When planning a ski vacation for your family to the North Lake Tahoe ski resorts, it can sometimes be tough to decide where to go and stay with so many options. But you vacation planners can rest assured that you cannot go wrong, because they are all great choices.
Depending on your skiing level, interests off the ski hill, time of year and children’s skiing abilities, some resorts will meet your needs better than others. We just got back from hopping around the North Lake Tahoe ski resorts and are here to share what we have learned to help you navigate this new terrain. Here’s an overview of the North Lake Tahoe ski resorts that are great for families. Oh, and don't forget, we're now booking discount hotel rooms to key ski destinations, including the Lake Tahoe area, and soon will be booking packages for the 2017-2018 ski season!
Overview of the North Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts for Families
Get Treated Like a Star at Northstar Ski Resort
Northstar is the most sanity-saving ski resort for families. When you pull up to drop off your gear you are met with wagons. For me, one of the hardest parts about skiing with a family is lugging around all the equipment and "stuff," but Northstar brilliantly and literally took this load off my frog shoulders. We loaded skis, boots, extra layers, snacks, coats, etc. in the wagon and pulled it over to the locker area to stow smaller items in lockers and then carted our skis, poles and boards straight to the gondola. At the end of the day, we loaded our belongings back in a handy wagon and carted our things around behind us as we hopped (and lounged) about the fabulous village. The Northstar village is also family friendly and filled with restaurants, activities, fire pits, and lounge seating all surrounding the ice rink. We removed our snow boots from the lockers so we could change out of ski boots for walking around the village—a feat made much easier by those fabulous wagons. You can even put tired froglets who have lost their hop in the wagon for whine-free trekking. Click here for other sanity-saving tips we often employ when on a family ski vacation.
I can go on all day about the wagons, but you probably want to know how the skiing is. Thanks for asking—it’s great. This resort has the highest amount of easy terrain, making it a favorite among young families, and beginner and emerging intermediate skiers. The resort also works well for families such as ours who have skiers and riders of all levels, as we more advanced skiers also have plenty of black diamond terrain to entertain us too. It has terrain parks and half pipes for adventurous skiers and snowboarders ready to try doing tricks. Safety is high priority for us as parents with little ones, so you'll be hoppy to know the lifts all come with safety bars. The safety bars also had handy trail maps and details about events on the mountain, which is where we learned about free s’mores in the village in the afternoon. I can’t decide if I like "free" or "smores" better (I think it's a win-win), but you can be sure that I was "casually lounging" in the right place with Lily come 3:30. Thanks, chairlift, for the tip.
We saw many smiling faces at Northstar Ski Resort and we think that has to do with there being plenty of accessible terrain for beginner skiers. One of our tips to keep your tadpoles hoppy is not too push them too hard. With plenty of easy runs, your hoppy skiers can gain confidence and feel that they have a lot of options that are just the right level for them with plenty of mountain to ski on plus room to grow.
Off the ski hill, there is plenty to do at Northstar ski resort. You can enjoy:
- Cross-country skiing (you can even pull the tadpoles behind you in what can be described as a stroller sled)
- Fat tire biking
- Bungee trampolining
- Ice skating
- Doing crafts (making candles, painting pottery) at the Villager Candle Shop
- Watching movies
- Visiting the spa
- Doing yoga
- Going on stargazing adventures
Besides daily free s’mores in the village, it also offers complimentary champagne toasts on the mountain. Ooh la la!
You cannot go wrong with Northstar ski resort, but it does melt down a little earlier in the season than Squaw Valley, so you’ll want to enjoy Northstar in winter and early spring. Lodging is available in the village and on the mountain. There are some ski-up/ski-down locations and others locations that are connected by a short shuttle ride to the base.
Enjoy Diverse Terrain at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows Ski Resort
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are two ski resorts that are combined on one ticket. They are currently connected by a short shuttle bus ride, but there are plans in place to connect them with a base-to-base gondola.
Squaw is the larger of the two ski resorts and also a better location for families. With an average snowfall of 450 inches per year and over 6,000 acres, this resort offers a lot of ski area with a tremendously long season—including excellent spring skiing. While known for some of its more challenging terrain, it also offers plenty of green and blue runs. Plus every lift offers signs pointing skiers to the easiest way down. Squaw Valley provides a nice blend of challenging and family-friendly terrain. The chair lifts offer safety bars to keep froglets safe. Thumbs up on that.
The ski mountain is divided into zones. Younger families and beginners will find plenty of blue and green terrain in the Big Blue area and Gold Coast to High Camp region. Big Blue is the best area to learn to ski. Advanced skiers will be in heaven anywhere else at this resort.
The Alpine Meadows side does not offer many green runs. You can find blue runs in the Blue Room, Promised Land and especially the Lakeview zones. Alpine Meadows promises beautiful lake views.
