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Ski Resort Life

Independents Day: Sierra at Tahoe, Calif.

Whether you're an Olympic gold medalist or a family looking for fun, there's something for everyone at this classic independent California ski area.

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For kids, you can’t ask for a better place to learn to ski than Sierra-at-Tahoe, 25 minutes from South Lake Tahoe along scenic Highway 50. This is the kind of low-key place where lift tickets cost $76 a day, kids under four ski free, and families can ride the Grandview Express together to the top of the mountain and find everything from beginner-friendly cat tracks down Sugar n’ Spice to steep glades in the trees off Preacher’s Passion.

Don’t be fooled: Sierra has plenty of tougher terrain. When they’re open, the five backcountry gates into Huckleberry Canyon offer some of the finest powder skiing in the Sierra. (Don’t go without a friend and backcountry safety gear.) The terrain parks here are literally the breeding grounds of Olympic stars: Two-time Olympic champion in snowboard slopestyle Jamie Anderson and ski halfpipe Olympic gold medalist Maddie Bowman both grew up here. Even the wee ones are welcome in the park, thanks to well-designed toddler-sized jumps and features.

Sierra is home to everyone from the skier in jeans from Sacramento to the family from South Lake Tahoe with triplet four-year-old boys and parents who rip. When you go, grab a couple of midday tacos from the Baja Grill at the base of West Bowl and slide into an Adirondack chair in the sun. By day’s end, let the kids sled on the snowy hill in front of the lodge while you order up beer and curly fries at The Pub. Everyone is happy.

How to Get to Sierra at Tahoe, Calif. 

Because of their central location 12 miles west of South Lake Tahoe, Reno-Tahoe International Airport is a quick 90-minute drive into town. If you are coming from the Bay Area, SFO and Oakland are a mere 2.5 – 3.5 hours drive. There is a myriad of rideshare and shuttle options from both Reno and the Bay Area including the South Tahoe Express shuttle that provides round-trip transportation from Reno-Tahoe International to South Lake Tahoe. From town, catch the Free South Shore Shuttle to the mountain for a sustainable option. 

Sierra at Tahoe Skier Stats

  • Skiable Acres: 2,000
  • Annual Snowfall (inches): 400+
  • Summit Elevation (feet): 8,852
  • Vertical Drop (feet): 2,212

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Originally published in the January 2020 issue of SKI Magazine. For more great writing delivered directly to your inbox, SUBSCRIBE NOW.