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Tahoe Family vacation advice [Feb with teen boys]

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 


We are planning a week visit to the Tahoe area and looking for any advice/recommendations on specific areas to go to or stay at.


We have 2 families coming out and plan to rent a house somewhere to ski 6 days. Travelling out from MA on Sunday 2/16 and return 2/23. This is the presidents day week. We have 4 adults (2 couples) and 4 teens (boys 12-16). May add an additional teen or two if friends can tag along. Boys are all advanced skiers/riders (2 of each) and like all sorts of terrain, but solid terrain park will be a must at each location. Any black diamonds are fine, and many double black when conditions are good. Adults are a bit slower and enjoy more on trail conditions but can handle most black level trails.  I will generally go with the boys when they hit the harder stuff, but starting to have a hard time keeping up.


We did a similar trip to CO 2 years ago. Stayed at Breckenridge as a home base with a house 1 bus stop from the lifts. This worked great as we had three days that we could be leisurely in the morning  and go in different groups to and from the mountain. Some want to go bell to bell, but not all. Then we had three days where we hit the road to Copper, Vail and Keystone. All within an hour or so which was fine (other than parking at Vail). Also 5 Day pass at Breck was very flexible since we could go to Keystone, Vail, etc, if we wanted, or not. Planned a day off, but ended up taking the kids to Copper for Woodward camp. 


So trying to setup something similar in Tahoe.


My first plan was to get the Tahoe six pack, which at 329 for 6 days is an incredible deal. Although that seems like a lot more travel, I thought if we could do Squaw x2 and Alpine, Mt Rose, Heavenly and Kirkwood while making Squaw our home base, that it might not be too bad.   But, the boys tell me that we must go to Northstar for the terrain park as it is the best (true?) Also, Kirkwood and Sierra seem a long way and even Heavenly over an hour. (is the west side road closed in winter?).


Using the 6-pack from say Incline/Kings Beach area would reduce drive times, but we would have to drive every day, but also has the benefit of lower cost housing. If we did this, how are the drives and access to the mountains? Can you get in park and on the lift reasonably quickly at most areas? IE not like Vail. Will there be lots of traffic this week due to vacation? I don't think this is a school vacation week for CA, Nevada, so I would not expect midweek to be too bad. If we did this would probably do NorthstarX2, Squaw/Alpine, Rose, Heavenly, Kirkwood. Are there easy shuttles to North Star or even Squaw from this area? 



Another option is to get the Epic Pass Local Tahoe restricted pass. This is almost as cheap as the 6 pack (429/329/219!) for Adult/Teen/12yr. You have to go to Heavenly on Saturday, but other than that can go to Northstar/Heavenly/Kirkwood any day. Less mountains, but much more flexible.


If we go this way, we are leaning to stay in NorthStar. Somewhere on the free shuttle routes, but not ski-in out. No need to pay for that if going elsewhere some days. Would stay 3 or even 4 days here and 1 or 2 at heavenly and 1 to Kirkwood (seems far, but If I am in Tahoe and can't go to Squaw, I have to go to Kirkwood don't I?). My main drawback to this plan is that to me Northstar seems like something that I can get in New England. Nice area with what seems like a good layout and lift system, but not something worth going across the country for. By that I mean open bowls, some steep runs, great views, and at least a chance for deep powder.  


One alternative is stay close to Heavenly and travel up to Northstar 2x and Kirkwood 1.  More centrally located so less over all travelling. Also more housing at lower prices. But I can't seem to find houses that are actually on a frequent shuttle service. Am I missing something? Found a house I liked 1/2 mile away and when I asked how do you get to the lifts the answer was walk or drive. If we do have to drive, which side has better access (Stagecoach, Gondola, California)? For skiing Heavenly seems great for the adults,  with more open terrain and lake views that are missing at Northstar, but I am worried that the terrain parks won't be as good and/or the snowboarders will not like all the traversing that I have read about. 


Last option would be to stay at Kirkwood, and mainly stay there with just the one Saturday at Heavenly and 1 day at Northstar. This seems awesome to me, but I would have to sell the kids that the terrain parks are worthy, or be prepared to go to Northstar 2x. And also that there is enough on-piste terrain for the other adults. Housing seems limited, but less pricey than Northstar.



Does anyone know of any other Multi-resort multi-day ticket option in these price ranges? 


