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Lake Tahoe

When everyone thinks about the world’s biggest ski area, they immediately think of the Three Valleys, which works in Lake Tahoe’s favour as it keeps lift queues and piste density down. Add this to well over 20,000 acres of the most varied skiable terrain, Las Vegas style après, Californian sun and breath-taking views, and you have a truly epic ski area.

Beginner

Intermediate

Advanced

Snowboard

At a glance: • Over 20,000 skiable in bound acres • Californian/Nevadan border = diverse après • Stunning, varied views

Great for: • Groups • Intermediates • Off piste

When everyone thinks about the world’s biggest ski area, they immediately think of the Three Valleys, which works in Lake Tahoe’s favour as it keeps lift queues and piste density down. Add this to well over 20,000 acres of the most varied skiable terrain, Las Vegas style après, Californian sun and breath-taking views, and you have a truly epic ski area.

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Lake Tahoe Resort

Lake Tahoe is on the state line of California and Nevada, taking advantage of the Western American sun, as well as the high altitude of the mountains surrounding the lake. Being the focal point of 9 surrounding ski areas, this is a destination with some of the most spectacular views in the world, contrasting between mountain, lake, town and Nevadan desert.

The closest resort to Reno-Tahoe International Airport is Mount Rose, a relatively small ski area with a high concentration of more challenging terrain, with treacherous chutes making up the front face of the mountain. At the south of the lake, around the settlement of South Lake Tahoe lies Heavenly, possibly the most famous resort in the area - with 4,800 acres, it’s one of the largest single ski areas in the USA. Close to this is Kirkwood, the most southerly of the ski areas, accessible using both the overall lift pass as well as the Heavenly pass. Sierra-at-Tahoe is also at the south of the lake, and has been voted 4th best resort and best value resort by TransWorld SNOWboarding. If you move to the west of the water, you find Northstar California, a dreamland for intermediates as well as park goers with the highest amount of artificial snowmaking at the north of the lake. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are right next to each other in the west and house over 370 runs between them. The last two resorts are not part of the Lake Tahoe Six Pack pass; Homewood is another small resort, a quarter of the size of Heavenly, and Sugar Bowl is furthest west, experiencing the highest snowfall in the area. Other resorts include Diamond Peak, Tahoe Donner, Donner Ski Ranch, Boreal and Soda Springs.

Being realistic, if you were looking to ski all of these, you could be taking a lengthy period off work, as well as spending rather a lot on fuel. Most tend to stick to one of the main hubs, like South Lake Tahoe near Heavenly, for easy access to a few, choice resorts. Heavenly is probably the best overall resort, offering a huge ski area and an interesting mix of après in a town straddling the state line.

Stats & FAQ

Location: USA, California/Nevada

Established:

Open: November – April (Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows = May)

Downhill:

View our detailed Lake Tahoe snow forecast or snow report and see all live webcams, piste maps, road and travel maps and lift pass prices. For a picture of historic snow conditions see the snow depths month by month with our Lake Tahoe snow history.

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Nearest Airport & Transfer Time:
Lake Tahoe Airport35km, 30 mins
Salt Lake City International Airport450km, 4hrs 45
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • 19.5%

  • 46.1%

  • 34.4%

Top Altitude:
Bottom Altitude:
Resort Altitude:
Longest run:
Slope Orientation:N, S, E, W
Vertical Drop:
Skiable Vertical:
Night Skiing:Squaw Valley
Glacier:No

Snow Report

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  • Base
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  • Forecast
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Web Cam

Lake Tahoe web cams
Downhill Runs:
Beginner slopes:19.5%
Intermediate:46.1%
Advanced slopes:34.4%
Lift Pass Price: Ski Lake Tahoe Six-Pack, $329
Nearby resorts: Heavenly, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood, Mount Rose, Northstar California, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl Resort, Homewood Resort

Skiing/BoardingSkiing in Lake Tahoe

With an area of this size and resorts of this calibre, you’re likely to find more than enough skiing over the immense 20,210 acres of the 9 main resorts. With families accounting for an increasing number of traffic, you’ll find top quality customer service as well as easy trails accounting for 19.4% of runs in the area. Intermediates are catered for the most, with every resort bar one having the highest proportion of their trails categorized as mid difficulty.

