This is our favorite pick for family vacations, since Yosemite National Park’s ski resort works on a smaller scale with 10 runs and terrain parks for beginner. The majority of the trails are ideal for groups with intermediates and anyone who is stepping on their skis or snowboard for the first time. Check out the kid-specific programs for skiing and snowboarding, or take them tubing for a more laid-back getaway.
7082 Glacier Point Rd, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389 +1 209 372 8430
Sugar Bowl has plenty of runs with steep, aggressive terrain that would keep an advanced rider busy. This one is a little pricier than the rest, but is our pick for intermediate to advanced riders because it has an understated vibe that doesn’t have you worrying about overcrowding or running over beginners.
629 Sugarbowl Rd, Norden, CA 95724 +1 530 426 9000
Sierra is known for the terrain parks scattered throughout the mountain and accessible by 14 chairlifts. Advanced riders will enjoy the jumps, boxes, and rails that line the 2000 acres of terrain, while beginners have greens spread around the backside of the mountain. The great feature for beginners is that they don’t have to be limited to the lower mountain — Sierra accommodates them with green slopes that have a longer stretch and paths that intersect with blues and blacks so that groups with riders of all levels can meet in the middle.
1111 Sierra-at-Tahoe Rd, Twin Bridges, CA 95735 +1 530 659 7453
We would recommend Donner Ski Ranch for beginners who don’t want to break the bank until they figure out if the snow sports are their thing. Donner is one of the most affordable resorts, with lift tickets for full and half days, but we’d recommend the beginner packages that include a 1.5 hour group lesson for anyone going down the slopes for the first time.
19320 Donner Pass Rd, Norden, CA 95724 +1 530 426 3635
China Peak finds itself in a central spot of California, south of Tahoe and right by Mammoth, but this place holds its own against the big boys of ski resorts. You don’t come here to stay inside, so don’t expect fancy lodging — you come here to be outside and hit the long, well-groomed runs, which is why it’s a local favorite! This resort is included in the Snowbomb Pass.
59265 Hwy 168, Lakeshore, CA 93634 +1 559 233 2500
By Jennifer Francisco
Jennifer was an English major at UC Riverside and is currently taking time to travel and eat well before she goes to business school in the fall. She was born in San Francisco, raised in Daly City, flirted with SoCal, and now lives in American Canyon, right at the southern tip of Napa Valley. She’s been known to frequent coffee shops around the Bay Area in search of the most compatible ambiance for the day’s mood. When she’s not writing about her adventures, she likes to run for fun, sketch until her fingers turn charcoal black, or take a mini getaway in her beloved verde chiaro Fiat 500.