Skiing Near Lake Tahoe: A MapQuest Guide
The skiing near Lake Tahoe is some of the best that California has to offer. Deep powder, sunny conditions and long seasons attract skiers and boarders from around the world to its great resorts. The region hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics, and plans are in motion to make a bid for the 2022 games. One thing to keep in mind: Getting to Lake Tahoe is half the adventure. Visitors who drive up through the Sierra Nevada during winter months will likely be required to mount tire chains on their cars, so come prepared. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. Of course, flying into area airports is always an option.
Located right in South Lake Tahoe, many of Heavenly's 94 trails overlook the town and provide magnificent views of the bright blue lake that made it famous. Riding the steeps down Heavenly's 3,500-foot vertical from the summit, you might feel like you're about to plunge right in. The resort's vertical rise is California's tallest, and its long season gives visitors plenty of time to get acquainted with it. Heavenly averages 30 feet of natural snow every season, making it a reliable ski destination for a large part of the year. Ride its 385-foot-long superpipe, or get your thrills in the backcountry. Three access gates offer expert skiers a high Sierra experience that they won't soon forget.
Kirkwood has many claims to fame, but its region-leading 600 average inches of fresh snowfall probably matters most to skiers and snowboarders. In the past, late-season storms have allowed the resort to stay open into May, which isn't common in California. Why all the snow? For starters, Kirkwood's base elevation of 7,800 feet makes it the highest starting point in the Tahoe region. The resort's microclimate attracts snow like an apres-ski drinks special attracts revelers.
Lake Tahoe Ski & Snowboard Resorts Map
Click pinpoints for driving directions.
Kirkwood's 2,300 acres are a deep-powder haven that hosts several high-profile slopestyle competitions every year. But there's more than downhill thrills to be had at Kirkwood. The resort hosts cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ski-skate clinics and events, featuring instruction from renowned experts. Kirkwood also hosts off-season international trips to far-out destinations like the Andes.
The storied past of Squaw Valley very well deserves its own article. The former Olympic site was also the birthplace of professional free-skiing. Scot Schmidt, the original freeskier, cut his teeth on the steeps at Squaw. But you don't have to be a pro to enjoy the resort's diverse network of 170 trails. With 3,600 skiable acres -- including 16 bowls -- there's a lot of terrain to explore, and much of it is suitable for novice and intermediate skiers and snowboarders.
WATCH: Snowboarder Mikkel Bang Flippin' Out At Squaw Valley
Northstar's impressive turnaround is a great example of a resort rising to the demands of its community. Once derided by locals for its relatively easy terrain, the resort's major redevelopment project -- completed in 2008 -- opened up black diamond trails on its northwest side, nicely complimenting the all-access runs enjoyed by more casual skiers.
Northstar's facelift also included some new amenities, real estate, luxury lodging (there's a Ritz-Carlton on the mountain) and an all-important endorsement. The Huffington Post reports that as part of his deal with Northstar two-time Olympic champion Shaun White had a personal 500-foot-long, 22-foot-high halfpipe installed on the slopes. Guests are free to use it when he's not training, but they'll have to pay for the privilege -- lift tickets at Northstar start at an eye-popping $91. If you need to make the scene, go for it; if you just want to ski, there's better value to be found elsewhere around Tahoe.
Case in point: Sierra-At-Tahoe. With so many quality resorts around town, it's hard to pin down a local's favorite for Lake Tahoe. But, with five terrain parks and 2,000 skiable acres of trails divided reasonably in to beginner, intermediate and advanced runs, crowd pleasing Sierra-At-Tahoe is certainly in the running. The resort's glades are legendary, and it's been recognized by Transworld Snowboarding as an industry leader in both vibe and value. Many seasoned riders call its slopes home, including members of its ski team, the Sierra Resort Elite Team. The resort hosts numerous slopestyle competitions and races throughout the season.
Did we miss your favorite ski and snowboard resort near Lake Tahoe? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
Plan your next winter getaway with MapQuest's ski resort guides for winter travel destinations in the U.S. and Canada.