Ski Resorts in California

The huge powder dumps and warmer temperatures compared to the bitterly cold weather in Utah and Colorado have put California on the (ski) map.

Pros

  • Warmer than Colorado and Utah Ski resorts in Lake Tahoe receive massive powder dumps 
  • Home to Mammoth Mountain, which has one of the longest seasons in the US
  • Lively après ski, vibrant nightlife and high-stakes casinos in Lake Tahoe

Cons

  • Some resorts with low elevation are generally warmer and can see rain 
  • ‘Sierra cement’ – notorious wet and hard snow
  • Popular ski resorts are a far drive from the closest airport compared to those in Utah 

Getting there

  • Fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport or Sacramento International Airport for ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada range including those at Lake Tahoe. For smaller ski areas in Southern California, fly to Los Angeles International Airport.
  • Best way to resorts is by renting a car and driving or taking a shuttle bus (where available). From Los Angeles International airport it’s a 1.5-3 hour drive to reach some of the smaller resorts near Los Angeles. From Reno-Tahoe International airport it’s a 3-4 hour drive to reach some resorts in Lake Tahoe. Top tip: The Tahoe Basin is legendary for huge powder dumps so hire a 4WD vehicle to tackle the snowy road conditions. Travel clockwise around Lake Tahoe for undisrupted views of the stunning blue water.

California’s best ski resorts sit along the Sierra Nevada Range which stretches from Mammoth Mountain to the resorts in Lake Tahoe. There are a few household names around as well as number of hidden gems that are well worth exploring in California. We've teamed up with the locals to find the best ski resorts in California.

If it’s your first time skiing in California, then these are the resorts you’ll want to ski at. As with any big name resort, you can expect some of the best California has to offer with excellent skiing, facilities (with the exception of Alpine Meadows), activities and après ski options. On the downside, crowds tend to venture here and prices of lift tickets, lodging and food tend to be higher compared to other resorts.

These resorts serve up everything locals are after: excellent terrain, cheap lift tickets and quiet mountains. They tend to offer a more low-key vibe and are often overlooked by destination skiers. If you don’t mind the lack of amenities compared to the big names, these resorts make for a worthwhile visit.

No matter what style of family vacation you’re after, California has got it all. If accessibility is a priority then Sugar Bowl and Tahoe Donner are great low-key options within easy reach of the San Francisco Bay area. They both offer mid-sized terrain so it’s easy for families to stay together. For a luxury vacation with the all the trimmings, Northstar is loaded with amenities and activities for kids.

StatResorts
Best for BeginnersSquaw Valley – Alpine Meadows, Northstar, Tahoe Donner
Best for IntermediatesNorthstar, Heavenly
Best for Advanced and ExpertsKirkwood
Best for All-rounderMammoth Mountain, Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows
Highest Summit ElevationMammoth Mountain
Highest number of runsSquaw Valley – Alpine Meadows
Largest ski areaSquaw Valley – Alpine Meadows
Highest number of liftsSquaw Valley – Alpine Meadows
Resort Areas in

California

Ski resorts in

California

Bear Mountain
42% 39% 19%
Bear Valley
25% 40% 35%
China Peak
11% 28% 61%
Kirkwood
12% 30% 58%
Mammoth Mountain
25% 40% 35%
Mountain High
20% 43% 37%
Northstar California
16% 47% 37%
Sierra at Tahoe
25% 50% 25%
Snow Summit
26% 41% 33%
Snow Valley
14% 47% 39%
Soda Springs
23% 31% 46%
Sugar Bowl Resort
17% 45% 38%
Tahoe Donner
40% 60% 0%