Guide to Skiing in Lake Tahoe | Pacaso

Your guide to skiing in Tahoe

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Amie Fisher

Ski mountain with lake in the background
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If you live in Northern California and love to ski, Lake Tahoe is the place to be. Home to the largest concentration of ski areas in the state — including the two biggest ski resorts — Tahoe offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for easy runs, small crowds or expert chutes, you’ll find them in the peaks above this alpine lake.The exact number of Tahoe-area ski resorts is hard to pin down, depending on how wide of a radius you’re willing to draw, but it’s fair to say there are about 14 ski areas surrounding the lake. Half of those resorts are 30 minutes or less from lakeside towns, so it’s a quick trip to the slopes.  

The big 6

If you’re looking for some of the highest-quality trails and a variety of terrain while skiing in Lake Tahoe, you can take your pick of these six premier ski areas, three in North Tahoe — Palisades Tahoe, Northstar and Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe — and three in South Tahoe — Heavenly, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood. 

Palisades Tahoe

Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Alpine) is a top destination for skiing in Tahoe, and if you’re staying at the upscale Village at Palisades Tahoe, the slopes are just steps away. The resort made a name for itself in 1960 as the host of the Winter Olympics, and since merging with neighboring Alpine Meadows in 2011, the Palisades Tahoe resort is the largest in Tahoe with a combined area of 6,000 acres. A continuous shuttle offers transportation between the two base areas, but experienced skiers can opt to travel from slope to slope via backcountry terrain. The long, steep runs at Palisades attract speed-seekers and extreme skiing enthusiasts, but it has plenty of beginner trails as well. Alpine has fewer runs and is the more relaxed, family-friendly side of the resort, so newer skiers might choose to start there. Since one lift ticket gives you access to all the runs, you can sample both sides and see which suits you best. Quick stats
  • Terrain: 25% beginner, 42% intermediate, 33% advanced
  • Trails: 245

Northstar

Situated on Mount Pluto, an extinct volcano just above the northwest tip of the lake, Northstar is known for short, steep runs and lots of intermediate terrain across its 3,170 acres. It offers award-winning snowboarding terrain parks and a number of gladed runs for those who enjoy a forested setting. Popular with families and recreational skiers, it also stands out for its après-ski experience. You’ll find all the amenities you could want in a ski vacation, with ample dining, shopping and spa options at the base area. On the mountain, you can take a break at one of three lodges, all with stunning views. Quick stats
  • Terrain: 13% beginner, 60% intermediate, 27% advanced
  • Trails: 100

Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe

Smaller than some of the other Lake Tahoe resorts, Mt. Rose was a lesser-known local favorite that rose to major-league status when it opened The Chutes in 2004. These super steep, tree-lined runs entice serious skiers with their 1,500-foot vertical drops and 40-55 degree pitches. The resort is surrounded by skiable backcountry, extending its 1,200-acre range. Novice skiers won’t be left behind, either — half the runs are suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. The resort is located on the Nevada side of the lake, about 30 minutes from Reno and 20 minutes from the north shore towns of Incline Village and Crystal Bay.  Quick stats
  • Terrain: 20% beginner, 30% intermediate, 40% advanced, 10% expert
  • Trails: 65

Heavenly 

At 4,800 acres, Heavenly is the biggest ski resort in South Tahoe — and the largest single Tahoe ski area, if you count Palisades and Alpine Meadows as separate resorts. It’s just minutes from the south shore and spans South Lake Tahoe, California, and Stateline, Nevada. It boasts the highest elevation in Tahoe, giving it a vertical drop of 3,500 feet — unmatched on the West Coast — and an extra-long 5.5-mile run. It caters to intermediate skiers but has good beginner runs and a handful of expert trails. It offers three lodges and two base areas, one on either side of the state line, or you can ride the 2.4-mile gondola up to the slopes and enjoy spectacular views along the way. After your day of skiing in Tahoe, you’ll find plenty of dining, shopping and nightlife options in Heavenly Village and downtown South Lake Tahoe. Quick stats
  • Terrain: 8% beginner, 62% intermediate, 25% advanced, 5% expert
  • Trails: 97

