Ski Resorts in Lake Tahoe, California
Known for its high snowfall, 300 days of glorious sunshine and stunning scenery of the lake, Lake Tahoe is hard to beat.
- Some resorts with lower elevation have warmer temperatures and are subject to rain
- Wet and hard snow nicknamed “Sierra cement”
- Far drive from airport to ski resorts – 3-4 hours drive
- Fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport or Sacramento International Airport.
- Best way to resorts from the airports is by driving. The Tahoe Basin is legendary for huge powder dumps (up to 1,524 cm annually) so hire a 4WD vehicle to tackle the snowy road conditions. The drive could be a minimum of 3-4 hours. Top tip: Travel clockwise around Lake Tahoe (116 km total) affording uninterrupted views of the brilliant blue water.
- Things you need to know: Drink lots of H2O, the arid western climate and the altitude are dehydrating. Tahoe, meaning “lake of the sky” in Native American, is 1,890 m above sea level, one of the deepest lakes in the world at 501 m, so it never freezes and retains its alluring blue hue. Keep sunscreen and sunglasses on hand, and dress in layers, ready to shred
Huge powder dumps and nice warm temperatures is what you should expect from some of the top ski resorts at Lake Tahoe. But which one is best? From the resorts with the deepest snow in Lake Tahoe to the best tree skiing in the Tahoe Basin, we’ve teamed up with the local experts to bring you the best ski resorts in Lake Tahoe.
The queen of the South Shore, Heavenly is the largest and highest resort at Tahoe, with 1,942 ha of skiing from California to Nevada and a 3,060 m summit. Ski down their exceptionally groomed trails as you embrace the spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. Heavenly’s South Shore at the gondola base is like “vertical Vegas"– with casinos, chain hotels, and clubs so you can après ski Tahoe style - dine, roll the dice, drink, and dance at 100 bars.
Located 35 kilometre south of Heavenly is Kirkwood, on Tahoe’s map with the highest base elevation affording it the deepest, driest snow. Kirkwood’s location and double black diamond terrain thin out the crowds. Kirkwood is known amongst experts for serious steep and deep including the legendary “Wall.” Kirkwood has ample lower mountain terrain to lure families to the 931 ha ski area.
If it’s your first time skiing in Lake Tahoe, then you’ll want to ski these iconic Lake Tahoe resorts. They’re big resorts offering some of the best Lake Tahoe has to offer, including a lively base village (with the exception of Alpine Meadows) and the fun party atmosphere that Lake Tahoe is known for. The only downside to its popularity is the crowds that it draws in.
One of the most famous ski resorts in America, Squaw Valley is often thought to be the top in Lake Tahoe (but how does it rank in our best 6 ski resorts in Lake Tahoe?). It has 1,457 ha of skiable terrain but since acquiring Alpine Meadows it has massive 2,428 ha of ski area, though these two are yet to be joined by gondola. Squaw Valley is known for their wide variety of extreme terrain although its vibrant ski culture, Olympic heritage, and excellent base village packed with aprés ski activities make it a popular destination!
If the large ski destinations vibe isn't your thing then head over to Alpine Meadows. Although it's technically apart of Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows retains its community atmosphere. Alpine is 80% above tree bowl skiing, with a decidedly local “vibe.” There’s no slopeside lodging, and the best terrain is out of bounds and legal with a most liberal backcountry policy. Alpine’s multi-faced mountain offers steep chutes and snow filled gullies on the front side, then sun-soaked bowls and Lake views on the back. Mid-mountain, The Chalet is a charming spot for a homemade lunch, with mostly outdoor seating (another indication of the desirable western winter weather).
Northstar is an ideal place to start your ski tour, on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore. Passing through the stunning mountainside village, make note of après ski wine tasting, and ice skating for the kids on the centrepiece rink surrounded by inviting outdoor couches. The terrain itself is perfect for intermediate skiers, with the majority of trails being blue runs. Northstar is also known for its excellent protection from the wind and its lively base village. For some luxury living, the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe at Northstar offers sophisticated on-slope lodging and a ski valet.
It’s easy to miss these resorts when Lake Tahoe serves up the top quality resorts that is does. Nonetheless, these resorts have enough excellent terrain and crowd-free slopes to keep locals coming back. If you’re patient with slow lifts and can live without the convenience of ski-in/ski-out then these resorts deserve a spot on your Lake Tahoe endeavor.
These ski resorts are fantastic for families, although they offer very different experiences. If you’re after a luxury family ski trip with all amenities and activities for kids, Northstar is your go-to resort. Sugar Bowl and Tahoe Donner on the other hand are great low-key options providing easy access from the San Francisco Bay area and their mid-sized terrain makes it convenient for families to get around.
|Best for Beginners||Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows, Northstar|
|Best for Intermediates||Northstar, Heavenly|
|Best for Advanced and Experts||Kirkwood|
|Best for All-rounder||Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows|
|Highest Summit Elevation||Heavenly|
|Highest number of runs||Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows|
|Largest ski area||Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows|
|Highest number of lists||Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows|