A South & North Lake Tahoe Ski Guide – Rundown Of What To Expect
By: Alex Silgalis
Pine trees sway softly. The snow crunches under your feet as you walk. There’s nothing like a winter’s day in Lake Tahoe. With 300 to 500 inches of snow blanketing the mountains annually, there’s plenty of winter fun to be had including world-class skiing and snowboarding. For those looking for a South or North Lake Tahoe ski guide, here’s a quick rundown of what to expect on each side of the lake and what some of the bigger resorts are known for.
Heavenly is a HULKING brute of a ski area. Being the biggest in acreage AND vertical drop, it has something for everyone. Experts head to Killebrew Canyon to take on some very steep fall-line skiing. Intermediates have the pick of the litter around the Dipper Chairlift. For Beginners, it’s all about the Enchanted Forest next to the California Lodge. And no matter what your skill level, you’ll understand why it’s called Heavenly as soon as you get to the top. Hint: It’s the views.
When it comes to ski culture, no other resort on the planet rings truer than Squaw Valley. Besides the typical mention of it hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics, there’s a reason why this place is nicknamed “Squallywood.” There’s a lot of steep terrain, receives metric tons of snow, and you can see almost all of the terrain from the lift. Translation: Ski like everyone’s watching, because they are.
Thirty miles to the south of the casino corridor lies the polar opposite of Squaw. The terrain is still big, the snow still comes in metric tons, but it has a mellower vibe compared to its North Tahoe cousin. Another big advantage of Kirkwood is that it has a base elevation of 7,800’ and lies on the Sierra Crest. This means that when a storm does hit Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood typically gets drier and deeper snow than the other resorts in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Local’s Tip: Don’t miss out on the après scene at the 7800’ Bar & Grill which is still the only family-owned restaurant in the Kirkwood area.
Glade skiing has really taken off across the country, but when it comes to the crème of the crop, Sierra-at-Tahoe tops this list. How come? Well, during the boom of the Comstock Lode in Virginia City, there was a big need for lumber but the slopes around Sierra were home to red fir trees that were notoriously water-logged and deemed unworthy for the mines. Due to this, it created the most perfectly spaced old-growth forests for skiing/riding. If you’re a tree skier, this resort on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe is a MUST!
The “nugget” of the West Shore, Homewood remains the last cathedral offering up classic Lake Tahoe skiing in its purest form. For those that want to enjoy peak-to-shore skiing in a relaxed atmosphere at the best value, Homewood is the spot. Located just a few miles north of the iconic Emerald Bay, it provides unobstructed views of the lake mere steps from the quaint West Shore itself.
This is Reno’s home mountain. Typically, it’s the first to open in the area around Halloween due to it having the HIGHEST base elevation and extensive snowmaking capabilities. Its high elevation also helps when a warm storm rolls in and other ski areas are socked in with heavy wet snow. Only 25 minutes from the Reno-Tahoe Airport, you can get off the plane, grab your skis, and be on the slopes the same day for a few laps.
Interesting fact: Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe isn’t on Mt. Rose. In fact, it sits on Slide Mountain looking AT Mt. Rose.
We hope this South and North Tahoe ski guide helps you make your plans on where to ski this winter. If you want even more info, check out our bucket list of iconic ski trails you need to hit when skiing Lake Tahoe. And remember, a bad day on the slopes ALWAYS beats a good day at work.