When it’s storming in Tahoe—and trust us, that happens a lot—Northstar becomes a hidden gem. Because while chairlifts at other, higher-elevation resorts get shut down due to wind, Northstar’s sheltered backside and Lookout Mountain tend to stay open. The mountain caters to beginners and intermediates, and, as one reader puts it, “No one skis off-trail, so you can find powder stashes days after a dump.”
You won’t uncover the gnarliest terrain in Tahoe here—the 20-something bro-brahs tend to head elsewhere— but you will be greeted by a friendly staff that’s welcoming to families, terrain parks good enough for Olympic halfpipers, and plenty of ski-in/ski-out dining and upscale hotels, including a mid-mountain Ritz-Carlton with its own ski-up barbecue joint. Since you have to ride a shuttle, then walk through the village in your ski boots, readers’ biggest grumble is the lengthy commute from the parking lot to the lifts. Make it more bearable by stopping for a breakfast sandwich in the village at Copper Lane Cafe. — Megan Michelson
Northstar’s 2020 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank: 19th in the West
- FAMILY EXPERIENCE: Rent ice skates at the rink in the village and roast marshmallows at the neighboring fire pits.
- APRÈS-SKI: Every afternoon at 2 p.m. on the resort’s East Ridge Trail, you’ll be served a glass of (free!) slopeside champagne, or head to Petra, the wine bar in the village.
- GOOD VALUE: Stay in the nearby town of Truckee to save on lodging costs. The Cedar House Sport Hotel has an outdoor hot tub and a free shuttle to the slopes.
SKI Magazine’s 2019 Review of Northstar, Calif.
The easy-living ski capital of Lake Tahoe, Northstar knows how to treat skiers right. Daily Champagne toast? Check. Roasted S’mores in the village? Yep. Craft cocktails by the ice rink? You bet. But just because the place has sweet amenities doesn’t mean there isn’t good skiing to be had—especially for families and intermediates looking to cruise groomers in a beautiful backdrop. Leave the masses behind on East Ridge, a meandering blue off of the summit that tends to get overlooked.
North Shore Tahoe skiers face a perennial question: Squaw or Northstar? While Northstar will never match Squaw’s steeps, it wins out as the destination for skiers seeking some chilled-out California luxury. Northstar’s snowmaking and corduroy are first-rate, and the resort gets high marks for Grooming and Kid Friendliness thanks to a fun base village with fire pits, gazebos, and restaurants encircling a skating rink where s’mores and cocktails are enjoyed. Long gondola lines on weekends are a drawback, though families looking to splurge can stay at the Ritz-Carlton at mid-mountain. Long black-diamond groomers on the back side are ideal for high-speed, no-stress carving, and advanced tree skiers should hit the Monument and Sugar Pine glades. Day-trippers likewise had best avoid weekends, when crowds make for a long schlep from the parking lots. And hipsters, be warned: The family vibe means quiet evenings.
Come to Northstar for the…
- DINNER RESERVATIONS Feast on the veal shank at Tavern 6330, which offers signature cocktails, microbrews, and casual fine foods in the base village.
- APRÈS SPOT Yes, 2 p.m. may be early for après, but that’s when servers pour a free glass of champagne at Töst on scenic East Ridge.
- MUST DO Get priority lift access and first dibs on the best instructors with the Primo lesson, which combines top-level teaching and guiding with a five-star concierge service.