The Best California Ski Resorts

From the slopes of Heavenly Mountain Resort, you can take in Lake Tahoe below
From the slopes of Heavenly Mountain Resort, you can take in Lake Tahoe below | © Yvette Cardozo / Alamy Stock Photo
Molly Codyre

Trade palm trees and sand for towering pines and snow with a trip to one of California’s best ski resorts.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

California might not be the first state you think of when it comes to skiing – what with its tropical temperatures and palm-fringed shorelines – but it in fact boasts some of the leading ski resorts in the United States. Ranging from the rustic and sprawling Mammoth Lakes to the LA local hotspot Big Bear, there are slopes to suit beginners, experts and every skill level in between. Luckily for those more accustomed to California’s sunnier climes, most of these resorts are within easy reach of the coast, so if things get too chilly you can be back on the beach in less than three hours.

Mammoth Lakes

Ski lift area at Mammoth Lakes, California

Big Bear

Big Bear Valley

Just over a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, but a world away from its tropical palm trees and sandy beaches, Big Bear is a sizable mountain town on the edge of Big Bear Lake. Popular with Angelenos due to its proximity to the city, the town becomes a focus for wintery fun in the cooler months; expect world-class slopes on the mountains above and buzzy streets with twinkling lights in the town. Many accommodation options and restaurants come with awe-inspiring views over the frosted lake.

Heavenly Mountain Resort

California Trail, Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California.

Sitting on the border of California and Nevada, Heavenly Mountain Resort is a multifaceted town on the edge of Lake Tahoe. The state line runs through an intersection in the town, with the bright lights and blinking casinos of Nevada on one side juxtaposed against the quaint California streets on the other. Up the mountains, you wouldn’t know the difference – both sides come with intermediate slopes, and incredible views of Lake Tahoe below. As one of the bigger ski towns, the accommodation options are varied.

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

Alpine Meadows ski area, Squaw Valley, California

Located in a similar area to Heavenly Mountain, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows also sit within the Lake Tahoe region, with Squaw Valley being the second largest ski resort in the area after Heavenly. Operating in conjunction with Alpine Meadows next door, you can’t ski or board between the two resorts, but a shuttle bus will take you to either quickly and tickets are interchangeable. You can stay right at the foot of Squaw Valley – giving you prime access to the slopes.

Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl ski resort, Norden CA

Technically the first ski resort in California – it was even first to get a ski lift in 1939 – Sugar Bowl’s appeal is still unwavering. Having been set up by Austrian ski racer Hannes Schroll, the resort has a distinct European vibe and benefits from being the first to be hit by storms rolling in off the Pacific. The resort gets its fair share of snow, but being one of the smaller in the Lake Tahoe region it attracts fewer crowds – meaning more snow to go around for in-the-know skiers and snowboarders.

If you’re looking for different accommodation options in California, read our guide to the top sustainable properties in the state – then book now on Culture Trip. After all the skiing, you might want a change of scenery and warmer weather – check into one of the best resorts in Santa Cruz. For more sunshine, why not head south of the border? Relax at one of the best resorts in Baja California.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article