Also what areas if any provide something like the Breckenridge village area. Somewhere were we can park once and all walk around in separate groups visiting shops and/or pubs and then meet up for dinner. I hear South Lake has the best nightlife but if that means just casinos, nightclubs, etc then that is not what we are looking for.



Thanks in advance for any help and reading this far :-) sorry it was so long.

post #2 of 18

Yes, Northstar & Heavenly are most like New England skiing, Northstar is like a big Okemo and Heavenly is like Killington/Sunday River  (you have to spend half your time trying to get somewhere, you have to take 4 lifts and one of them you have to take twice). With that said, both of these areas have the best parks in Tahoe and Heavenly has some of the best views. Your thought of staying in Tahoe City has some merits for access to different areas. Staying on the north side of the lake gives you great options of Northstar (for trees & park and wind protection), Squaw/Alpine for the big mountain Tahoe experience (more than you would get by going to Kirkwood) and some smaller mtn experience (but bigger than the east) of Mt. Rose, Homewood and Sugarbowl. 


I am sure some others will chime in with more options. Oh and welcome to Epicski.

post #3 of 18

I know what you mean about not finding houses on shuttle lines in north Tahoe.  For a trip with friends a few years ago, we settled on staying in Tahoe City and driving to wherever we wanted to go skiing for the day.  Worked out nicely.


Trying to mix north and south Tahoe for a group as big as you have going is not the best option.  The drive really does take a while, even if the west side road is open.  Have seen it closed more than open during mid-winter.  Given that the teens are more interested in Northstar, why not stick with north Tahoe?  If you want great views of the lake, spend a day at Homewood.

post #4 of 18


I do not think that you will find better deal than "six pack". You can always sell/trade it on SF Craigslist, or Sacramento Craigslist for about $100 for Kirkwood/Heavenly combo. Still a great  deal for all involved. 

post #5 of 18

Pick one side of the lake and stay there.

Less is more

Less Driving, less stress

Kids will like Northstar, they have a nice small village

Definitely go to the Big Dog (Squaw Valley)

Tahoe City area is nice

Plenty of skiing options

post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies.

It sounds like staying on one side is the best way to go. Definitely right to keep the hassles to a minimum.

I had been trying to minimize lift ticket costs to allow more for lodging, extras, etc. It would be great to just pick a place to stay and then ski wherever we want each day, but single day tickets over 100 are a bit much.

I like the idea of getting the six pack and selling off the kirkwood and heavenly tickets.

Then I could do Northstar 2X, squaw, mt rose and look for individual deals for the other days. Must be some midweek deals out there. Homewood is an option I hadn't looked at didn't realize it was right there, decent price too.

Thanks again.
post #7 of 18
Originally Posted by MassSkier View Post

I like the idea of getting the six pack and selling off the kirkwood and heavenly tickets.



Disclaimer: Management reserves the right to confiscate this coupon for misuse or illegal resale and may subject parties to prosecution. Not valid for resale on eBay or other online auctions. Coupon may not be valid for other product exchanges. - See more at: http://www.skilaketahoe.com/lake-tahoe-six-pack-ticket-2013-14-season#sthash.kc6MiSNk.dpuf



You might get away with one or two, but 8x2=16.  


I really like North Lake Tahoe, but it doesn't sound like it really fits your requirements.

The shuttle system isn't very good.  With eight people, you'll need two rental cars.  If one couple wants to bail early, the other six will hardly fit in one car.

Isn't this also family ski week in Cali?

post #8 of 18

I should keep my cranky old trap shut, but...  If I were you, with your large group and all I would look into Park City or Aspen.  Will be much closer to the Breckenridge experience with a variety of skiing options and plenty of town to go out in.  Another plus is shorter flight time.  

post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the warning on the resale restrictions. Guess that's out.

Yeah we thought about Park City, but I've been to Utah several times before and we have some friends in Reno that we'd like to meet up with for a day or two, so decided on Tahoe.

Hadn't really thought about Aspen. Just assumed it was much more expensive for airfare and lodging.

Thanks again.
post #10 of 18
Originally Posted by MassSkier View Post

Thanks for the warning on the resale restrictions. Guess that's out.

Yeah we thought about Park City, but I've been to Utah several times before and we have some friends in Reno that we'd like to meet up with for a day or two, so decided on Tahoe.

Hadn't really thought about Aspen. Just assumed it was much more expensive for airfare and lodging.

Thanks again.

