Section 19: Lake Tahoe Ski Areas rev 01/01/00

This section originally written 1/3/95 by Daryl Odnert, who is still contributing reviews and proofreading. Prices and contact info were revised 01/01/00, but most of Daryl's original resort comments remain intact. At any rate, if you have comments or complaints, you should probably send them to me, (Darryl Lee)

New Editor's Note: These reviews reflect one man's opinions. And i'm not that man, and he doesn't really want to get into a big argument over it. But hey, if you've got a problem with anything, drop me a line, and we'll talk:

19.1) Lift Ticket Price Summary for 1999-2000 Season (in US dollars)

Prices listed are for one adult.

                      1    1/2    2     3     4     5     6   days
Alpine Meadows      $50   $38   $94   $141  N/A   $235  N/A
Bear Valley         $37   $28   $68   $99   $127  N/A   N/A
Boreal              $31   $20   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A
Diamond Peak        $38   $28   $73   $105  N/A   N/A   N/A
Dodge Ridge       $39/$25 N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A
Donner Ski Ranch  $25/$15 $18   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A
Heavenly            $54   $38   $104  $153  $200  $245  $288 
Homewood            $38   $28   $73   $99   N/A   N/A   N/A
Kirkwood            $46   $36   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A
Mt. Rose            $42   $34   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A
Northstar at Tahoe  $49   $35   $92   $130  $171  $211  $252 
Sierra-At-Tahoe     $46   $33   $80   $116  N/A   N/A   N/A
Soda Springs        $20   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A
Squaw Valley USA    $52   $35   $94   $138  $180  $220  $258 
Sugar Bowl          $48   $33   $85   $120  N/A   N/A   N/A
Tahoe Donner        $26   $15   $72   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A

Most places _don't_ offer cheaper rates during weekdays, but rather special deals for certain days of the week (like 2-for-1 Wednesdays, etc.)

A much more elaborate listing of prices, discounts, and other information is available at

19.2) North Lake Tahoe Ski Areas

Squaw Valley
Base Elevation: 6200'
Vertical Rise: 2850' to top of Granite Chief (9,050')
Snow Conditions: (530) 583-6955
Information:  (530) 583-6985
Lodging Reservations: (800) 545-4350
30% advanced, 45% intermediate, 25% beginner

Squaw Valley is the largest and probably the most popular north Lake
Tahoe ski area.  It offers a great variety of terrain and is well
known for its advanced and expert runs.  Beginners seem to like this
place too because the easiest slopes are located up at 8200'.  Squaw
is not particularly strong on long intermediate "cruise" runs.
However, if you like steeps, bowls or bumps, this is the best place to
go in the north Tahoe area.  Experts should check out the KT-22 and
Granite Chief lifts.  Intermediate favorites tend to be the Siberia
and Shirley Lake lifts.

Squaw Valley is a good place to go if you've got non-skiers with you.
Non-skiers can ride the cable car to the High Camp Bath & Tennis Club
at 8200'.  There is an outdoor ice skating rink and bungee jumping tower
there, as well as several bars and restaurants with outstanding views of
the Sierra.

You may be wise to avoid Squaw Valley in stormy or windy conditions.
The area is not well sheltered, and many lifts close quickly when the
weather gets ugly.

The people who don't like Squaw Valley usually cite the lack of trees,
unfriendly staff, and long lift lines on the beginner and intermediate

Alpine Meadows
Base Elevation: 6900'
Vertical Rise: 1700'
Snow Conditions: (530) 581-8374
Information: (530) 583-4232 or toll free (800) 441-4423
35% advanced, 40% intermediate, 25% beginner

Some people love Alpine Meadows.  Other people hate it and can't
imagine going here when Squaw Valley is just a couple of miles away.
Alpine is not quite as large as Squaw Valley (2000 skiable acres vs
Squaw's 4300) but it is still a large ski area by most standards.

Alpine Meadows also has a good variety of terrain, including something
to please skiers of all ability levels.  There are some outstanding
expert runs off of the Scott and Alpine Bowl chairs.  Fun top to bottom
intermediate/advanced skiing can be done from the Summit chair (one of
three express-quad chairs at the area.)  When the snow is good, the
backside Sherwood bowl is definitely worth skiing.  Some people feel
that the biggest difference between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley
is that Alpine provides an opportunity to ski in "tucked away" spaces,
as opposed the bowls and moguls at Squaw.

Local wisdom says to avoid Alpine Meadows in stormy or windy
conditions, as it seems to blow harder here than anywhere else.

Base Elevation: 6330'
Vertical Rise: 2280'
Snow Conditions: (530) 562-1330
Information: (530) 562-2286
Reservations: (800) GO-NORTH
25% advanced, 50% intermediate, 25% beginner

Northstar is an outstanding area for advanced beginners and intermediate
skiers because it offers a large number very long "blue" runs.  In my
opinion, many of the "black diamond" runs at this area should really be
considered "blue" too.  (Some locals refer to Northstar as "Flatstar".)
If you like long, well-groomed cruiser runs, this is the best place to go
in the Tahoe area.  The cruise from the top of Mt Pluto down to the village
is real thigh burner (~2 miles long.)  Advanced skiers will find the best
runs on the backside of the mountain, where they've recently upgraded the
old triple chair to be an express quad lift.

