#20 in Best Ski Resorts in the USA
Tucked away in Lake Tahoe’s north shore, Northstar California offers 3,170 skiable acres in one of California’s most unique settings.
Located on the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe, Northstar California Resort boasts a vertical drop of 2,280 feet and encompasses 3,170 skiable acres that include eight terrain parks, two on-mountain kids zones and a 22-foot superpipe designed by Olympian snowboarder Shaun White.
The area gets about 350 inches of snowfall annually and snowmaking covers 50 percent of the resort. Northstar California has a ski and snowboard school that offers private and group lessons all ages and skill levels, as well as private lesson packages that include equipment rental and lunch at one of the slope-side restaurants. Ski and snowboard rentals are available through Rentskis.com and from a number of local businesses in the Lake Tahoe area. Northstar California Resort is an Epic Pass destination.
There is no night skiing at Northstar California, but there is a cross-country, telemark and snowshoeing center, and snow bikes are available to rent. There’s an ice rink at the Northstar Village, near boutique shopping and dining, as well as a 600-foot tubing hill.
The Northstar California Resort generally opens in the first week of December and remains open until mid-April. Weekends from December through February the busiest times at the resort, as are holidays. In March, guests can still enjoy spring snow conditions with T-shirt weather during Tahoe’s bluebird days.
Tickets run about $160 for adults and $94 for kids (ages four and under ski free). If you can, purchase your tickets online or by calling 1-866-221-1468 at least seven days in advance to secure the best prices. If you purchase a multi-day lift ticket for three days or more, you can use it at Northstar California, Heavenly and Kirkwood Resorts .
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Northstar California is geared towards intermediate skiers, with 60 percent of the trails here created for that skill level. Thirteen percent of the runs are marked as beginner, and advanced runs make up the remaining 27 percent. The longest run here is 1.4 miles. According to Stephanie Myers, manager of communications, these are the best Northstar California trails for beginners, intermediates and experts:
Beginner terrain is intentionally shaped off The Big Easy chairlift for terrain-based learning down Lower Lion’s Way trail.
The Northstar California trail network consists largely of intermediate trails, however there’s one that stands out in the bunch. East Ridge off of Comstock Express has a sweeping view of Lake Tahoe and is home to tōst, Lake Tahoe’s only ski-up bubbly bar pouring complimentary sparkling wine daily at 2 p.m. and Veuve Clicquot or Dom Perignon at Platinum tōst for a European-style lunch.
Experts love Northstar’s trees and head for Burnout on the Backside, darting to White Rabbit when the gated glade opens.
The hotel options near Northstar California and in the surrounding Lake Tahoe area accommodate a variety of tastes and budgets. For more luxurious lodging on the mountain, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe near the Big Easy lift provides mountain concierge service and houses a 17,000-square-foot spa and two in-house restaurants, Manzanita and Slopeside Backyard Bar and BBQ. In the Northstar Village, the Timber Creek Lodge is a more affordable option in the heart of the action, with a lodge hot tub, a game room and shuttle service. For larger groups needing more space, the Grouse Ridge Mountain Bear Lodge is a 4,730-square-foot mountain mansion with a hot tub, commercial boot dryer, laundry and a large deck with a grill.
From ice rink-side cocktail bars to Alpine-inspired slope-side fine dining, Northstar California has a variety of dining options. For some Southern barbecue and views of the peaks, stop in at Summit Smokehouse. Back in the Village, Tavern 6330 has farm-to-table cuisine with offerings like venison Wellington, filet mignon and pork tenderloin, along with specialty cocktails and an extensive wine list. Finish off the evening with a martini by an outdoor fire while watching ice skaters at the Cabana Bar, or head over to TC’s Pub for beer and wings.
Families will want to head to the Village at Northstar’s ice rink so kids can show off their talent on skates while parents sip hot toddies on outdoor sofas while sharing s’mores. Or head to nearby Petra, a romantic hangout with wine and tapas pairings. Don’t miss the resort’s traditional afternoon Champagne toast overlooking Lake Tahoe on the East Ridge Trail – sparkling cider is available for children.
The Reno/Tahoe International Airport is a 40-minute drive from Northstar California, with regular shuttle service to and from the resort available through the North Lake Tahoe Express, among other shuttle companies. The Truckee Airport is also an option, offering regional private air service from the Bay Area and Southern California, via SurfAir, Mountain Lion Aviation and Blackbird. You could also choose to fly to Sacramento International Airport, which is just under two hours from Northstar California.
Northstar California is about 37 miles from Reno, Nevada, and about 10 miles from north Lake Tahoe. Keep in mind that parking can be expensive at the resort and that there is a free shuttle for guests traveling between the lifts and the village, which is also easily walkable. While a car may give guests more flexibility with transport to neighboring ski areas, it is possible to rely on public transport to get around.
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