Once you get past Squaw, Alpine, Kirkwood, and Sugar Bowl, you've still got most of the Tahoe resorts ahead of you! By all means check out these places -- there are reasons to go to every one. Mostly, I've found these resorts are places to go occasionally, when you've got some friends in town who don't want to ski too hard, or you're looking for shelter on a storm day, or the kids need to learn to ride. But maybe you'll find one of these is your favorite Tahoe hangout.
For years, we used to refer to NorthStar as "FlatStar", a comment that became only more appropriate when I switched to a snowboard from skis. Although the comment is still applicable, there are several things going for NorthStar that make sure I get there at least once a season: the backside of the hill is totally great gladed tree riding, with open slopes and nicely pruned forests from boundary rope to boundary rope; the staff is friendly and attitude is low; and, most importantly, NorthStar is far more sheltered from severe winds than the big resorts.
When Squaw, Alpine, and Sugar Bowl are virtually closed down because there are 100mph winds over the ridgetops -- head for NorthStar, and get there early to beat the brutal lines on the gondola. Get up the hill, head to the back, and ride in relative comfort all day (then go home and get to sleep early to be on the first Tram at Squaw the next morning!)
Of course, the other advantage of NorthStar is that it's a convienent ten-minute drive from Lanza's in King's Beach, the best post-hard-day-of-skiing restaurant in the North Lake -- hot, hearty, filling Italian food. But don't let that influence you...
Frankly, I've never liked Heavenly (I don't care for gambling, so the fact that it's next door to South Lake Tahoe's casinos isn't a big draw). But it's large (although low; don't look for good snow conditions here most of the year), and it does have one indisputable advantage: absolutely the best views of Lake Tahoe of any ski resort. Spending a beautiful clear spring day here admiring the lake is a worthwhile pursuit, all the more so if you're heading into South Lake Tahoe afterwards.
"Old Steep and Cheap" hasn't really changed all that much over the years; it's still steep in many places, it's still cheap, and it's still the highest resort at Tahoe, with the tendancy to have the best snow implied by that. When the weather conditions have closed out your other choices (i.e., it's raining at all the other mountains), tool on other to the east side of the lake and head up the imposing Mt. Rose road. Nice resort, if small enough that I don't come here much unless the weather beckons...
A fun place to take a break at. This is a very 'locals' resort, due to lower prices and easy access from Tahoe City, which accounts for its "Homeywood" nickname. Nice enough place, too -- take the hike too far, far skiers' right and check out the Lake. Again, small enough that I don't come here that much; but I would if I stayed in Tahoe City!
And where do I stay, you ask? Well, ever since 1985 I've gotten together with a group of friends and rented a cabin at Lake Tahoe for the winter season; this kind of group cabin is a Lake Tahoe mainstay and a great way to set yourself up for plenty of winter fun. All of those years except one, my cabin has been in the development called Tahoe Donner just northwest of the town of Truckee. TD is a great location for a cabin - right on the way into the basin - although the access road to it (Northwoods Drive) is a 10% slope nightmare in a storm.
Here's the group from my 1997-98 ski cabin: (top rowL to R) Oren Jacob, Grace Chen, Graham Walters, Larry Cutler (front row L to R) Ronen Barzel, Lisa Forssell
There's actually a ski resort up in Tahoe Donner as well, but it's really only for when you want to get out a little. More encouraging is the cross-country ski resort up the street; it's quite a nice cross-country resort when you don't have the momentum to make it over to Royal Gorge, especially down in the Euer Valley section.
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