Guide to Skiing and Snowboarding Tahoe South, California
Contrary to Eddard Stark, winter is not coming. Rather, it’s already come, or at least it’s come to Lake Tahoe, where many ski resorts by Christmas had already seen more snow then they saw all of last year. And that was less than a full week into winter. Naturally, I had to experience this first-hand. So last month I road-tripped to Tahoe South with Travel Mindset for a Lake Tahoe ski and snowboard trip. What did I find? Well let’s just say that it’s some of the best snow I’ve ridden on.
While I’ve frequently enjoying snowboarding Tahoe South’s premier ski resort, Heavenly Mountain, this was a chance to branch out and experience some of Lake Tahoe’s other ski resorts, such as Kirkwood and Sierra-at-Tahoe. So today I come to you with my guide to skiing and snowboarding Tahoe South ski resorts.
Guide to Skiing and Snowboarding Tahoe South
Heavenly Mountain Resort
For a first-time ski trip to Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain Resort is a great place to start. First of all, it’s the most convenient ski resort in Lake Tahoe, within walking distance of a number of hotels, plus it’s one of the largest California ski resorts. It’s at an elevation of 10,067 feet with 4,800 skiable acres, 97 runs, 28 chairlifts, and two terrain parks.
Heavenly Village serves as basecamp, where you’ll likely be renting your ski gear and doing après-ski immediately after a day on the mountain, and also where you buy your lift tickets and jump on the gondola to the top of the mountain. More experienced skiers, or those staying further afield from Heavenly Village, may choose to access the mountain from California Base Lodge or Stagecoach, both of which have parking and quick access to chairlifts.
Perhaps most unique to Lake Tahoe is Unbuckle Après Ski party, which takes place from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on weekends at Tamarack Lodge, located 9,150 feet up and the last stop on the gondola. One of Heavenly’s most central and popular gathering spots, Tamarack Lodge turns into an après-ski party late afternoon with deejays spinning music, go-go dancers, and food and drink specials.
Non-skiers in Lake Tahoe can also pay for a scenic ticket on the gondola, which includes access to the mid-station observation deck, Tamarack Lodge, and the Heavenly snow-tubing hill. Bonus points that Heavenly Mountain has some of the best views overlooking Lake Tahoe. Who could argue with this view?
Just 15 miles southwest of Tahoe South proper is Sierra-at-Tahoe. Half the skiable acres of Heavenly, Sierra-at-Tahoe is a great ski resort for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, featuring 25% beginner and 50% intermediate runs. Nonetheless, being nationally ranked with six terrain parks, Sierra-at-Tahoe is a playground for experienced skiers and snowboarders, and additionally is recognized in Lake Tahoe for its tree skiing. As such, it’s the home mountain for recent Winter Olympic medalists like Maddie Bowman and Jamie Anderson. That makes Sierra-at-Tahoe speak for itself.
For non-skiers and snowboarders, Sierra-at-Tahoe has a number of things to do, including three miles of snowshoe trails, several adventure zones for children, and two snow-tubing hills. By and large, it is a great ski resort in Tahoe South for families. The main lodge at Sierra-at-Tahoe features several dining options, but I personally liked Grandview Lodge for 360° Smokehouse BBQ (and its views). I am from North Carolina after all.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Lastly, there’s Kirkwood Mountain Resort, which is 30 miles south of Tahoe South. Generally speaking, Kirkwood is a locals’ mountain, characterized by no lift lines and uncrowded runs. However, this is in part due to it being for more experienced skiers and snowboarders, since the large majority of the runs are for intermediate and advanced riders.
One of the many upsides to Kirkwood Mountain is that during a good winter, it can see upwards of 500 inches of snow, more than most of the ski resorts in Lake Tahoe. Kirkwood Mountain Resort features 2,300 acres of skiable area, 86 trails, and 15 lifts. If you do nothing else, make sure you visit Kirkwood Inn & Saloon, located at the entrance of Kirkwood and dating back more than 150 years to the 1860s. Belly up to the bar, order a drink, and take in one of California’s oldest bars. You will have earned that drink.