GIven that your friends are in Reno, certainly should give Mt. Rose a try.  It's really two places in one.  The nicer lodge for a lunch break is at the end of the road.

post #11 of 18

Focusing on either N or S Tahoe is wise.  Not sure about president’s week crowds but they might be bad with San Fran proximity.  (local would know better than me)


Sounds like you’re pretty set on Tahoe, but an option like Aspen would be have a lot of benefits in terms of day to day logistics.  To get there you can fly to aspen (no need for rental car) or fly to Denver and drive. 


Some other options you could consider:

Telluride (simple once you are there with side trip to Silverton possible)

Big Sky (side trip to Bridger)

Jackson Hole (side trips to GT and Snow King)


post #12 of 18

Your idea of staying in Incline works well for skiing Northstar, Mt. Rose, great for Diamond Peak and OK for Heavenly. Heavenly is about 45 minutes down the East shore, which can be slow if you get stuck behind someone as there are very few legal places to pass on the northern half. Kirkwood would add close to another hour and longer if storming. Getting to Squaw or Alpine will take longer than Northstar, especially that week when a lot of Northern CA schools have the whole week off and you will have traffic getting to Tahoe City and from Tahoe City to ski area. Saturday and Sunday (when it sounds like you will not yet be skiing) are the only really crowded days and both the 6-packs and my Tahoe Value pass are blacked out. Even during the week, get to Northstar early or you will be parking in remote lot. Heavenly Stagecoach lot also fills sometimes.


If you want the ski village experience, staying at Northstar or Squaw are your best choices, but they will be expensive that week. Heavenly also has a village at the base of the gondola, but is very close to US-50 plus the gondola can have a line both going up and down. It is very short walking distance to casinos which for adults have many entertainment options besides gambling and have some large arcades for then under-21s.   

post #13 of 18

During the "ski week" Squaw and Alpine will be crowded, but nothing unusual for an East Coaster.  Here in CA we complain about the lines when there is more than a dozen people in the maze... If you pick North Tahoe, Tahoe City and surrounding areas are probably your best bet with Truckee being close second.  Ski-in-ski-out accommodations at Squaw or Northstar are good but expensive and may not make much sense for someone who wants to travel around.  Car is a good idea, the shuttle system works but is slow.  


Don't miss Squaw/Alpine, otherwise you will be in danger of not getting what this Tahoe skiing is all about (Kirkwood will give you some taste, but it is smaller, is a bit quirky, and does not have any lake views).  Northstar definitely does not have that kind of terrain and feels like an East Coast ski area with better snow.  I am not familiar with Northstar parks, but they have been heavily marketed because of Shawn White, so some of the buzz may be related to that.  


Squaw and Alpine are a combined ticket right now, so a multi-day ticket can save you some money.  Tip #1:  if you want to avoid the crowds, get decent parking and some of the best snow- come to the mountain early; that probably applies to all of the areas and especially during the "ski week".     You can pretty much forget about nightlife in N. Tahoe, but if the skiing is good, you won;t have any strength for that anyway.   There are a some good restaurants in the area, if you decide to sample, try to make reservations- its a busy week and good spots fill fast.  Northstar village has free ice skating, kids like that and adults can drink margaritas at the sideline.  If the weather is good, Squaw skating rink is a phenomenal experience because its at 8,000 feet high on the mountain shoulder and the views are gorgeous.  You have to pay for the tram ride though and you can get the same views while you are skiing.


If it's storming, your best bets on N.Shore will be Homewood, Northstar, Alpine, and Squaw in this order.  Homewood and NorthStar are sheltered from the Sierra Crest winds, Alpine has better layout for a storm day, and Squaw shuts down all the top lifts and turns into a clusterf&ck.  Whatever stays open at Squaw is fantastic (think steep sustained powdery pitches in the trees), but it's definitely on the advanced-expert part of the spectrum, and the lift lines are very long even by East coast standards.   But skiing KT22 on a good powder day is as good as anything I've ever done on skis.  


Last advice- keep in mind that East Coast black and West Coast black are two very different beasts, so always approach the mountain with respect and good judgment.  If you don't have good all-terrain (e.g. wide) skis, rent them, they can significantly enhance your skiing experience.   Finally (a shameless plug), read the Unofficial Guides on this site to get a better idea of what to expect when you are skiing each of the resorts.

Edited by alexzn - 11/16/13 at 3:06pm
post #14 of 18
A good friend of mine has a nice 5BR in Tahoe City on VRBO (sleeps 10-12). Let me know if you're interested in that size place and I'll forward him your info.
post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for more good info.

