Tahoe Winter Resorts Where You Can Bring the Whole Family
Nearly every ski resort in the US touts itself as family-friendly, with features such as a ski and snowboard school for youngsters, but not all are created equal. In Lake Tahoe, four mountain destinations stand out for their focus on helping both kids and parents have a great time on and off the slopes.
Northstar California Resort
Family fun is effortless at Northstar. Known for its compact village with a variety of restaurants and activities—from a movie theater to candle making—you’ll find plenty of entertainment both during the day (for those who aren’t skiing) and after the lifts close. On the mountain, budding Olympians love the themed Kids Adventure Zones, where interactive natural and man-made structures offer a fun way to improve skills on intermediate-level terrain. A tubing hill is also available—always a hit with kids.
However, it’s the little details that make families fall in love with Northstar, such as s’mores served daily in the village when ski school ends and complimentary sparkling wine and cider poured in the afternoon. Per communications manager Stephanie Myers: “The resort fosters comfortable, natural fun with fireside cabanas tucked around the ice skating rink, where you can have a great filet and your kids can run around in ski boots.”
Made up of two separate mountains, Palisades Tahoe is Lake Tahoe’s largest resort, providing variety to satisfy all family members, no matter their age and skiing level. “Our mountains are iconic for our extreme terrain, but one of the hidden gems at Squaw Valley is actually the beginner terrain at our High Camp area,” says public relations coordinator Alex Spychalsky. “While many resorts relegate beginners to a small slope adjacent to the parking lot, beginners visiting Squaw Valley travel 2,000 feet (610 meters) up our Aerial Tram to reach our mellow, green circle beginner area.”
Off the slopes, Disco Tubing at SnoVentures Activity Zone is a popular nighttime event with firepits, a DJ, and laser lights for a festive twist on the typical tubing experience. A mini-snowmobile track is also available during the day, and if you visit during President’s Day week, the annual Kid-O-Rama festival features activities such as carnival games, fireworks, crafts, s’mores parties, and dress-up days.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort
One of Lake Tahoe’s smaller resorts, Diamond Peak strives to make family skiing as accessible as possible with free lift tickets for kids 6 years and under (the oldest free-ticket limit in Tahoe) and youth pricing up to 23, which means even families whose kids are in college can still receive discounts. This is in addition to a parents’ pass, where two parents can take turns skiing and watching their little ones for the price of one adult ticket—a rare perk among American ski resorts.
Diamond Peak provides a seamless experience with slope-side parking options and one base area that all runs lead to, making it easy to meet up for lunch and not worry about your kids getting lost. As Child Ski Center manager James Pedersen puts it: “What really makes Diamond Peak special is the fact that we’re community-owned, which means that we always put customer service first and try to ensure that every family has the best ski day possible.”
The only resort on this list in the southern half of Lake Tahoe, aka South Lake, Sierra-at-Tahoe attracts families with its “Certified Unserious” theme, which puts the focus on the pure enjoyment of skiing and riding, starting at the ski and ride school. “Every aspect of our children’s programs have been created with ease and learning in mind, including the SMART terrain program—parts of the beginner hill that are groomed into banked turns and rollers to ease the learning process—to hassle-free check-in,” says Ski and Ride School director Dan Healy.
Off the slopes, Sierra’s Blizzard Mountain features sledding, a snow-play area, and tubing with lift access. Plus, like Diamond Peak, a Parent Predicament ticket is available for parents to take turns on the hill and in the lodge with their kids.