Sierra-at-Tahoe

About 16 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe is well-suited to a day of family fun. Three-fourths of the runs are beginner or intermediate, and two lifts are reserved for beginner skiers. Still, there are quite a few advanced trails over the resort’s 2,000 acres, plus freestyle terrain parks for skiers and snowboarders looking to perfect their jumps and 180s. The slopes are largely protected from the wind, making it one of the more consistently enjoyable locations for skiing in Lake Tahoe. Quick stats
  • Terrain: 25% beginner, 50% intermediate, 25% advanced
  • Trails: 47

Kirkwood

Head a bit further south from Tahoe’s south shore and you’ll reach Kirkwood, which ski enthusiasts will tell you is well worth the drive. One of the more remote Tahoe-area resorts, it draws smaller crowds but the variety of natural terrain attracts those with a true love of the sport. Skiers will find an excellent mix of trail options across 2,300 acres, including wide runs, chutes and open bowls — and lots of powder owing to the region’s abundant snowfall. While the resort is known for challenging terrain — it offers the most expert runs in Tahoe — its Timber Creek section is designed for less experienced skiers. Quick stats
  • Terrain: 12% beginner, 30% intermediate, 38% advanced, 20% expert
  • Trails: 85

The best views

Skiing in Tahoe isn’t just about the big, full-service resorts. Plenty of smaller ski areas offer great rewards, whether you want beautiful views, lighter crowds or a more casual atmosphere.

Homewood

You can’t get much closer to the lake than Homewood, located along the west shore, and you’ll be dazzled by spectacular views of Lake Tahoe from every run. Plus, you’ll escape the crowds, save money on lift tickets, and enjoy the friendly and welcoming vibe. And with 1,260 acres of skiable terrain, there are plenty of good runs to choose from. Quick stats
  • Terrain: 13% beginner, 46% intermediate, 36% advanced, 5% expert
  • Trails: 67

Diamond Peak

Just minutes from Incline Village on the north shore, Diamond Peak is one of the smaller Tahoe ski areas at 655 acres, but it’s worth a visit. This community-owned and easily accessible resort is popular with locals, has a balanced mix of terrain and offers some of the best views of the lake.  Quick stats
  • Terrain: 18% beginner, 46% intermediate, 36% advanced
  • Trails: 30

The Donner trio

You’ll find several resorts situated northwest of the lake along the Donner Pass, just 30-40 minutes from either the north shore or Tahoe City. What they lack in upscale amenities, they make up for in lower prices and ample snow. 

Boreal

Skiers itching to get in the first run of the season should check out Boreal, which typically opens earlier than the other Tahoe-area resorts. It’s also the most accessible to Bay Area residents, just off the interstate and farthest west from the lake. Its small size — 480 acres — is offset by big snow and inexpensive lift tickets, making it a good option for newer skiers who aren’t ready to pay two or three times the price to try out the swankier Palisades Tahoe or Heavenly resorts.  Quick stats
  • Terrain: 26% beginner, 29% intermediate, 44% advanced
  • Trails: 33

Sugar Bowl

The largest of the Donner ski areas at 1,650 acres, Sugar Bowl averages the most snowfall of all the Tahoe resorts. Skiers will find wide slopes, narrow glades, backcountry terrain and a charming, homey atmosphere. The resort provides everything for a great day of skiing in Tahoe, but you’ll feel like you’re in an old-world European village, owing to its historic roots — open since 1939, it’s one of California’s oldest resorts. Quick stats
  • Terrain: 17% beginner, 45% intermediate, 26% advanced, 12% expert
  • Trails: 100

Donner Ski Ranch

Near Boreal, Donner Ski Ranch is one of the only independent, family-run ski resorts in the area. Modestly sized at 505 acres, it offers a relaxed day of skiing with short lift lines and low prices in support of its mission to make the sport accessible to everyone. Even older than Sugar Bowl, Donner opened in 1937 and has been a family destination for decades, offering friendly staff and a good mix of terrain.  Quick stats
  • Terrain: 25% beginner, 50% intermediate, 25% advanced
  • Trails: 52

Find your Lake Tahoe ski home

If skiing in Tahoe is one of your downtime priorities, Pacaso offers amazing second homes in Lake Tahoe. As a co-owner, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of a luxurious second home with less hassle. We take care of the maintenance and property management, you just show up and relax (or strap on your skis). View our Tahoe listings to get started. 

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