Sun, sand, and… skiing?!

California is synonymous with golden beaches, Hollywood glamour and great wine. But far from the California coastline, the Sierra Nevada Mountains show a different side of California. Soaring peaks blanketed in that sweet white powder. There’s terrain for the novice and pro alike, and all the facilities and amenities you could want. Plus with plenty of entertainment for après ski, California’s ski resorts are on par with the country’s very best.

But with so many options, even just around Lake Tahoe, it can be tough deciding where to go. Or maybe if you should switch things up this year. So we’ve broken down the best ski resorts in California to suit your winter needs.

  1. General Ski resorts in California
  2. Ski resorts for families and beginners in California
  3. Ski resorts for après in California
  4. Ski resorts for seasoned skiers in California

Overall

Heavenly Ski Resort

Heavenly has pretty much everything you could wish for in a ski resort. It’s the tallest of the Tahoe resorts, with an elevation of over 10,000 feet. And with nearly 100 runs accessed by 30 lifts there’s a huge variety of terrain, covered with some of the best snow in Tahoe. Around 80% of the runs are greens and blues, which is perfect for most skiers. And the blacks they do have are top notch. Plus, there’s epic views of the bright blue waters of Lake Tahoe to enjoy.

When the day is done, down at the base, you’ll also find nearly endless après entertainment. There’s casinos, fine dining restaurants, and Las Vegas-calibre nightclubs, so you can have just as much fun off the hill!

For families and beginners…

Northstar California

For cruising and groomers, Northstar has arguably the best intermediate terrain around Tahoe. People also love the park for its flow. It’s not the gnarliest around, but it is smooth. And with state-of-the-art snowmaking means you can expect buttery coverage all season long. Plus, if you’ve got kids who aren’t quite ready to follow in your footsteps, their ski school is top notch.

Down at the base, the Northstar Village is one of the nicest in the area. Packed with upscale dining, shopping, and lodging, you can definitely pamper yourself here. There’s still that California craft ethos too, so you can get crafty making candles, soaps and ceramics on your down days.

For après…

Mammoth Mountain

At over 11,000 feet, mammoth is the tallest of California’s ski resorts and has over 3,500 acres of ski-able terrain. Plus it also has one of the longest ski seasons in all of North America (usually November through June) courtesy of the high snowfall. All of this comes together in terrain for all abilities. There’s groomers. There’s bowls. There’s backcountry. There’s those infamous pink rails. There’s a bit (a lot) of everything.

So why is Mammoth under best après? Because we say small-town vibes of Mammoth Lakes trumps the big Tahoe resorts for what après ski is all about – unwinding at the end of the day. Give your legs a breather on the sundeck at Steeps Bar to soak in the views (and soak up some cocktails) before hunting for your next location. There’s over 70 bars in restaurants in Mammoth, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. Or stop by The Mill for some real American BBQ and a refreshing drink by the firepit. Another perennial favorite is the One easy destination is the lively tasting room and eatery at Mammoth Brewing Co. Choose from their 13 artisan beers and hard cider on tap to wash down their exotic fusion foods like Naan Tacos, Carne Asada Fries, and Banh Mi sandwiches with Berkshire pork belly.

For seasoned skiers…

Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows

Technically two mountains, Squaw Valley – Alpine Meadows make up the biggest resort in the state (one lift ticket gives you access to both!). You’ll want to know your ABCs (Always Be Charging) before tackling Squaw. Take the legendary KT-22. Named for Sandy Poulsen’s 1946, 22 kick turn (KT) descent, you get some of the most iconic inbounds terrain in the world right from the lift. And since it’s right under the chairlift, you better be putting on a show (or risk getting heckled)! That’s Squallywood baby! On powder days Squaw goes wild so be ready for ridiculously long lift lines. Though getting fresh tracks is worth the wait.

If cliff-dropping and bowl-bombing isn’t quite your thing, head over to Alpine Meadows. You get the same great snow conditions on gentler slopes, with fewer crowds. And over at Alpine Meadows you get amazing  of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada. Take a ride on the “Lakeview Chair” for a mind-blowing panorama!

Kirkwood Ski Resort

For steep and deep, Kirkwood probably beats out even Squaw. Over 60% of its 65 trails are expert only. And we’re talking West Coast expert. Steeps. Narrow chutes. Mandatory drops. Thimble Peak is Kirkwood’s highest mountain, towering at almost 10,000 feet, serves up pro level terrain in spades. In fact, they had to permanently close off the upper section where they used to host the freeride competition because it was too difficult.

And if you’re not an extreme skier, don’t worry. Although Kirkwood famous for its tough terrain, 40% of its trails are greens and blues. And there’s a variety of lessons on offer for those needing a little extra boost! But why would you go to a mostly expert mountain for easier trails? Kirkwood is a bit cheaper and far less crowded than other Tahoe resorts!

One Comment

  1. GREAT to see yo in the good ol’ USA! Enjoyed two trips in Europe last year and hope to do so again when vaccine for our Coronavirus nemesis is available…

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