The village at Squaw is located right at the base of the ski runs, offering many excellent restaurant dining choices, family-friendly bars, musical entertainment and a great energy as soon as you step off the snow for lunch or après ski time. We had good luck finding plenty of tasty food at several restaurants in the village.
This ski resort is family friendly, and families will want to take advantage of the off-mountain entertainment as well.
Off the ski hill there is plenty to do including:
- Snow Tubing
- Mini snowmobiling for the kids
- Dog sledding
- Cross country skiing
- Bungee Sky Jump
- Climbing wall
- Touring the Olympic Museum
- Ice Skating
- Doing yoga
- Aerial tram rides (included in lift ticket, but can also be purchased separately)
You might have seen that Undercover Tourist is hopping into booking discount hotels for your ski vacation. You can stay at several properties right in the Village at Squaw Valley or off-site (as well as at Northstar). We stayed at the Resort at Squaw Creek, which is located on the Squaw Valley property, but it is not located directly in the Village. We found it to be a great family resort. You can ski up/ski down from the Resort at Squaw Creek, and you can also take a short shuttle ride to the village for skiing/lessons or dining throughout the day and evening. The resort is great for kids with the heated pool and hot tubs. The froglets loved having snowball fights while jumping in the warm pool. Does it get any better than that?
The Resort at Squaw Creek also offers ice skating, cross country skiing, fire pits, games, sledding, and other great family-friendly entertainment and restaurants. We love easy entertainment. We enjoyed free hot chocolate and coffee in the morning (on the weekend). The ski concierge (near the shuttle stop and lift) meant never having to carry equipment very far. They also have cubbies to keep your snow boots/shoes so you do not have to walk far in ski boots. That’s a huge plus for me. If you plan to spend time in the village or go tubing after skiing, you might want to take the shuttle and store your shoes in a locker in the village.
Go Old School at Homewood Ski Resort
Homewood is located on the western shore of Lake Tahoe, and its views of the lake are spectacular. Homewood ski resort is nothing like Northstar and Squaw/Alpine, but what it lacks in amenities it makes up for with a certain kind of old-school charm, amazing skiing and unbelievable views of Lake Tahoe. It is a great ski resort. Just imagine entering a ski time warp taking you back 30 years. You’ll notice when you pull into the parking lot off the side of the road and see a small building to purchase tickets that you need to attach to your clothes. There is no village. Food choices are limited. No ski valet or concierge or wagons are there to cart your stuff. You are on your own, but the base is small so you don’t have far to walk anyway. Most of the lifts are older triple chairs (not the detachable high-speed chairs you’ll find at the other resorts). Keep in mind that most lifts do not offer a safety bar, so it makes us nervous with skiing with little ones.
Don’t let that deter you if you are an experienced skier because we have many praises for Homewood. The price is much more friendly at about half the cost of the other resorts (consistent with 30 years ago), so it is a great option if you are looking to save money on a ski trip. Of course, these prices may be set to change with plans for a village and improvements to come already in place, so expect construction and change in the next few years.
Homewood ski resort offers great deals for first-time skiers, with a magic carpet (a conveyor belt) and a surface lift in a dedicated area for beginners such as Leap who are not quite ready for regular ski lifts. The rest of the mountain is geared toward intermediate and advanced skiers. Strong skiers may want to take advantage of the Snowcat Adventures, which access over 750 acres of steep runs, intermediate-level glades and powder bowls located above the rest of the resort. On a powder day that is THE place to be. People who are beyond their first lesson but still preferring green runs might hop over to the other resorts to gain some confidence and skills before returning to Homewood.
Homewood ski resort does not currently have on-mountain lodging, but that will be coming as it begins construction. A complimentary shuttle service runs from Homewood to anywhere on the West Shore.
Other North Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts for Families
The above three resorts are closest to Tahoe City on the north end of the lake and are about a 20-minute, easy drive from each other. Other North Lake Tahoe ski resorts include:
- Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area, which offers lessons to tadpoles as young as 3 years old.
- Sugar Bowl, which is located near the Donner Summit and is home to the first chairlift in California.
- Rose, which is located in Nevada and is the closest resort to the Reno/Tahoe International Airport.
- Diamond Peak Ski Resort, which is known for being an uncrowded, learning mountain.
We hope you've found this overview of the North Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts for families helpful! Depending on your family’s needs and budget you can find the resort that meets your expectations from posh to budget, easy to advanced. There is still time to get a trip in for the 2016-17 season, especially at Squaw Valley, which plans to stay open for 4th of July skiing.When trying to choose a ski resort, you can consult this handy guide for the basics on ski resorts whether you are looking at Lake Tahoe or other ski areas. Don't forget, we'll be providing ski packages for the upcoming 2017-2018 season. Hop back soon!