California Ski Areas

Lisa Marie Mercer
south lake tahoe

While many people associate skiing with Colorado and Utah, one might be surprised at the vast number of California ski areas. Each resort has its own unique appeal. Some are more family-friendly, while others offer a more active apres ski social life. Here are some of the more popular California ski areas.

Lake Tahoe

The Lake Tahoe ski area is actually composed of seven separate resorts. It is located on the California/Nevada border in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Lake Tahoe is the second largest alpine lake in North America. Reno-Tahoe International is the nearest airport.

Mt. Rose Ski Lake Tahoe

At 8,260 feet, Mount Rose boasts Lake Tahoe's highest base elevation, and offers 1,200 acres of the Sierra's best powder. Take a look at the mountain stats:

  • Base Elevation: 7,900 feet
  • Acres: 1200+
  • Summit: 9,700 feet
  • Average Snowfall: 400 inches
  • Vertical Drop: 1,800 feet
  • Snow making: 28 percent coverage (top to bottom)

With 20 percent beginner terrain, 30 percent intermediate, 40 percent advanced and 10 percent expert, Mount Rose has something for everyone.

Northstar at Lake Tahoe

Northstar at Lake Tahoe is a family-friendly resort that is located six miles from the north shore of Lake Tahoe. Northstar's Mount Pluto and Lookout Mountain boast 70 trails, which cover 2,420 acres of terrain. Choose from gentle bowls to long, steeper runs, which are serviced by a state-of-the-art network of 18 lifts. The mountain is at a base elevation of 6,330 feet, and is blessed with an annual average snowfall of 350 inches. With 60 percent of its 89 trails marked blue, Northstar is an intermediate's paradise.

Heavenly Mountain Resort

Heavenly Mountain Resort is in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range at Monument Peak. It straddles the state line that divides California and Nevada, and overlooks the south shore of the awe-inspiring Lake Tahoe. Its 94 trails receive an average of 360 inches of snow, and when the snow gods are not cooperative, the resort has 73 percent snow making capacity on all trails. However, with a base elevation of 6,540 feet, this high alpine environment rarely needs snow making equipment. Heavenly boasts 4,800 acres of terrain, making it California's largest resort. Its trail classifications are as follows:

  • Expert/Advanced 35 percent
  • Intermediate: 45 percent
  • Beginner: 20 percent

Sierra at Lake Tahoe

Sierra at Lake Tahoe is a considered a local's ski area. It is the closest ski area to San Francisco and Sacramento, and is known for its great values on lift tickets. Here are the mountain stats:

  • Skiable Acres: 2,000 acres
  • Vertical Drop: 2,212 feet
  • Base Elevation: 6,640 feet
  • Total Runs: 46

Terrain:

  • Easiest: 25 percent
  • More Difficult: 50 percent
  • Most Difficult: 25 percent

Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Winter Games. This world-class destination resort boasts 4,000 acres of lift-served terrain, an annual snow pack that has been known to exceed 450 inches. With 31 lifts and an uphill capacity of 49,000 skiers per hour, Squaw has one of the world's most extensive lift networks.

Alpine Meadows

Based on its incredible terrain, Ski Magazine determined that Alpine Meadows was one of the best ski areas in the country. Its new beginner's program will offer top quality instruction for novice skiers and snowboarders.

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area

Mammoth Mountain is located in the eastern slopes of California's High Sierra. It boasts:

  • Over 3,100 vertical feet
  • Over 3,500 skiable acres
  • Over 150 named trails
  • Over 300 days of sunshine annually
  • A top elevation of 11,053 feet
  • 28 lifts which include nine high speed quads, two high speed six-packs and three high speed gondolas
  • A winter season that runs from November to June

Other California Ski Areas

In addition to the major world-class destination resorts, California is home to a large number of smaller ski resorts, which are often popular with families. For a complete listing of California ski resorts, visit the Go California skiing website.

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California Ski Areas