With tons of snow, lots of sunshine, and amazing scenery featuring high mountain peaks and the huge, crystal-blue lake below, Tahoe is truly a world-class destination for hitting the slopes. It’s a veritable winter wonderland, with more than 22,000 acres for skiing and snowboarding. But if you’ve never been before, how do you start planning a trip?
Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. From choosing the best resort to the best way to get there, here’s our insider tips how to make the most out of your time in Tahoe.
1. Get the Right Pass
There are a lot of options to sift through, but it’s worth putting in the time to figure out the pass that’s right for you—especially if you’re planning to ski more than a few days this winter. If Tahoe is going to be your hub, The Tahoe Value ($479) and Tahoe Local ($569) passes give you access to three of the area’s best resorts: Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood. If you’re just dropping by for a long weekend, check out the Epic 4-day pass ($439), which also gives unrestricted access to all three. If you’re planning on looping a Tahoe visit into a winter full of ski trips, the Epic Local Pass ($649) or Epic Pass ($849), give access to Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, as well as Breckenridge, Park City, Whistler Blackcomb, and more. Plus, with your Epic Pass you get access to Epic Mountain Rewards, which gives you a 20% discount on food, lodging, lessons, rentals (yes, rentals!) and more.
2. Where to Ski
All of Tahoe’s nine ski resorts have something great to offer, but if you focus your time between Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood, you’ll still have enough ski runs to last a lifetime. Between the three, the first thing to consider is the basic geographic question: Do you want to spend your time in North or South Lake Tahoe or (it’s a big lake!). Northstar, in North Lake Tahoe, is a great option for beginners and families with lots of friendly, groomed runs—and its big terrain parks make it a favorite among snowboarders.
Heavenly, which sits on the border between California and Nevada in South Lake Tahoe is a big resort that’s great for intermediate and advanced skiers. Kirkwood, also in South Lake Tahoe, is a little more isolated and less well known, but it actually gets more snow than any other resort in the area. It’s a great under-the-radar option for beginners and experts alike.
3. How to Get There
Reno is the closest airport to both North and South Lake Tahoe, and there are airport shuttles that go to most of the resorts in the area. Sacramento’s airport is a bit further afield, but also a good option. Remember to check the mountain passes if you’re driving—and, especially if you’re heading up from the Bay Area on a Friday evening, be prepared to encounter some traffic.
4. Hold onto Your Boarding Pass
Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood all offer free half-day lift tickets the same day of your flight. Make sure to fly in early for an extra day of skiing.
5. Where to Rent
Accessing rental equipment is easy—and you can set everything up before your trip. Rentskis.com has all the information you’ll need to get your skis or snowboard and other equipment ready for you. Click on the resort where you’ll be staying to find out more information. You can choose from multiple slopeside pick-up locations, or free delivery is available to many surrounding hotels. Have everything set up in advance and you’ll be on the slopes in no time.
6. Beat the Crowds
Nothing dampens the psyche of a powder day like long lift lines. If you’ve got some control over your schedule, hitting the slopes midweek can make all the difference in terms of maximizing your ski time. If you can only sneak away for the weekend, getting an early start to the day and heading straight to the upper mountain can be a big help in terms of making the most out of the day—even if that means heading home from the après party a little bit early.
7. Use the EpicMix App
This handy app brings technology to your epic day to make it even better. Your pass or lift ticket to Heavenly, Northstar, or Kirkwood unlocks cool features that allow you to see the wait times at different lift lines and log your runs so you can see all of your day’s stats at the end of it. One of the best features is that it also uses the phone’s GPS to show you where in the resort your friends or family are—a huge help when you’re trying to regroup or meet up for lunch.
8. The Best Après Ski
We know: the skiing is fun, but sometimes it’s what happens once you’re back down off the mountain that makes a ski trip truly memorable. Tahoe has plenty of options for where to get a drink or two at the end of the end. If you’re looking for the heart of the party, head to Unbuckle at Tamarack Lodge, found mid-mountain at Heavenly. This notoriously rowdy scene features half priced drinks, DJs, and dancing. Those looking for something a little milder can head to McP’s Taphouse Grill at Heavenly or the Kirkwood Inn after a day at Kirkwood.
If you spent the day at Northstar, Truckee is the place to spend the night. The Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. has delicious brews and grub. If you’re looking for something to help you warm up, you won’t find anything better than what’s on offer at The Chocolate Bar. Their signature drink, the Sexy Snowman—Godiva hot cocoa mixed with vanilla vodka, Bacardi 151, Irish Cream, and hazelnut liqueur—is especially delicious.
Featured image provided by jcookfisher