Mid-winter break is just around the corner and there's no shortage of snow in the Sierras. It's not too late to make plans for a family getaway to have fun in the snow. Check out our guide to ski, snowboard and snow play locations for North and South Lake Tahoe.
The Lake Tahoe area has a variety of resorts and ski areas to suit anyone's taste and budget. Here's our guide to places to ski, snowboard, tube, sled, and play in the snow around Tahoe. We're tried to focus on spots that offer not only skiing and snowboarding, but tubing, snow play, and other winter activities, too. If we've omitted your favorite, please let us know.
Make sure you check before you head up to the high country, though, as opening dates are tentative and dependent on snowfall and weather; we've included website links and phone numbers.
North Lake Tahoe
Just a few hours away off Interstate 80, North Lake Tahoe and the Truckee area offer a huge concentration of ski resorts and other destinations for fun in the snow.
Snow, snow, snow—the winter season in the Sierra is off to a fantastic start! While we love the skiing and winter fun at Lake Tahoe, we know that not everyone's a skiier, and sometimes families just want to go up and have some fun in the snow. While many of the Tahoe ski resorts like Northstar, Squaw Valley, and Heavenly have tubing parks, ice skating, and other winter non-skiing activities for the family, there are plenty of other places in the mountains where you can get your snow play fix without the ski resort hustle and bustle (and price tag).
Most of these snow play sites are within a few hours' drive from Marin and the San Francisco Bay Area. While some have tubes and sleds to rent, others, most notably the California State Sno-Parks, offer little more than a place to park your car so you can go play in the snow. For a list of Lake Tahoe ski resorts that offer both skiing and snow play activities, read our article here.
Tahoe offers so much more than winter sports. Sure, it’s a winter wonderland of skiing and snowboarding, snow tubing, sledding, ice skating, and snow-filled fun. But there’s also a packed calendar with unique events to make your Tahoe memories for a lifetime. As long time locals, we put together a list of our favorite kid-centric events.
With more snow moving into the Sierras, it's time to start thinking about winter sports family fun in the mountains. While downhill skiing and snowboarding are synonymous with snow sports to many people, cross country skiing is a fun and low-key alternative to the lift lines. Cross country skiing is fun, easy to learn, and requires a minimum of equipment. Dress in warm active clothing, put on your boots and skis, grab your poles, and you're good to go!
We tried out cross country last winter, and had a great time. My kids picked it up right away—after 20 minutes on the practice loop they were off and hitting the trails. The whole family can join in, too—you can even get a jogging stroller on skis and pull your little one along, and many cross country trails allow dogs, too. An added bonus: cross country skiing is one of the best aerobic exercise activities you can do. It's a great way to get active and enjoy the beauty of the mountains in winter.
While spring seems to be here in full force, there's still plenty of snow this season up in the mountains. In fact, they're expected to get another dusting of snow up in the Lake Tahoe area today. This means that there's still time to pack up the family and head to the Sierra for some fun in the snow. We recently visited the new Alder Creek Adventure Center at Tahoe Donner and had a blast trying out the wide variety of snow sports activities available there. It's an amazing destination for some active family adventures!
The spectacular new Alder Creek Adventure Center opened back in November, and serves as the headquarters for cross country skiing at Tahoe Donner. There you'll find over 100 kilometers of groomed cross country ski trails, a lovely lodge building with a lounge, restaurant, locker rooms, shop, rental center, and patio, and the opportunity to try out some other fun snow sports besides cross country skiing. It's a beautiful location and a great place to try out some snow sports activities away from the fast pace of Tahoe's downhill ski resorts.
Birthday parties where everyone can burn off some energy through active play and exercise are always a lot of fun, and the Gymagic gymnastics parties offered by GymWorld, a state-of-the-art gymnastics facility in San Rafael, are a great choice for Marin County families.
GymWorld's facilities include a ton of fun activities for birthday partygoers, including a big foam pit that kids can jump and flip into off the two large trampolines that lead into it. Kids can also have fun on GymWorld's climbing wall, trampolines, tire swing, a trapeze, and cargo net.
During the party, GymWorld's fun and energetic instructors will teach kids gymnastics tricks handstands, cartwheels, rolls, and more. Instructors will adjust the party activities based on the ages of the partygoers—they have an array of over 50 different games and obstacle courses to choose from! High-energy Gymagic parties are full of music and energy and offer fun for everyone! Parties at GymWorld are ideal for kids ages 3 to 12.
Are you and your family ready to hit the slopes this winter? Thanks to last week's early season storm (and of course the snowmaking machines), our favorite Tahoe ski destination, Northstar California Resort will open early this year.
The ski and snow fun start this Wednesday, November 14. Four lifts will be open, as well as a beginner magic carpet lift for new skiers and riders. Ski school, on-mountain dining, and Northstar's 9,000-square-foot ice skating rink will also be open starting Wednesday, and of course all the dining and shopping in the Village, too.
Learn more about what Northstar has to offer for familes in our article here. We're looking forward to heading back up later on in the season, toasting some marshmallows for s'mores at one of Northstar's fire pits, and meeting Marsh Mellow, the Northstar marketing wonder dog (pictured here—my daughter's obsessed with him).
We recently spent the weekend on the slopes at Northstar California, where our kids took ski lessons with one of their experienced instructors. We were amazed at how much progress they made in just a few hours!
When should you get your own kids started on skis? Mike Hafer, assistant director of the Northstar's Ski and Snowboard School, was kind enough to answer this and a few other questions about ski lessons for children. Mike is also a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Demo Team and father of two young daughters.
What's the best age to get your kids started on the slopes? Is it ever too late?
When the child is ready. The mountain environment can be very intimidating to a young child. I would recommend that the child experiences snow play prior to learning how to ski or snowboard. Most 2-year-olds will only last about 20–30 minutes at most on the snow with equipment. 3-year-olds will typically go anywhere from a half day to a full day depending on their normal routines. If they are in need of nap time, I would recommend sticking with a half day program.
During our visit to Tahoe's Northstar Calfornia Resort, we stayed right in the Village itself. The Village serves as the hub of activity at Northstar, and it's a fantastic place in which to stay and to hang out when you're not skiing. It may even be worth a trip in its own right, regardless of whether you're skiing or not. There's a lot to do here, and it's the ideal place for families to stay, play, shop, and dine when they're not up on the slopes. We loved the fact that we didn't have to leave the resort—everything, from ski equipment rentals to dining, was literally right outside our door.
The Village itself has a charming atmosphere—kind of like a small European town with a rustic Sierra Nevada twist. Plenty of outdoor seating areas invite you to linger in the Village's public areas, where strategically placed fire pits allow you to warm yourself if it's chilly.