The ski resorts at Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada region make up one of the biggest attractions for US skiers and boarders in the western states.
Located on the state line between California and Nevada, the skiing and terrain may not match the scope of the Colorado destinations or the powder in Utah but Heavenly Mountain Resort on the south shore and Palisades Tahoe near the north shore can certainly hold their head up in this company.
Not every winter destination that markets themselves as a Lake Tahoe ski resort is right on the lake shoreline however so this review will start with the closest Lake Tahoe ski mountains and then move outwards into the region around Tahoe…
Ski resorts on Lake Tahoe
Heavenly Ski Resort
Heavenly ski resort is right on the California-Nevada border and accessible from the lakeside town of South Lake Tahoe. It is one of California’s biggest ski resorts with a large vertical drop and plentiful groomed terrain suitable for intermediate skiers.
It is also a favourite location for tourists visiting the south shore of Lake Tahoe and the gondola access from South Lake Tahoe can be extremely busy. Alternatives are the smaller and shorter California Lodge access further to the west or crossing the state line into the settlements of Stateline and Kingsbury and accessing the ski slopes through two chairlifts on the Nevada side.
The Nevada side also has some of the toughest skiing in the Heavenly ski area, with two canyons providing some steeper chutes for experts.
Heavenly ski stats
Lifts: Heavenly Mountain Resort has a total of 40 lifts, which include a good proportion of high-speed quad chairlifts
Terrain: The ski area covers 4800 acres
Vertical drop: The difference between South Lake Tahoe and the top station is just over 3800 feet
Longest run: The longest run at Heavenly is around five and a half miles in length
Heavenly ski video
The resort has breathtaking views of the clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe below from many of its peaks. When the clouds clear and the sun peeks out, it truly feels like you are skiing in the heavens.tripswithtykes.com
Ski resort accommodation at Heavenly Village
The most popular (and most expensive) accommodation is close to the gondola at Heavenly Village near the state line. The lodging options extend to the west, where the nightlife is a little quieter, and over into Nevada. Here the casino hotels can offer good deals, while the base areas for the chairlifts on the Nevada side have a selection of mostly apartment accommodation with good access to the slopes but limited nightlife and atmosphere.
Forest Suites Resort at Heavenly Village is less than 100 yards from the gondola base station and offers accommodation in rooms and suites. Breakfast is included and amenities include hot tubs and fitness facilities.
Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel is located only a short walk from the Heavenly Gondola. Accommodation is in 400 suites with a minimum size of 550 square feet. The resort offers an indoor swimming pool, hot tub and fitness area.
The Landing Resort is located right on the lakefront with 82 luxury rooms and suites. The Heavenly Gondola is half a mile away (reached by shuttle service) and the resort offers an outdoor pool and fitness area.
Marriott’s Timber Lodge offers accommodation in rooms with kitchenette or guest villas. The lodge has its own grill restaurant and bar and is located close to the Heavenly gondola.
Accommodation in 3 Peaks Resort & Beach Club is in rooms, suites and cabin rentals. The resort is located in a convenient position two blocks from the gondola base station and the lakefront.
Check other accommodation availability in South Lake Tahoe
Enter the dates of a proposed stay to find availability of all types of lodging in South Lake Tahoe:
Ski Area Website: www.skiheavenly.com
Homewood Mountain Resort
Homewood Mountain Resort is a ski area right on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. It is one of the smaller ski mountains in the Tahoe region and the area ownership plans to make the skiing semi-private over the next few years.
The ski area markets its ‘lake to mountain’ experience, as the ski lifts literally start only three hundred steps away from the shoreline. Unsurprisingly the ski resort is often ranked near the top of lists of ski areas with spectacular views from the slopes.
On-piste skiing at Homewood is mainly suitable for intermediate skiers, with tree skiing when conditions are good. Accommodation in the area is limited and this is both a pro and con for the ski resort and its future.
Homewood ski resort can be very quiet because of the access traffic to the other more popular resorts around north Lake Tahoe. This means that there are few day trippers skiing at Homewood (one of the reasons for the plan to take the skiing semi-private) and there are no mega-resorts for visitors to stay in. (Accommodation is mostly in vacation rentals from Tahoma through to Tahoe City.)
