Skiing at South Lake Tahoe

Winter ski trip to Heavenly Valley at Lake Tahoe.

Skiing at South Lake Tahoe

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by cporter0 on November 25, 2003

There are so many top-quality things to do at South Lake Tahoe in the winter that it is hard to know where to start.

The skiing at Heavenly Valley is some of the best in the west, and the views are breathtaking.

The gambling, shows, dining, and shopping in the city of South Lake Tahoe are as good as in Las Vegas, just not quite as many to choose from.

The dinner cruise on the lake (weather permitting) is a must for the romantically inclined.

Horse-drawn hayride is a fun way to spend a wintry evening, but dress warmly.

For the adventurous, there are escorted snow mobile tours of the surrounding mountains.${QuickSuggestions} If you are coming from California, the drive up highway 50 from Sacramento is very picturesque and a short tour of the old mining town of Placerville is interesting. The stretch over Echo Summit can get a little hairy though if the weather is bad.

If driving, be sure to carry tire chains with you. If it snows you will need them, and the highway patrol sets up road blocks. You are not allowed through without chains.

If driving is not your thing, or if coming from a further distance, fly into Reno and rent a car or take the public bus to South Lake Tahoe. The bus drops you off at the casino area where you can get transportation to any of the lodging in the South Lake Tahoe area.${BestWay} Once you are there, take the shuttle busses. Some are free, none cost much, and it beats trying to drive on snowy crowded streets.

All of the main tourist area is walkable.

Look for the heated underground tunnels between some of the casinos.

The Ridge Tahoe

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by cporter0 on November 25, 2003

Best Things Nearby:
Skiing: Heavenly Valley, Kirkwood, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Northstar

Touristing: Horsedrawn Sleigh ride, Riverboat cruise on the lake, Virginia City, Carson city and mint, snowmobile tours

Casinos and live shows: Bill’s, Caesar’s, Harrah’s, Harvey’s, Horizon

Shopping of all kinds

Dining of all levels, from McDonalds to gourmet

Best Things About the Resort:
The Ridge Tahoe is perched atop a ridge overlooking the Stagecoach Lodge Nevada entry to Heavenly Valley.

They have their own private gondola that takes you to and from the clubhouse right down to the Stagecoach Lodge for ticketing and access to the Nevada side of the mountain, and you can ski right to the gondola when you are finished.

This resort is located in Nevada, over the Kingsbury grade, which can be a problem if it is snowing, but shuttle busses pick up right at the front lobby for a trip to Stateline, and run until the wee hours of the morning for return.

There is a concierge on duty in the lobby who can make dinner and show reservations for you and who will keep you informed of bus trips to nearby resorts if you do not like to drive.

A very nice extra touch is that the parking is underground and fully covered, so your car is a little warmer and never snow and ice covered.

Resort Experience:
A world class destination resort, a world class ski resort just outside your door, 4 other world class ski resorts just a short drive away, casinos, live shows, gourmet restaurants, sightseeing for the non-skiers just minutes away. It just doesn't get any better.

The units are huge, well appointed, and immaculately maintained. Our kitchen had every convenience feature you could ask for, including a Jenn-Aire grilltop. The master bedroom had a large oval tub for soaking, just in case you didn’t want to venture into the community Jacuzzi, sauna or steam room. All of the units have a view of the surrounding area, some truly spectacular. Some of the units even have their own private sauna! One really nice bonus is that you can ski home from Heavenly Valley for a hot lunch without loosing much time on the slopes.

The resort itself is huge, 8 major buildings, yet compact enough that it is easy to walk between all of the buildings and the club house, where you will find a fitness center, saunas, indoor pool, racquetball courts, small market, an excellent restaurant, a coffee shop, movie rentals, day care center, and sometimes bus service to nearby ski resorts.

In some (maybe all) of the buildings there is a community jacuzzi which is very welcome for warming the bones cold from a day on the mountain.

Our son and I usually spend our days somewhere on Heavenly Valley or one of the adjacent mountains while my wife enjoys the sights and sounds of the casino area and shopping.

This resort is truly Gold Crown in every sense of the word. One word of advice, start with trades or reservations as early as you can, they are hard to get.

Ridge Tahoe
400 Ridge Club Drive
South Lake Tahoe, California, 89448
(775) 588-3553

Tahoe Seasons

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by cporter0 on December 9, 2003

Best Things Nearby:
Heavenly Valley Ski Resort

The city of South Lake Tahoe and the lake itself

The casinos and live shows: Bill’s, Caesar’s, Harrah’s, Harvey’s, Horizon

Shopping of all kinds in South Lake Tahoe and Stateline

Dining of all levels, from McDonalds to gourmet in South Lake Tahoe

Best Things About the Resort:
This was the first timeshare experience I had, and I was amazed to find it right across the street from the parking lot at the California entrance to Heavenly Valley. A five minute walk in ski boots to the ticket window. What a treat!

It is only about three miles to the casinos of Stateline on city streets, which means they plow off the snow and keep them as open as possible in the winter.

The town and sports shops of South Lake Tahoe are about a mile away right at the foot of Ski Run Boulevard, and you can rent much better equipment there and much cheaper than at the resort too.

