Northstar California has created Tahoe’s most family-friendly environment. Although there is expert terrain, Northstar offers terrific intermediate runs that a group of skiers and snowboarders of varied skill levels can enjoy together. Many runs are wide, the lift system is sizable (20 lifts, 97 trails), and even on busy weekends lift wait times are tolerable. To avoid early crowds, take the gondola to the top and ski the backside, where there are long, steep runs for both experts and intermediates.
Northstar offers numerous lodging choices for a ski-in, ski-out weekend with little to no driving necessary. Options include village and mountainside condos, rental homes or a luxurious midmountain stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe.
The beautiful Village at Northstar area features a centerpiece skating rink—it’s a terrific place to hang out amid the fire pits in late afternoon and early evening. There are also plenty of shopping and dining options, as well as a convenient Starbucks for caffeine refueling.
Squaw hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics and still has international appeal. It features gorgeous views, difficult terrain, plus a massive system of 29 lifts that access more than 170 trails. A true “skiers’ mountain,” Squaw features varied trails, bowls and chutes that give thrill-seekers a serious challenge. In fact, Olympic gold-medal skiers Julia Mancuso and Jonny Moseley call Squaw home. Over the holiday season, you can schedule a few turns and get a photo with Jonny for free.
New for this winter season, Siberia Express, a high-speed quad primarily used by intermediate and advanced level skiers and riders, has been replaced with a high-speed, six-passenger chairlift that accesses cool terrain: Siberia Bowl, Mainline Terrain Park and Gold Coast region.
When you need a break from skiing, head to High Camp. Located at 8,200 feet, you can enjoy a cocktail and then ease sore muscles with a dip in the hot tub or heated pool. Later, when you’re ready to get back to the slopes, finish the day with Squaw’s longest run, Mountain Run, spanning more than 3 miles.
Located in energetic south Lake Tahoe, straddling the California-Nevada border, Heavenly offers some of the region’s best skiing/night-life activity. There are big-time casino hotels—Harrah’s, Harveys and Hard Rock—with live entertainment, dining and the chance to take home some extra cash at the gaming tables.
Heavenly, which turns 60 this year, has an incredible view of gorgeous Lake Tahoe. There are 28 lifts and nearly 100 trails, ranging from wide-open cruisers to plunging 1,600-foot chutes. If you’re into tree skiing, it offers tons of trunks to navigate. Gunbarrel is a grueling straight-shot mogul run.
Staying at Stateline, Nev., means you never need a car during your visit. Book a room near the casinos and take a short walk to the gondola, which drops skiers off midmountain on Heavenly’s Nevada side. On busy days, head immediately to the Sky Express chair on the California side and enjoy long, intermediate runs. When it gets crowded, visit the Stagecoach chair for some sizable groomers or tree skiing and short lift lines. Experts will love both Mott and Killebrew Canyon.
—Written by Jeffrey Weidel