I was not aware that presidents week was actually a school vacation week in NorCal. Assumed they were on the march spring break schedule like other parts of the west (Az/Co anyway).

While we haven't actually booked anything, I think we are set on Tahoe. Our original plan was Jackson, but that got put off to 2015/16 because we have some Wyoming native friends that we wanted to do that with and they were not available this year. My wife and I have been to Tahoe back in the 90s (Alpine, Rose, Northstar) and enjoyed it and looking forward to going back as better skiers now.

Looks like we may go Monday to Monday now as airfare out of New Engalnd is difficult that weekend and we are trying to use some Frequent Flyer miles.

Anyway, we are definitely looking to use VRBO and I am sure I have seen the one above as that is exactly what we are looking for. Can you get us a discount? :-). It is odd that some places charge big markup for that week similar to Xmas/ New Years and others very little or not at all.

Have narrowed down to the region between Squaw and Carmelian Bay at this point. Not sure yet on how we will do the ski tickets. May still get the 6 pack and off load what we dont want/use to my Reno friends. Strange that Sqauw still doesn't have individual/multi day ticket prices listed. Anyone know if they have separate kid/teen rates. If teens are adults then the 6 pack would be about the same as 3 days anyway, and we still get a day at Rose which we will definitely do as they have season passes.

Actually found one interesting place that is on the back side of Alpine with parking access at Sherwood lift. Does anyone know if that would be a good option? I am worried that if that lift or access to it closes for wind, etc, you would be stuck on the wrong side of the ridge with no way to get back. Also, would then want to use the shuttle from Alpine to Squaw. Does it run often and is it a reasonably short ride (10/15min?)

As for the Terrain parks at Northstar you are probably right that it is the Shaun White hype that caught my kids eyes. I would suspect that Sqauw/Alpine have sufficient parks. Besides its not as if they can ride the Olympic sized features anyway. A good park to them means lots of choice of features that they can actually do, plus good lift access, preferably high speed quad. They thought Breck was good, but crowded and needs a new lift and Vail was awesome because it was empty and had a high speed quad.

As for east vs west trail ratings, yes we are aware of that, and Colorado did showcase that to some extent but it was nice that the really extreme stuff wasn't easily accessible. I think I will really need to keep an eye on them at Squaw. I did read the guide and that will be a good help in knowing where to go and expect..

post #16 of 18

Here's my friend's house in the Dollar Point area of Tahoe City:  http://www.vrbo.com/376950


Easy to get to Squaw, Alpine, Homewood, or Northstar...

post #17 of 18

My friend was assistant ski patrol director at Squaw and passed away a couple of years ago. His widow runs a North Lake Tahoe vacation rental company and I hope nobody minds if I give them a plug. See http://www.tahoemoonproperties.com/

post #18 of 18


Man - that's a whole bunch of questions, so here's my take:


Northstar Terrain Park best?  Yes, large area of parks nicely  graduated from 2 to 24ft high features. Shawn White hung out there a year or so ago to practice, but he'll probly be in Russia for Oly's.  Several pipes, when some resorts have none.


Time between Squaw and Heavenly/Kirk?  1.5 hours to Heav (more if road closed); 2-2.5 hrs to Kirk depending on roads (often chains).


Lots of traffic on holiday week?  Yes, especially if snow is good.


Drive and Park easily?  Yes (before 8 am);  No any other time.  Some areas like Alpine and Kirk have limited parking.


Can't find houses in southlake on shuttle service, are u missing something?  Yes you are.  Hard to find something not on shuttle/bus system, but you've done it, apparently.


Side of Heavenly w/ "better access"? (stage/Cali/Gondo)?  Cali imo, but you can get around at any of them.


Worry about terrain parks other places besides Northstar?  Depends on the year, Heavenly had nice parks last year, but it varies - and some is very extreme.


Walking villages?  Squaw has best apres ski activities; Northstar has a village like that; Heav has the town;  others not really (kirk has skiing and that's about it).


Stay at Kirk? Nobody does that unless they have their own place; it is in the middle of no-where; good snow and skiing,  and pretty mountain, however.  Lame terrain park there, but very interesting natural features to ski, you will see if you go there. Steeps and trees.


Nightlife at SouthLake casinos and such?  yes it is.


There was a comment about Homewood during storms being open and everything else kaput due to wind;  that does happen.


You don't have to ski every resort on one trip; you probably won't be able to anyways.  Have fun.

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