Resort Experience:
The room was clean, though somewhat smallish, and the facilities well-maintained.

There was a fireplace and a large Jacuzzi tub between the living room area and the bedroom area. You could close off the Jacuzzi and use it as a shower. This was a very appreciated touch in the winter and very romantic any time.

There were really no cooking facilities, just a small microwave, a bar size refrigerator, and a small sink like you might find in a home wet bar, so cooking anything other than popcorn or warming leftovers was pretty much out of the question. The fridge was only really good for storing some leftovers or milk.

Our unit did have a table with seating for four, and despite the somewhat small size and meager cooking facilities, I liked the feel of this place. It kind of has a charm all of it’s own. There was also an on-site restaurant that was really quite good and reasonably priced, if you didn’t want to go into town.

Tahoe Seasons Resort
3901 Saddle Rd
South Lake Tahoe, California, 96157

Heavenly Valley Ski Resort

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by cporter0 on November 25, 2003

We are a mixed skiing and non-skiing family, and this is my resort of choice for a winter ski vacation, because of the mix of excellent skiing and many other non-skiing activities readily available. We started coming here many years ago, and just keep coming back each year.

The resort has it all, from the most gentle and wide beginners slopes, tons of intermediate terrain of all levels of challenge, to the steep, narrow chutes Motts Canyon, where even the super experts hesitate to tread plus a huge half-pipe for snowboarders. There is an excellent ski school for all levels of skiers, I usually take a lesson to brush up and try to improve a little. They have separate classes for the kiddies, too (see Heavenly Rockets in Family Fun in Tahoe Snow).

The two towns at the base, South Lake Tahoe and Stateline have everything a family could ask for in the way of amenities to make it a memorable vacation, shopping, movies, gambling, live entertainment, restaurants, sight seeing, plus a myriad of non-skiing outdoor activities.

Once on the mountain, you can ski from Nevada to California and back again all day, without coming back down to endure the crowds at the base. You can ski for nearly 6 miles from the top to the base in California, with a mix of black diamond to pretty flat terrain.

There are five restaurants on the hill for lunch, so just stay there and avoid the base crowds.

The views are indescribable, the most spectacular I have seen at any ski resort. From the California side you get a birds eye view of the entire Lake Tahoe and peaks surrounding the lake. From the Nevada side there are the expansive ranch lands of the Carson Valley and a pilots view of the city of Carson. Be sure to take your camera.

Although I prefer Heavenly as my base, no trip to Tahoe would be complete without at least one day trip to another of the major resorts in the area, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood, Northstar, or Squaw Valley. They are all less than 90 minutes away in decent weather.

No first time trip would be complete without a visit to Squaw Valley, the only rival in size to Heavenly and the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. If smaller is better for you, there are over 20 smaller downhill and cross-country ski areas around the lake, all of them with some excellent skiing.

The only cautionary statement I would make about Heavenly Valley is that the early season snow is less dependable there than some of the other resorts, so December can be a little iffy. I have spent a few dry vacations there, but side trips to Carson City and Virginia City, a dinner cruise on the lake, the shows and gambling at Stateline still made the trip worthwhile.

Heavenly Ski Resort
988 Stateline Avenue
South Lake Tahoe, California
(775) 586-7000

Kirkwood Ski Resort

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by cporter0 on December 2, 2003

This is a true skier’s mountain, with 85% intermediate and above runs. There are plenty of marked double black diamond (experts only) runs, and they mean it. They are steep, narrow, and full of bumps you can’t see over!

The intermediate stuff is also well marked appropriate for any intermediate parallel skier.

The beginners’ area is far off to the right of the main mountain, which is good for both beginner and advanced skiers alike, keeping them away from each other.

They have what many claim to be the deepest snow cover in the area, and I have seen no reason to doubt this claim, the snow has been excellent any time I have gone.

I am an upper-level intermediate skier who sometimes ventures onto the black diamonds and always visits this resort when in Tahoe for skiing -- I love it. It is not as well publicized as some of the others, and sometimes tends to be less crowded. Given that it is only 35 miles from South Lake Tahoe with all of its fun and action, I see no reason to stay at Kirkwood, but it makes an excellent and worthwhile short day trip from South Lake.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort
1501 Kirkwood Meadows Drive
Kirkwood, California, 95646
(970) 496-4475

Alpine Meadows

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by cporter0 on December 3, 2003

Alpine is a mid-sized ski area that service 3 peaks and offers quite varied terrain, six bowls, steep chutes, gentle glades, and endless cruisers and is frequented by many of the locals.

Alpine would attract more people and attention if it weren't in the shadow of Squaw Valley. It is a smaller, friendlier area, without Squaw Valley's big corporate feel.

It is far smaller than it’s more famous neighbor, but at 2,000 acres is still a very respectable ski hill. A has a good selection of steep chutes for the black diamond aficionados, like "Our Father." For beginners and intermediates, a wide variety of nice cruiser blues, with views of Lake Tahoe.