Northstar is considered the best place to go in bad weather because it is
well sheltered and has lots of trees which help visibility on the slopes.

Sugar Bowl
Base Elevation: 6883'
Vertical Rise: 1500' to top of Mt. Lincoln
Snow Conditions: (530) 426-1111
Information: (530) 426-9000
45% advanced, 40% intermediate, 15% beginner

Sugar Bowl is very popular with skiers from the San Francisco and
Sacramento areas because is is about 1/2 hour closer to home than the
three large north Lake Tahoe resorts (Squaw, Alpine, Northstar.)  It
is also cheaper to ski here than at the larger resorts.  Sugar Bowl
often has the best snow conditions in north Tahoe and despite being
smaller, it offers more than enough terrain to prevent any skier from
becoming bored for at least one full day.  Sugar Bowl has a good
reputation for providing a friendly, family-oriented atmosphere.

The best advanced skiing at Sugar Bowl is usually directly below the
upper half of the Silver Belt chair lift and, if you're willing to
hike just a little bit, off the east face of Mt Disney.  The best
moguls are usually on the run called Market Street, accessible from
the Disney chair.  Intermediate runs, which tend to be very well
groomed, are available off every chair lift at the resort.  Beginners
can have a great time skiing the green and blue runs off of the
Christmas Tree lift.  More intermediate skiing terrain has been added
for the 94-95 season with the addition of the new Mt Judah express
quad lift.

Mt. Rose
Base Elevation: 8260'
Vertical Rise: 1440'
Information and Snow Conditions: (702) 849-0704
35% advanced, 35% intermediate, 30% beginner

Mt. Rose is the closest ski area to Reno, Nevada (22 miles away) so
the crowd here tends to be made up of locals and visitors from the Reno
area.  (If you don't like Californians, ski here. ;-)  Mt Rose is
smaller than the big 3 north Lake Tahoe resorts, but it offers enough
terrain for one day to prevent boredom for everyone except the most
advanced skiers.  Its high elevation and location on the eastern edge
of the Sierra usually means it gets dryer, lighter snow than the
typical "Sierra Cement".  Not a good resort to ski at on windy days.

Diamond Peak
Base Elevation: 6700'
Vertical Rise: 1840'
Snow Conditions: (702) 831-3211
Information: (702) 831-1177
36% advanced, 46% intermediate, 18% beginner

Formerly known as "Ski Incline" this ski area is located near the
north east corner of Lake Tahoe in Incline Village, Nevada.  Offers
675 skiable acres including a new area called Solitude Canyon for
advanced skiers.  Diamond Peak has a snowboard park area.  Great
views of Lake Tahoe.  Diamond Peak offers some really good lift
ticket deals for families.  There is very little terrain at this
area that is good for beginners so if you've got first-timers or
"green runners" in your group, they might get bored here rather
quickly.  On the other hand, there is plenty of fun here for
intermediates and above.  If it is windy anywhere in the Tahoe
area, it will probably be windy at Diamond Peak because of its
western facing exposure.

Peak Elevation: 7800'
Vertical Rise: 600'
Information: (530) 426-3666
15% advanced, 55% intermediate, 30% beginner

Located immediately off Interstate 80 at Donner Summit.  8 lifts.
An all day ticket is good from 9:00am to 9:00pm (since some of the
runs are lit after the sun goes down.)  Boreal's snowboard
park offers a half-pipe, quarter-pipes, slide-rails, barrels, etc.
Convenient location and inexpensive lift ticket prices make Boreal
popular with families with young children.

Base Elevation: 6230'
Vertical Rise: 1650'
Snow Conditions: (530) 525-2900
Information: (530) 525-2992
35% advanced, 50% intermediate, 15% beginner

Homewood, located along the west shore of Lake Tahoe, offers 5 chair
lifts servicing 1260 acres of terrain.  Homewood has a good reputation
with families (kids 8 and under ski for free) and snowboarders.  (And
the views of Lake Tahoe on are pretty darned cool.  --DL)

Tahoe Donner
Vertical Rise: 600'
Snow Conditions: (530) 587-9494
Information: (530) 587-9444
50% intermediate, 50% beginner

A small family-oriented ski area located in the Tahoe-Donner area
near Truckee, CA.  Two chair lifts and one surface lift.

Soda Springs
Base Elevation: 6700'
Vertical Rise: 650'
Information: (530) 426-3666
20% advanced, 50% intermediate, 30% beginner

A small family-oriented ski area located in the Soda Springs area off
Interstate 80 (same exit as Sugar Bowl.)  Two chair lifts.  The entire
ski-area can be rented out for group functions on weekdays and on
weekends in April.  All day lift tickets from Soda Springs are also
valid for night skiing at Boreal.