Homewood ski stats
Lifts: Homewood has eight ski lifts covering 67 ski runs
Terrain: The skiable terrain covers 1260 acres, with a snowcat operation offering an additional 750 acres
Vertical drop: The difference between lake shore and the top station is just over 1650 feet
Longest run: The longest run at Homewood is the scenic two miles of Rainbow Ridge
Homewood ski video
Ski area website: www.skihomewood.com
Diamond Peak ski resort is a small ski area in the north Lake Tahoe region just on the edge of Incline Village on the Nevada side of the state line.
Diamond Peak is community-owned and has a reputation for family-friendly skiing. But the ski resort has a decent vertical drop and a selection of glades which make it a good destination for tree skiing after a good snowfall.
The resort is usually relatively uncrowded compared to its bigger neighbours and there is a good choice of accommodation on offer in nearby Incline Village.
Diamond Peak ski stats
Lifts: Diamond Peak has six chairlifts covering 30 ski runs
Terrain: The skiable terrain covers just over 650 acres, with glade skiing accounting for 500 acres
Vertical drop: The difference between the base station and the top of the Crystal Express chairlift is just under 1850 feet
Longest run: The longest run at Diamond Peak offers a ski descent of two and a half miles
Diamond Peak ski video
Ski resort accommodation at Incline Village
The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort is a waterfront casino and spa destination in Incline Village. Accommodation varies from rooms to cottages and the hotel offers a year-round heated outdoor pool and fitness area.
Incline Village has plenty of vacation rental and holiday home accommodation available. Enter the dates of a proposed stay to find availability of all types of lodging in Incline Village:
Ski area website: www.diamondpeak.com
Ski resorts near Lake Tahoe
Palisades Tahoe is a new name for two renowned Lake Tahoe ski resorts. Alpine Meadows ski resort opened back at the beginning of the 1960s and was merged with the neighbouring ski area (then known as Squaw Valley and a former host of the Winter Olympics) in 2011. The name change was decided on because of the offensive nature of the original name and was introduced in 2021.
The two ski areas are located a few miles away from Lake Tahoe just off the road between Tahoe City and Truckee, which connects to I-80 and is extremely busy in peak periods.
A new gondola links the two resorts from winter 2022 and spans a wilderness area between the two ski mountains. Thus it is possible to access the skiing in both areas by lift but not to ski between the two resorts. Arguably, the combined skiing terrain makes Palisades Tahoe one of the largest ski areas in North America.
The former Squaw Valley side of Palisades Tahoe – now known as Olympic Valley at Palisades Tahoe – has featured in many an extreme skiing video, as well as the 1960 Winter Olympics, and still attracts more than its share of off-piste experts from local towns and out to the Bay area. It is also where the widest choice of accommodation is located and has a good reputation for nightlife.
It is however also known for traffic jams on access roads in and out and for crowded slopes, especially on weekends.
Alpine Meadows has tended to be the more relaxed of the two ski resorts and is more suited to the advanced and expert skier. The lift layout however can leave much to be desired, and boarders especially complain about long flat traverses and climbs between runs and lifts.
Palisades Tahoe ski stats
Lifts: Olympic Valley at Palisades Tahoe has 29 lifts, including the Aerial Tram, the Funitel and 22 chairlifts
Terrain: The skiable terrain covers 3600 acres on 170 ski runs
Vertical drop: The vertical difference between the base station and the top of the ski area is 2850 feet
Longest run: Mountain Run is the longest slope at the ski area covering a descent of just over three miles
Alpine Meadows ski stats
Lifts: Alpine Meadows has 13 lifts, with all but two of them being chairlifts
Terrain: The skiable terrain covers 2400 acres over 100 ski runs
Vertical drop: The vertical difference between the base station and the top of the ski area is just over 1800 feet
Longest run: The longest run at Alpine Meadows is just under three and a half miles
Palisades Tahoe ski video
Ski resort accommodation at Palisades Tahoe
The Hyatt residence is located at the base of the Resort chairlift in the Squaw Creek area of Palisades Tahoe. Accommodation is in 405 rooms and suites and amenities includes an outdoor heated pool and wellness area.
The Village at Palisades Tahoe is located in the Olympic Valley area at the base of the lifts. The complex has a mix of apartments, suites and rooms, as well as eight outdoor hot tubs and three fitness facilities.
