Discover California’s most-loved snowy spots with Culture Trip’s review of the best ski resorts in Lake Tahoe.
Home to California’s best skiing, Lake Tahoe is a multifaceted destination where you can wake up by the lake then head up into the mountains to shred some fresh powder after a night of snowfall. With so many reputable ski resorts in the area, every skill level is catered for. From the glitzy – and enormous – Heavenly resort, to the laid-back and modest Homewood, you’re likely to find your new favorite snow spot on this list.
Offering an insight into what skiing was like back in the day, Homewood is a no-frills resort that’s all about the simple pleasures of a ski trip – good snow and amazing runs. Attracting more locals than the other resorts, you can expect a more chilled-out and convivial atmosphere. Its position also affords it incredible views of the lake below, making this one of the more spectacular spots at which to ski or board. The terrain is largely intermediate level, but there are options for all levels of experience here.
Situated directly on the shores of Lake Tahoe, West Shore Cafe and Inn has spectacular views of the water from the majority of its six rooms and suites. Being such a small place, you can expect personable service and staff who will be like friends by the end of your trip. Having recently undergone an extensive renovation, you can expect high-quality finishings and fresh interiors, where things are tasteful but allow the incredible views to take center stage.
Sitting on the border of California and Nevada, Heavenly Resort is an exercise in contrasts. While up the mountain you wouldn’t know the difference – both states have incredible snow and great runs – it’s down in the town that the distinction between the two is strong. While the Californian side has a laid-back, alpine-town feel to it, the Nevada side is a neon light-clad adult’s playground that caters to those looking for a bit of after-hours fun on their holiday.
Located just a four-minute walk from the Heavenly gondola, Basecamp South Lake Tahoe combines the perks of a hotel with the price bracket of an inn or motel. For an unusual room option, book a Great Indoors room – an indoor option decked out with a huge tent, faux fire pit and glow-in-the-dark stars to emulate all the best things about camping, without subjecting you to the snowy elements. Elsewhere, the hotel has a number of bars and decks – including a beer garden and a spa deck with a hot tub – and a free daily s’mores sesh when you can roast marshmallows under the stars.
Having played host to the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley has been hosting snow-loving visitors for decades, and knows how to do it well. It’s the second-largest ski resort in the region, so expect an array of runs and powdery snow. There are 29 lifts, 6 peaks and more than 3,500 acres (1,416ha) of skiing and snowboarding terrain. In an area where it often snows heavily overnight with clouds clearing by morning, you’re graced with a higher-than-average number of bluebird days, complete with fresh snow.
One of the few accommodation options found directly at the foot of Squaw Valley Mountain, Plump Jack Inn gives you the ultimate alpine experience. Step out of your front door and straight onto a ski lift to whizz you up the mountain – ensuring you get prime access to the fresh snow. Accommodations are homely and comfortable with big plush beds to keep you warm, and Keurig coffee machines to make sure you’re adequately caffeinated for a big day of skiing. Family rooms are also on offer, which makes staying with kids a breeze.
With over 2,300 acres (931ha) of ski and boarding runs, and more than 600in (1,524cm) of snowfall a year – the highest amount in the world outside of Japan – Kirkwood is home to some of the best slopes in the Lake Tahoe region. Its more remote location means it benefits from lower visitor numbers, so those who persevere to seek it out will be more than rewarded for their efforts. Its reasonably new village is still in the process of growing, resulting in a more laid-back and low-key atmosphere than some of the other resorts in the region.
Kirkwood Resort is super close to the ski lifts, and a speedy shuttle service will take you from your front door to the slopes in no time. The hotel has a rustic, homely feel that is perfectly suited to its mountainous surrounds, and rooms range from three-bedroom condos to studio rooms for those on a budget. Regardless of size, they’re all comfortable spots to return to after a big day, with fireplaces to warm up by while it snows outside. The bar is a great place to park up with a drink to debrief on your day, and there’s a gym on offer for the extra-energetic, who feel like they don’t get enough exercise up on the mountain.
Referred to as the Disneyland of ski resorts, Northstar has all the amenities you’d expect from a lively ski destination – luxury hotels, numerous restaurants and a range of buzzy après-ski options. There’s a far more relaxed pace of skiing here and the resort is great for families – there is nothing ridiculously steep and the runs are designed for easy but picturesque rides. If you’re looking for a bit of jumping space, there’s a large amount of freestyle terrain on the 3,170-acre (1,283-ha) ski field.
Designed to capture and reflect the beauty of its spectacular natural setting, Cedar House Sport Hotel is a calming place to stay that draws you in with its off-the-grid vibe. You can ease your weary muscles with a dip in the heated spa pool, or simply cosy up with a glass of red wine next to the fireplace in the chalet-style lounge. The hotel also has a strong sustainability ethos – not only built from recycled and unrefined materials, the hotel also no longer uses disposable cups and actively works to reduce its waste and energy consumption, with efficient energy systems and as few disposable items as possible.