Tahoe’s Hidden Ski Gems

Spend more time schussing and less time standing in line.

By Bill Fink

Ski slopes around Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border, can get especially busy during the end-of-year holiday season, so those in the know will often escape to some of the area’s smaller mountains. What these hills lack in extensive terrain and high-end restaurants or shops they make up for with less expensive lift tickets, shorter lines and an overall more mellow experience. And they still provide a great day of skiing or snowboarding, with access to ski rentals, lessons and dining options.

North Lake Tahoe

The resorts of Northstar California and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows are popular among travelers staying around North Lake Tahoe in and near the towns of Incline Village, in Nevada, and Tahoe City, Olympic Valley and Truckee, in California. But sometimes you want a little more room to carve up the slopes.

The holiday commute to Squaw or Northstar from Incline Village, on the northeast side of the lake, can be tough. Instead, you can try cutting your travel time by going to Diamond Peak (1210 Ski Way, Incline Village, NV; 775-832-1177; adult day passes, from $79), just a two-mile drive or free shuttle ride away. The hill’s six ski lifts provide access to 30 surprisingly diverse ski runs, enough to ensure plenty of adventure and a full day of skiing.

Farther afield, toward Reno, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe (22222 Mt. Rose Hwy., Reno, NV; 775-849-0704; adult day passes, from $125) has the area’s highest base elevation. That makes it a good call for slushy days—higher elevations have cooler temperatures that help keep the snow cold and compact. The resort offers a solid combination of advanced and beginner terrain, so it’s an attractive alternative for groups with varied skill levels. Although the base lift price is higher than some, there are several ticket specials worth looking into.

If you’re approaching Lake Tahoe from the west, Boreal Mountain Resort (19749 Boreal Ridge Rd., Soda Springs, CA; 530-426-3663; adult day passes, from $49) is a small but convenient ski hill directly next to Interstate 80. It’s also popular with young snowboarders. As a bonus, the base of the mountain is the site of Woodward Tahoe’s The Bunker (19749 Boreal Ridge Rd., Soda Springs, CA; 530-426-1114; one-hour sessions, $25 on weekdays), a training facility full of trampolines, foam ski-jump pits and skateboard ramps, so if the weather doesn’t work out, kids and adults can practice their skills inside.

South Lake Tahoe

The massive Heavenly Mountain Resort straddles two states and draws most of the South Lake Tahoe ski business. It can be worthwhile, though, to make the trek farther south to Kirkwood (1501 Kirkwood Meadows Dr., Kirkwood, CA; 209-258-6000; adult day passes, from $83), famed for its advanced chutes, steep runs and great snowfalls.

Another option near South Lake Tahoe, and a good one for less-advanced skiers, is Sierra-at-Tahoe (1111 Sierra at Tahoe Rd., Twin Bridges, CA; 530-659-7453; adult day passes, from $97), off of Highway 50. This undervisited mountain has a great combination of tree-skiing runs and well-groomed terrain for intermediate and beginning skiers. And with 14 lifts servicing 46 trails spread across more than 2,000 acres, Sierra-at-Tahoe is one of the largest lesser-known slopes around Lake Tahoe.

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: November 2017