski and snowboard areas. The resort is great for beginners, and there is definitely some fun terrain for advanced skiers and snowboarders on the mountain’s backside. Low prices, and few crowds make this little historical ski and snowboard area a Lake Tahoe gem.

Soda Springs

Soda Springs Ski and Snowboard Area

Soda Springs is another small community ski and snowboard area in the Donner Summit area. As the longest running resort in Lake Tahoe, Soda Springs contains many stories the region's deep history. The mountain itself doesn’t have huge areas of expert terrain, but it does have a nice family learning area. The two chairlifts of Soda Springs are great for beginners and those looking for a mellow lake tahoe skiing and snowboarding experience.
 
 
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