The tendency of American ski resorts to allow skiing over as much of the mountain as possible, as opposed to European resorts which are very piste centric, makes it perfect for the more experienced skier. This area is tree heaven, so if you like weaving through the firs, there is no better place. If you don’t like them or haven’t tried them before, there is such a progressive difficulty to the tree runs in most resorts in the area that it’s easy to begin and hone your skills before progressing to the more hard-core versions. However, despite the smothering of pines, there are plenty of other types of skiing on offer, from beautiful, pristine groomers, to chutes, cliffs, park and powder.

The average snowfall in the resorts surrounding Lake Tahoe ranges from over 300 inches to over 500, more than enough to keep the mountain covered throughout the season for your enjoyment. Couple this with the fact that the lake itself gets sun about 75% of the year, and you can see why this has become a popular destination. Because of its temperate climate, storms can descend quickly, but with the majority of resorts tree covered, you can escape the worst of the weather as well as avoiding flat light, making for an ultimately more pleasant skiing experience.

The Ski Lake Tahoe Six-Pack allows skiing at 8 resorts in the surrounding area. For those resorts that aren’t included, tickets are available individually. Alternatively, Heavenly’s individual lift ticket includes access to Northstar and Kirkwood for a number of days, as they are all owned by Vail Resorts, responsible for the success behind Vail, Beaver Creek and Breck.

Lake Tahoe Apres Ski

Après in this area can only be described as one of a kind – you are unlikely to find anything like this anywhere in the world. With the lake being dissected by the California/Nevada state line, you’re exposed to a wealth of après style, nightlife and off the mountain activities.

You can sense the Nevadan party style at any of the towns on this side of the state line. South Lake Tahoe and Reno epitomise this, each housing numerous casinos where you can gamble the night away in the style of Las Vegas. In addition to this, the Nevadan drinking laws are much more relaxed than those in California, with many establishments open for 24 hours. If you’re looking for a party, then you would be wise to consider this region.

Alternatively, if you’re not all that keen on the party scene and dining is more your style, the surrounding area has so much to offer. The numerous established towns dotted around the shores of the lake provide much more varied, in-depth amenities than you find in purpose built ski resorts. Restaurants are found in abundance of practically every type, from the finest dining to the fastest food.

As well as this, off mountain activities appeal to every age - you can make the most of the surrounding area by taking in the views from a balloon or helicopter tour, or renting a boat on the massive lake.

On the other hand you could relax in one of the plentiful spa resorts or outdoor hot springs in the local region. Whatever your preference of activities, you‘re more than likely to find it here.

Best time to go

Best time to ski Lake Tahoe

When is the best time to ski Lake Tahoe?

As an area, there is no definitive time to ski Lake Tahoe. With varying weather conditions over past years making it difficult to form any ideas about the best visiting times, we suggest checking out our snow report and forecast pages to get more of an insight. However, historically, spring skiing is always a good bet in this region, as typically most snow falls between January and March than other times of the season. This snowfall usually comes in the form of storms, with the weather changing dramatically. However, the vast tree coverage tends to mean that shelter from adverse weather is possible and provides enhanced depth of vision, making for a more pleasant overall experience. When you aren’t facing spring storms, Lake Tahoe’s average sunny days of 75% every year are sure to improve that all important goggle tan, and tend to boost everyone’s mood on the slopes. Finally, the resorts’ heights tend to mean that snow retention is prolonged, meaning that skiing is usually possible later in the season.

