The Lake Tahoe region features 15 downhill ski areas including ten quite sizable resorts of more than 650 acres. A destination visitor obviously can’t explore all those locales in one trip, so some focus is required. The lake’s northwest corner in California has a particularly varied concentration of resorts.
Of the 15 ski areas, only one, Homewood Mountain Resort, actually comes right down to the lake. While several other resorts do have lake views, it’s hard to beat Homewood’s unique perspective of skiing right down to the lake’s West Shore. On a bluebird day, Homewood feels like one big scenic photo op.
When visitors manage to tear themselves away from the views, they’ll find the 1,260 acres of skiable terrain to be primarily solid, family-friendly fare. Tahoe’s hardcore locals do flock to Homewood for powder on storm days, because the more sheltered layout allows it to operate when high winds close lifts at other resorts.
Moving north on California Highway 89, Alpine Meadows carried an independent “mini-Squaw” reputation for years until its larger neighbor to the north bought it in 2011. Now Alpine and Squaw Valley can be skied on the same lift ticket. While a 10-minute shuttle bus ride currently joins the resorts, a gondola is envisioned to truly connect the layouts.
Although Squaw may have greater worldwide name recognition, Alpine Meadows has its own world-class terrain. Benefitting from its lesser-known status, Alpine can be a good place to avoid the crowds at Squaw on particularly busy weekends.
Simply put, Squaw Valley should be on the bucket list of any serious skier or boarder. With 3,600 skiable acres, Squaw is definitely the big kid on this list. Plenty of terrain can be found for all ability levels. With much of the beginner terrain higher up on the layout, newcomers can enjoy a full scenic experience, rather than be stuck at the bottom on a “bunny hill” like at many other resorts.
However, challenging steeps are Squaw’s real calling card. The resort’s “Squallywood” nickname comes from the superstar skiers showing off on their home mountain. Dropping into the legendary Palisades, these uber-experts provide a real-life ski movie for the rest of us to watch during a day at Squaw.
Opened in 1939, Sugar Bowl Resort overlooks the much smaller Donner Lake, rather than Lake Tahoe. The resort has its own Palisades that are perhaps even more intimidating than Squaw’s more famous version. Much tamer terrain can be found on the Mt. Judah side of the trail map.
Although Walt Disney, himself, was involved in the founding of the ski area, the independently owned resort certainly steers clear of any big corporate, “Disney-fied” flavor. Now known as The Hotel at Sugar Bowl, the base area’s historic Sugar Bowl Lodge has a cameo in “The Art of Skiing,” a 1941 Disney animated short film featuring Goofy. One of Sugar Bowl’s four peaks is named Mt. Disney in recognition of this history.
The Art of Skiing
North Tahoe Tips for Destination Visitors
- Visit Homewood on the weekend and save Squaw Valley for weekdays to best avoid drive-up crowds from the Bay Area.
- Rent a four-wheel drive vehicle if snow is in the forecast. Tahoe tends to get its snow in huge dumps followed by a week or two of sunshine. Chains are often required on cars without four-wheel drive during those big snowstorms.
- Experience Alpenglow Expeditions guided backcountry tours for an added dose of adventure beyond the resorts. Homewood also has a snowcat skiing operation in more than 750 acres just outside its resort boundaries.
- Head south for glitzy nightlife. The apres-ski scene on Tahoe’s North Shore has a more laid-back, local feel than the urban nightclub vibe of the hotel-casinos on the South Shore.
- Check out Wolfdale’s Restaurant Happy Hour. Opened in 1978, Wolfdale’s has long been a top fine-dining spot in Tahoe City. Every evening except Saturdays from 5-6:30 p.m., the happy hour is an excellent opportunity to sample Chef Douglas Dale’s appetizers, soups and small plates.
- Rent equipment from Black Tie Ski Rentals of North Lake Tahoe. Black Tie is a full-service mobile ski and snowboard shop that comes to your accommodations for delivery and pick-up. Discounted rates are available here on Liftopia.