The 25 Best Ski Resorts in California

From northern California’s Mammoth Mountain to So Cal’s Big Bear Lake Resort, California ski resorts offer diverse wintery escapes, ranging from big resort experiences to small laid-back mountain retreats. Along with plenty of sunny bluebird days, the California mountains are known for impressive snowfall levels. Weather conditions bolstered by moisture from the Pacific Ocean help produce plenty of powder, often up to 800 inches. In addition, California is one of the few places in the world where it’s possible to drive from the beach to the slopes in under two hours.

Along with desirable ski conditions, the San Bernardino Mountains, Sierra Nevada Range, and the Lake Tahoe region provide some of the best terrain in the county, attracting skiers from around the world to California ski resorts. 

Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Lakes, CA

  • Vertical Drop 3,100 ft
  • Skiable Area 3,500 ac
  • Number of Lifts 25

Noted as California’s highest ski resort, Mammoth Mountain truly lives up to its name. The mountain packs an impressive 11,053-foot summit with 3,500 skiable acres, and is California’s highest lift-serviced ski resort. Mammoth experiences an annual average of 300 days of California sunshine, ensuring plenty of bluebird days on the slopes. Its lofty elevation means its ski season extends into the summer months – the second longest ski season in North America. Mammoth offers equally impressive off-mountain activities, with 19 miles of cross-country and snowshoeing terrain, snowcat tours, and extensive snowmobiling excursions throughout the Eastern Sierra backcountry

Heavenly Mountain

South Lake Tahoe, CA

  • Vertical Drop 3,500 ft
  • Skiable Area 4,800 ac
  • Number of Lifts 28

Encompassing 4,800 acres of expansive terrain, Heavenly Mountain is the largest ski area in California. Its southern Lake Tahoe location delivers sweeping views of both the alpine lake and nearby Carson Valley. The resort is located on the California-Nevada border, with a web of varied runs carrying skiers through two states. Along with its enviable size, Heavenly is known for its assertive snowmaking capabilities, boasting the largest grooming and snowmaking fleet on the west coast. Its unmatched terrain is enhanced by five challenging terrain parks, the best tree-skiing in North America, and a lively aprés-ski scene.

Palisades Tahoe

Olympic Valley, CA

  • Vertical Drop 2,850 ft
  • Skiable Area 6,200 ac
  • Number of Lifts 29

Formerly known as Squaw Valley Alpine, Palisades Tahoe sits in the Sierra Nevada range a convenient 47 miles from Reno-Tahoe Airport. The resort’s 3,600 skiable acres make it one of the largest ski areas in the state. With 2,850 feet of vertical, Palisades is known for serious steeps always groomed to perfection. In addition, this Olympic Valley resort features some of the longest runs in North America, including Mountain Run’s lengthy 3.1-mile-long descent. Skiers can depend on plenty of reliable snowfall with an annual average of 450 inches. Palisades Tahoe encompasses two distinct ski areas, Palisades and Alpine. Though not connected via gondola, skiers can board a 15-minute complimentary shuttle and ski both mountains with just one lift ticket. The combined resorts allow skiers to experience 6,000 skiable acres in total and 270 runs serviced by 42 lifts.

Northstar California

Truckee, CA

  • Vertical Drop 2,280 ft
  • Skiable Area 3,170 ac
  • Number of Lifts 20

Tucked away in  Lake Tahoe’s north shore, Northstar California offers 3,170 skiable acres in one of California’s most unique settings. The resort is located on Mt. Pluto, an extinct volcano, though there’s no cause for alarm as it last erupted 2 million years ago and shows no signs of a recurrence. Along with over 3,000 well-groomed skiable acres, this Lake Tahoe resort offers diverse terrain, 100 runs, and an impressive 2,280 feet of vertical. In addition to its downhill adventures, Northstar offers one of the best terrain parks in North America, snowshoeing tracks, cross-country skiing trails, along with plenty of dining, shopping, and lodging options.