Check other accommodation availability at Palisades Tahoe
Enter the dates of a proposed stay to find availability of all types of lodging in Palisades Tahoe:
Ski area website: www.palisadestahoe.com
Northstar California is a ski resort just off the road between Truckee and Kings Beach in the north Lake Tahoe area. The ski area opened in 1972 and is now part of the Epic Pass group of winter destinations run by Vail Resorts (which also includes Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe and Kirkwood ski resort around 30 miles south of Lake Tahoe).
Northstar has a reputation of being an upmarket ski resort which is both family-friendly and suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers. North shore locals also know of the sheltered slopes which make it the area to head for when other Tahoe ski resorts are closed because of high wind.
Northstar California ski stats
Lifts: Northstar California has 20 lifts, including three gondolas and ten chairlifts
Terrain: The skiable terrain covers 3170 acres on 100 trails
Vertical drop: The vertical difference between the base station and the top of the ski area is 2280 feet
Longest run: Loggers Loop is the longest ski run with a descent of just under one and a half miles
Northstar California ski video
Ski resort accommodation at Northstar California
Northstar California Resort is, as the name suggests, the ‘official’ resort accommodation at the base of the lifts. Accommodation is in rooms, studios and apartments and amenities include an outdoor pool, wellness area and fitness facilities.
The Ritz-Carlton is a true ski-in ski-out hotel residence near the mid-station of the Northstar slopes. Accommodation ranges from rooms and suites through to residences for up to eight guests. Amenities include a 17,000 square foot slope-side spa.
Ski area website: www.northstarcalifornia.com
Mt Rose Ski Tahoe
Mt. Rose – Ski Tahoe is on the Nevada side of the state line to the north of Lake Tahoe. It originally opened back in the Sixties and has the highest base area of all the ski resorts around Lake Tahoe.
Although relatively small, Mt Rose is the most convenient ski resort for those arriving from Reno and is also only 11 miles from Incline Village on the north shore of the lake. Reno and Incline Village are the best options for accommodation as there is none at the base area of the skiing.
The ski area is split between two sides: the Mount Rose side has much of the beginner and intermediate terrain that the area is known for, as well as the Chutes with expert level gullies, while the Slide Bowl area over the back of the Chutes has a selection of generally easy runs served by a single chairlift.
Mt Rose Ski Tahoe ski stats
Lifts: The Mt Rose ski area has six chairlifts and two surface lifts serving more than 60 runs
Terrain: The Mt Rose terrain covers around 2000 acres
Vertical drop: The vertical difference between the base station and the top of the ski area is 1800 feet
Longest run: The longest ski run has a descent of around two and a half miles
Mt Rose ski video
Ski area website: skirose.com
Other ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe region
North Lake Tahoe
There are a number of smaller ski resorts to the north of Lake Tahoe around the town of Truckee and the Donner Pass:
Sugar Bowl ski resort is located on the Donner Pass road and is a medium-sized resort with 12 ski lifts covering around 1650 acres of terrain. Skiing starts at 6883 feet and goes up to 8383 feet above sea level. The resort has a good choice of advanced and expert skiing and is popular with day trippers coming from the Bay Area.
Ski area website: www.sugarbowl.com
Boreal Mountain Resort
Boreal Mountain Resort is a small ski area located near Soda Springs on I-80 to the west of Truckee. The ski resort has a short vertical drop of 500 feet but still offers 6 chairlifts covering just under 400 acres of terrain. Night skiing operates seven days a week until 20.00. It also offers eight trails in the Woodward Mountain Park freestyle area and dedicated snow tubing lanes.
Ski area website: www.rideboreal.com
South of Lake Tahoe
Sierra-at-Tahoe is a medium-sized ski resort around 15 miles to the south of the lake. It is one of the older ski areas in the Lake Tahoe region, having begun operations just after World War II. It has 2000 acres of mainly intermediate terrain and the 2200 feet of vertical is served by 14 ski lifts (including 9 chairlifts). There is no accommodation in the area although the options in South Lake Tahoe are not far away.
Ski area website: www.sierraattahoe.com
Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Kirkwood is getting on for an hour’s drive south of the lake but it is popular for skiers and boarders in the area as it is a decent-sized ski resort with a good snow record and is another covered by the Epic Pass. Skiing is spread over five different peaks and a vertical drop of 2000 feet on 2200 acres of terrain and is best suited to advanced and expert skiers.
Ski area website: www.kirkwood.com