Peak Dates

As with most things in America, spending Christmas in Lake Tahoe is done on a bigger and better scale than in Europe. With Santa gracing many resorts and fantastic dining to leave you feeling festively sated, you may feel that you don’t have time to ski the amazing, varied resorts. Browse Lake Tahoe Christmas ski holidays ‣

Spectacular fireworks, lavish parties and glitzy casinos make New Years in Lake Tahoe a once in a lifetime experience. And if seeing in the New Year with a bang isn’t quite your thing, take advantage of usually empty slopes on January 1st to feel like you’re alone on the pistes. Browse Lake Tahoe New Year ski holidays ‣

The fact that America doesn’t have this school holiday makes skiing half term in Lake Tahoe dreamy. During its snowiest half of the season, the temperature is usually rising, the sun is usually shining and the pistes are usually deserted. Browse Lake Tahoe Half Term ski holidays ‣

Easter in Lake Tahoe tends to offer some of the best skiing in the season. With the Californian and Nevadan sun beating down, there are few feelings better than shredding some runs whilst getting a tan. And if it does get too slushy, with the lake and towns, you might have to be prised away to catch your flight home. Browse Lake Tahoe Easter ski holidays ‣

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Families in Lake Tahoe

Families will revel in the options available to them whilst staying at Heavenly Resort. The ski school here is renowned for its child friendly approach, providing the highest quality coaching in a professional and fun way. Offering services for children age 3 up, a base at the top of the gondola provides 15 acres of beginner only terrain and a new lodge called the Bear Cave serves as a hub solely for children’s lessons. Outside the Bear Cave is the Black Bear Hollow, a fun and interactive area for instruction featuring wood carvings, wildlife facts and groomed features that make learning an enjoyable experience for your child. In past years, the end of the day has found the ski schools descending the gondola and taking part in a procession through town with free hot chocolate and cookies, led by the school’s mascot Ripperoo. The ski school is also great for adult lessons, a wise idea if you don’t want to be shown up by your kids’ new skills.

If you all want to ski together, there are a number of areas perfect for all abilities. We like Boulder Lodge on the Nevadan side if you’re after a quieter beginner area. If you’re all more experienced, stick to the Dipper and Comet Express lifts to take advantage of the intermediate terrain such as the Big Dipper or Galaxy runs.

For any tots too young for ski school, Heavenly Resort offers childcare from 6 weeks to 6 years, with a number of activities to keep them entertained throughout the day. Alternatively, check out Happy Hearts Childcare Services for a professional nanny or babysitting service.

If you want to make the most of your time with the young ones throughout your stay, there are a number of activities aside from skiing on offer. The tubing hill at the top of the gondola is always a family favourite and, the casinos often offer a number of family friendly shows during the season. Restaurants such as Fire + Ice Grill allow your kids to be captivated by choosing their own food, then watching it being grilled right in front of them, always a great experience.

GroupsGroup Holidays Lake Tahoe

Heavenly is probably one of the best resorts to head to for those going in a large group. The 4,800 acres on offer make it the largest resort in California as well as in the top 5 in the USA, with a huge range of terrain looking to challenge skiers of any abilities. With great beginner areas at the top of the Gondola or near Boulder Lodge, these are perfect for ensuring that technique is perfected before tackling the intermediate areas, the best of which are the Galaxy and Perimeter runs, offering easy blues on which to really get comfortable with those parallel turns. The trees all over the mountain, bumps on Gunbarrel and canyons of Killebrew and Mott will challenge any skier, so experts are also well catered for. However, if there are some in your party that aren’t quite convinced, the positioning of Heavenly around Lake Tahoe mean that other world-famous resorts are within easy reach, most notably Squaw Valley, Kirkwood, Northstar and Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort, a great experience for a change of scenery and additional challenges.

The town of South Lake Tahoe is also a fantastic base for most groups. The fact that it is a multifunctional town and that the town is dissected by the state line of California and Nevada means you have the makings of a great stay. With casinos on the Nevadan side housing Las Vegas style gaming, shows, huge clubs and 24 hour drinking, this is the side to be on if you’re looking for a party. The Californian side is much better for a quieter holiday, as the drinking laws mean that bars usually close at around 1am (head to McP’s pub for a selection of sports viewing and live music), you can dine in one of the 165 restaurants, such as the Fire + Ice Grill for lunch and dinner or Heidi’s for a great breakfast to set you up for the rest of the day.


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