Sierra-at-Tahoe

Twin Bridges, CA

  • Vertical Drop 2,212 ft
  • Skiable Area 2,000 ac
  • Number of Lifts 14

Situated just west of South Lake Tahoe, Sierra-At-Tahoe boasts being the closest major ski resort to the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. This local’s favorite offers a sizable 2,000 acres of skiable terrain with a 2,212-foot vertical drop. The terrain is varied but mainly caters to intermediate skiers, and advanced skiers come to Sierra-At-Tahoe for its challenging treeline skiing. Amenities include a day lodge and on-mountain dining. Those seeking overnight accommodation can head to one of the nearby towns. Additional outdoor adventures include three miles of snowshoeing trails and two lift-accessed tubing hills on Blizzard Mountain. (Currently, Sierra-At-Tahoe is closed due to damage sustained during  the October 2021 Caldor Fire. The resort is on track to reopen for the 2022/2023 season)

Sugar Bowl

Norden, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,500 ft
  • Skiable Area 1,650 ac
  • Number of Lifts 12

As one of the oldest resorts in the state, Sugar Bowl served as a pioneer in the California ski industry, opening the state’s first chair lift and the west coast’s first gondola. This 80-year-old independently owned and operated resort sits perched high atop Lake Tahoe’s Donner Summit, offering 1,650 acres of skiable terrain, 130 runs, and a 1,500-foot vertical drop. Sugar Bowl’s compact size makes it easy to navigate and an ideal training ground for young skiers. This historic resort benefits from 500 inches of annual snowfall – more snow than any other North Lake Tahoe ski resort.

Kirkwood

Kirkwood, CA

  • Vertical Drop 2,000 ft
  • Skiable Area 2,300 ac
  • Number of Lifts 15

Noted as one of Lake Tahoe’s most challenging mountains, Kirkwood boasts an admirable 7,800-foot base elevation, 2,000-foot vertical rise, and 2,300 skiable acres. Though known for its thrilling steeps, the resort offers something for every level of skier. Powderhounds visiting this southern Lake Tahoe resort came for its significant annual snowfall, averaging 600 inches per year. In addition to long groomed trails and exceptional terrain, Kirkwood offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding tours, along with plenty of on-mountain lodging, restaurants, and shops.

Bear Valley

Bear Valley, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,900 ft
  • Skiable Area 1,680 ac
  • Number of Lifts 10

Bear Valley exudes a low-key, relaxed California vibe, well-known by locals and favored among families. With 1,680 skiable acres and a 1,900 vertical drop, Bear Valley is far from the state’s largest resort but offers an affordable alternative to nearby mountains. It’s ideally situated in the Sierra Mountains southwest of Lake Tahoe and receives an average of 359 inches of snowfall across 75 trails. Bear Valley provides terrain to suit all ski levels, from well-groomed beginner runs to the more challenging terrain of Grizzly Bowl.

Homewood

Homewood, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,650 ft
  • Skiable Area 1,260 ac
  • Number of Lifts 8

Though not thought of as a premier California ski destination, Homewood’s unobstructed views of Lake Tahoe is a noteworthy feature. The resort sits on the lake’s western shores, priding itself as the only Tahoe resort with runs finishing mere steps from the lake. Nearly all of Homewood’s runs showcase breathtaking views of this pristine alpine body of water. Along with scenic treasures, Homewood delivers 1,260 skiable acres, a 7,880-foot summit elevation, and a 1,650-foot vertical elevation. Rainbow Ridge is considered Homewood’s signature run, providing skiers with majestic views of both north and south Lake Tahoe while gliding to its base. In addition to picture-perfect lakeside views and uncrowded slopes, Homewood lift tickets are among the most economical in the state.

June Mountain

June Lake, CA

  • Vertical Drop 2,590 ft
  • Skiable Area 1,500 ac
  • Number of Lifts 7

China Peak

Lakeshore, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,679 ft
  • Skiable Area 1,200 ac
  • Number of Lifts 11

Situated on the western slopes of the Central Sierra, China Peak is an hour’s drive from Fresno. The resort attracts mostly day skiers though its conditions rival the larger full-service resorts at a discounted cost and with fewer crowds. Due to an impressive 8,709-foot elevation, skiers can expect enviable powder conditions and an annual average of 300 inches of snowfall. The mountain’s 1,200 skiable acres offer diverse runs along with three terrain parks with plenty of moguls and jumps.