Donner Ski Ranch
Base Elevation: 7031'
Vertical Rise: 750'
Information and Snow Conditions: (530) 426-3635
25% advanced, 50% intermediate, 25% beginner

Six chair lifts servicing 400 skiable acres on two peaks.  Take
the Soda Springs exit off interstate 80 and continue south past
Sugar Bowl to get there.  Night skiing is available Wednesday
through Saturday.

19.3) South Lake Tahoe Ski Areas

Heavenly Valley
Base Elevation: 6540' (at the California side lodge)
Base Elevation: 7400' (at the Nevada side lodge)
Vertical Rise: 3,500
Information: (702) 586-7000
Snow Conditions: (530) 541-7544
Reservations: (800) 2-HEAVEN
35% advanced, 45% intermediate, 20% beginner

Heavenly Valley offers over 4,800 skiable acres with enough variety to
please just about any skier.  When Mother Nature is kind to Heavenly
and gives it a lot of snow, I think this is one of the best mountains
anywhere to ski on.  The views of Lake Tahoe are awesome.  The problem
is that Heavenly's location in the Sierra often seems to prevent it
from getting large amounts of snow from the same storms that dump tons
of snow on the other resorts.

There are plenty of long intermediate runs on both the California and
Nevada sides of the mountain.  There is some very interesting expert
skiing on the Nevada side in Mott Canyon and Killebrew Canyon.  People
who like to ski off piste between the trees will enjoy this resort a
lot.  If you drive to Heavenly, make sure you remember to get back to
your car's side of the mountain before the lifts start to close.

The California base lodge of Heavenly Valley is located in the town
of South Lake Tahoe, within a couple of minutes drive or bus ride from
the big casinos and a tremendous number of hotels and motels.  This
means the lift lines at Heavenly can get quite long, especially on
weekends.  Heavenly is frequently derided for the large numbers of
irresponsible "tourist" skiers who show up here and for the large
amount of poling or walking you have to do to get from one side of
the mountain to the other.

Base Elevation: 7800'
Vertical Rise: 2000'
Snow Conditions: (209) 258 3000
                 (415) 989 SNOW
                 (510) 939 SNOW
                 (916) 448 SNOW
                 (408) 436 SNOW
General Information: (209) 258 6000
Central Reservations: (800) 967 7500
35% advanced, 50% intermediate, 15% beginner

Kirkwood offers over 2,000 acres of skiing with a good mix of runs for
skiers of all abilities.  During spring (icy) conditions, the best
skiing in the early part of the day is usually found on the aptly
named Sunrise lift.  However, once the snow softens, the best black
diamond skiing is accessed from the Wagon Wheel (a.k.a.  the Wall) and
Cornice chairs.  Intermediates should avoid the Wagon Wheel chair...
there is no easy way down.

Kirkwood is about a 30 minute drive from the South Lake Tahoe resort
hotels and casinos, assuming the road conditions are good.  If it is
snowing, it can take a lot longer than that because the route (Highway 89)
takes you over a 9000' pass.  Highway 89 closes frequently during storms.
However, you don't have to go over this pass if you are approaching
Kirkwood from the west on Highway 88.

Note that Kirkwood has the highest base elevation of all the Tahoe
areas.  This usually means they have more (and better?) snow than
the other resorts.

Discount lift tickets can be purchased in advance through BASS tickets.

Sierra at Tahoe
Base Elevation: 6640'
Vertical Rise: 2212'
Information: (530) 659-7453
Snow Conditions: (530) 659-7475
25% advanced, 50% intermediate, 25% beginner

Sierra at Tahoe used to be called Sierra Ski Ranch.  There are 9 lifts
servicing 2000 acres of terrain.  Located only a few minutes drive
from the South Lake Tahoe hotels and casinos, this area is usually
less crowded than Heavenly Valley, but offers enough variety for a
full day of skiing.  Lift ticket discounts offered to teenagers
(13-19 years old).

19.4) Not Really Tahoe Ski Areas

Bear Valley
Base Elevation: 6600'
Vertical Rise: 1900'
Snow Conditions: (209) 753-2308
Information: (209) 753-2301
Lodging Reservations: (800) 225-3764
30% advanced, 40% intermediate, 30% beginner

Bear Valley is not really a Lake Tahoe area ski resort.  It is located
on California Highway 4, about two hours drive east of Stockton.
Bear Valley ranks itself as a "mid-size" ski area, the 8th largest
in California.  Bear Valley has been using low lift ticket prices to 
attract California skiers away from the Tahoe area.  During the 
97-98 season, an all-day lift pass is $35.

Most of the best advanced skiing is located on the lower-half of the
mountain (the parking lot and main lodge are at the middle of the
mountain at 7,750'.)  This usually means that advanced skiers will get
bored here if the lower lifts are closed, a common occurrence during early
and later parts of the season (or whenever there has not been much snow.)

Dodge Ridge
Base Elevation: 6600'
Vertical Rise: 1600'
Snow Conditions: (209) 965-4444
Information: (209) 965-3474
20% advanced, 60% intermediate, 20% advanced

Dodge Ridge is not really a Lake Tahoe area ski resort.  It is located
30 miles east of Sonora, California off of Highway 108.  550 acres of
terrain.  7 chair lifts and 4 surface lifts.