For the adventurous, take the Summit-Six or Alpine Bowl chair and hike up the hill just a short distance and you are on the backside and High Traverse. Not a lift in sight and snow untouched by grooming machines. From the bottom, you can take other lifts for more backside skiing, or take a trail back to the front.

Everything within the resort boundary is fair game whether it is a marked trail or not.

Alpine also has a decent ski school and offers snow-shoeing if you really want a workout.

Alpine is low and tends to get slushy when it is warm. If it’s going to be warm and sunny, go to Heavenly, Squaw, or Kirkwood, as they all have higher elevations.

I skied here just out of curiosity, wanting to try a variety of resorts in the area, and because I came upon it before I got to Squaw. It is a nice area, but if you are going to drive an hour from South Lake, I would go the extra few minutes to Squaw, unless you are in the market for a smaller, friendlier, less commercialized experience, and a cheaper lift ticket.

Alpine Meadows Ski Resort
2600 Alpine Meadows Road
South Lake Tahoe, California, 96146
(530) 538-4232

Squaw Valley

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by cporter0 on December 4, 2003

A friend gave me some very sage advice before I went to Squaw that I will pass along out of common courtesy--take plenty of money. Everything there is expensive, even by ski resort standards. I don’t regret one single dollar I spent though, as Squaw is truly an experience of a lifetime.

No first time trip to Lake Tahoe is complete without visiting this site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. It is truly a world class destination resort.

There is only one word to describe Squaw -- immense. They have one of the most extensive lift networks in the world with an uphill capacity of 50,000 skiers per hour, so the lift lines are rarely very long.

Plenty of terrain for skiers of all levels, with the beginner and most of the intermediate runs well-groomed and lots of open bowls.

With a third of the runs of the black diamond variety, this is an extremely challenging experience. Many of the intermediate runs are challenging for upper level intermediate skiers, while a lot of the black diamonds, while steep and bumpy, are wide enough to be fun and a real challenge for the upper level intermediate, and there are lots of untouched by snowcat areas for advanced skiers who like the wilderness experience.

If you don’t believe this is a challenging experience for all, just ask one of the mountain guides about the story of how KT-22 (black diamond) got its name. I especially liked KT-22. I am not quite good enough to really do it right, but it is wide enough that I was able to really feel like I had a little style, and it was fun.

Their ski school is as good as any I have seen, with some exceptional advanced level instruction.

From Broken Arrow you get some beautiful views of Lake Tahoe.

Well worth the hour drive from South Lake, but save Squaw for a nice, sunny day for maximum enjoyment because the upper lifts are high, cold, and windy and it is no fun sitting in an exposed chair and freezing on wind hold, and you don’t want to spend this kind of money and driving time just to be isolated to the lower lifts.

Squaw Valley
P.O. Box 2007
North Lake Tahoe, California, 96146
(530) 583-6985


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by cporter0 on December 8, 2003

The only thing that keeps Northstar from being just a ski area, not a resort, are the rental condos at the base.

Northstar is a small (by Lake Tahoe standards) area that is known for being very family-friendly and has a good ski lessons for the kids. A nice feature is the Parents Predicament lift ticket, which lets mom and dad trade off using the lift ticket while the other watches the kids. There is also a very nice snowboard park.

The mountain itself is not very challenging for upper level skiers, and I would rate most of their black diamond runs as only upper level intermediate.

There is food available at the base and at the quite nice mid-mountain lodge.

All-in-all, I would have to say that if you are staying on the south shore, as I prefer, it would not be worth the trip to Northstar. There are far closer and more fun resorts for a day trip. If you are staying on the north shore, or between here and Squaw, this is a nice, low key, family-oriented experience.

50 Trimont Lane / HWY 267 & Northstar
South Lake Tahoe, California, 96161
(530) 562-1330

Sugar Bowl

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by cporter0 on December 8, 2003

Like Alpine and Northstar, this is mostly just a ski area, with a few important differences. Sitting on the western slope of Donner Pass, it gets the most snow of any of the Tahoe area resorts, usually gets it earlier, and it is quite often very fine and light, like sugar, and services four peaks. It is also, unfortunately, the closest ski resort to San Francisco and gets very crowded on the week ends. For these reasons, Sugarbowl was the first resort in Tahoe, has the first chairlift in California, and the first gondola in the country.

The terrain is well-varied, including steep chutes, true double-diamond terrors, nice intermediate cruisers on all of the four mountains, and a nice variety of pitch.

I am told that they will occasionally open up the backside for some true wilderness expert skiing, although it has been closed when I have been there.

Sugarbowl offers all of the standard ski services at both the main base lodge and at the Mt. Judah lodge. There's also a mid-mountain chalet and a coffee shop on top of Disney that doesn’t seem to keep any regular hours. They have an excellent ski school and three different areas for learning, all of them away from the rest of the skiers.

If the snow is thin elsewhere, this might be a worthwhile trip, for the snow is usually better, and you get to share a little California ski history. It is a fun area for skiers of all levels. If the snow is good elsewhere and you are staying at South Lake, I would confine my daily sojourns to no further than Squaw.

Sugar Bowl Ski Resort
629 Sugar Bowl Rd.
Norden, California, 95724
(530) 426-9000

© LP 2000-2009