2003 Number 21 Resort in North America: Northstar-At-Tahoe, Calif.


If Walt Disney had built a ski resort, he would have come up with something like Northstar-at-Tahoe. That's because this is a place where kids rule. Parents are, well, tag-alongs. So much is going on, with tubing, snowshoeing, ski-biking, dogsledding, and hucking and jamming in terrain parks, that traditional skiing seems almost superfluous. But not quite. While it's true that groomers as smooth as Yoplait are the foundation of this wind-protected, heavily wooded area, there are a half-dozen gnarly runs on new Lookout Mountain that will kick your butt. Readers grouse about negotiating hordes of SUVs on the access road, trekking to the lifts from a maze of parking lots and schlepping their kids' gear to the mid-mountain learning center. Fortunately, Northstar's staff goes the extra mile. And they literally have a playbook. If you prefer to teach your kids the basics of skiing, sign up for "Mommy, Daddy and Me." If you and your spouse need to alternate baby-sitting duties, buy the "Parent Predicament Pass." And if you must keep teens occupied, put 'em in new flex-time, all-day instruction. While people praise the resort as being "family-friendly," they'd like more amenities. Relief is in sight. A new village, more lifts and underground parking is planned. -Ken Castle

WHAT'S NEW A permanent SuperPipe at the bottom of Lower Dropoff, in view of the Big Springs Day Lodge, from which parents can see their kids hit big air while enjoying a drink at the new deck bar.

A GOOD DEAL The Stay and Ski Free program offers a studio condo and two adult lift tickets for $94 per night, per person.

MEDALS GOLD Grooming, Lifts, Service, Weather, Family Programs, Terrain Parks; Silver Snow, Terrain, Challenge, Access, On-Mountain Food, Off-Hill Activities.

HIGH/LOW RANK Family Programs (3), Terrain Parks (10), Grooming (11); Dining (39), Terrain (45), Challenge (47).

DON'T MISS Full-moon snowshoe tours to an old railroad caboose (converted to a trail hut) for a bonfire, hot chocolate and s'mores.

READER REMARKS (+) "An intermediate skier's dream, most black-diamonds are not steep." "Good, comfy family resort." (-) "Weekend crowds." "Unvaried terrain. Ski two runs, you've skied them all."

Great Lodging Deals here.