Big Bear Mountain Resort

Big Bear Lake, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,665 ft
  • Skiable Area 988 ac
  • Number of Lifts 18

At Big Bear Mountain, skiers experience two majestic mountains with just a single lift ticket. Snow Summit and Bear Mountain combine to make up Big Bear Mountain Resort located in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. The two resorts, located just two miles apart, are easily accessible by boarding the complimentary inter-resort shuttle. Together these resorts yield 988 skiable acres, a summit elevation of 8,805 feet, with a 1,665-foot vehicle rise. In addition, Big Bear offers plenty of off-the-slope fun. Visitors can bobsled down Bear Lake’s Magic Mountain’s alpine slide, go tubing at Grizzly Ridge Tube Park, or indulge in aprés ski at nearby Big Bear Lake town.

Dodge Ridge

Pinecrest, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,600 ft
  • Skiable Area 862 ac
  • Number of Lifts 12

A quieter alternative to the Lake Tahoe resorts, Dodge Ridge provides an affordable, family-friendly, no-frills ski outing. Located south of Tahoe in the Stanislaus National Forest, it’s the Bay area’s most easily accessible resort. Though only 862 acres of skiable terrain, the resort’s trail map includes black diamond bowls, well-groomed intermediate trails, and plenty of beginner runs near its base lodge. In addition to its varied terrain, amenities include on-mountain dining, three terrain parks, lessons, and rentals.

Donner Ski Ranch

Norden, CA

  • Vertical Drop 750 ft
  • Skiable Area 500 ac
  • Number of Lifts 8

Situated on Donner Summit in the Tahoe National Forest of Nevada Country, Donner Ski Ranch has been welcoming ski enthusiasts for over 80 years. Not only is Donner one of the oldest and most iconic ski resorts in California, but it’s also one of the state’s most affordable ski options. This independently owned and operated mountain delivers 505 acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of 750 feet. Donner may be one of the area’s smaller resorts but it boasts one of the highest base elevations in the Sierra at an impressive 7,031-feet. In addition, Donner is known for some of the best powder in the Lake Tahoe Region, receiving a reliable 396 inches of snowfall each year.

Boreal Mountain

Soda Springs, CA

  • Vertical Drop 500 ft
  • Skiable Area 380 ac
  • Number of Lifts 8

Mount Shasta

MacCloud, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,380 ft
  • Skiable Area 635 ac
  • Number of Lifts 6

Mt Baldy

Mt Baldy, CA

  • Vertical Drop 2,100 ft
  • Skiable Area 800 ac
  • Number of Lifts 4

Mountain High

Wrightwood, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,600 ft
  • Skiable Area 290 ac
  • Number of Lifts 14

Mountain High Resort provides a snowy retreat just 90 minutes outside Los Angeles. Though this San Gabriel mountain resort has a mere 290 skiable acres, it offers three distinct resorts, accessible with just one lift ticket. Each mountain is located only one mile apart and accessible via a complimentary shuttle. West Resort, at a base elevation of 7,000 feet, is Southern California’s only resort open five nights per week. East Resort, with a 6,600-foot base elevation, is known for its challenging moguls, impressive glades, and majestic views of the Mojave Desert. North Resort has a base elevation of 7,200 feet. This mountain’s 70 acres of beginner terrain make it ideal for families or anyone new to the sport.

Tahoe Donner

Truckee, CA

  • Vertical Drop 600 ft
  • Skiable Area 120 ac
  • Number of Lifts 5

Soda Springs

Soda Springs, CA

  • Vertical Drop 550 ft
  • Skiable Area 200 ac
  • Number of Lifts 4

Snow Summit

Big Bear Lake, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,200 ft
  • Skiable Area 240 ac
  • Number of Lifts 10

Badger Pass

Yosemtie National Park, CA

  • Vertical Drop 800 ft
  • Skiable Area 90 ac
  • Number of Lifts 5

Snow Valley

Running Springs, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,041 ft
  • Skiable Area 240 ac
  • Number of Lifts 11

Mt Waterman

None, CA

  • Vertical Drop 1,030 ft
  • Skiable Area 150 ac
  • Number of Lifts 3

Alta Sierra

Wofford Heights, CA

  • Vertical Drop 600 ft
  • Skiable Area 80 ac
  • Number of Lifts 3

Best Ski Regions in the USA

Highest Vertical in USA

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