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Resorts near San Fran [family trip from New Zealand]

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 

Hey guys.

 

 

So what was first happening, was my family was going to Sun Peaks. But now Mum wanted to change for only resorts we can drive to from San Fran. So I am enquiring what is better, Mammouth mountain or Lake Tahoe or does anyone have any other suggestions? It needs to have good snow and abundant beginner runs. 

 

Cheers

post #2 of 33

There are a bunch of good ski areas in the North Lake Tahoe area.  Sugar Bowl might be the closest by a few minutes to San Francisco:

http://www.epicski.com/a/sugar-bowl-ca-a-pictorial

post #3 of 33

In the winter Tahoe is half the distance from SF that Mammoth is. I'd remove Mammoth from consideration if you meant "...can drive to from San Fran conveniently."

post #4 of 33

Google Maps says the drive from San Fransisco to the Tahoe region is around 3 hours.  Are you on a ski vacation or just a general vacation with some skiing thrown in?  If you expect to stay in SF and ski every day it wouldn't make much sense.

post #5 of 33

According to Google Maps, well, thats not as accurate is it should be. 

 

The Drive time to Mammoth Lakes from San Francisco is 5 1/2 hrs - ish 

The Drive time to Tahoe is 3 1/2 hrs - ish, but if the traffic in the city is crazy, or if you're coming in on a Friday, you may as well figure almost 5 hours from San Francisco to Tahoe. 

 

I've never driven from San Francisco to Mammoth so I have no idea what the traffic or chain control possibilities can be.  Perhaps someone with that knowledge can chime in. 

 

I will say the thing Mammoth has going for it is the wind buff that they're famous for, that give you a nice chalky snow even when conditions aren't the best. 

 

I don't think you said when you're taking this trip.  What time of year? 

post #6 of 33

Tahoe will have more than enough areas to check out. Stay in a place by the Lake and ski Heavenly, Squaw, and Kirkwood. Those are 3 top mountains with more than enough thrills at each of them.

post #7 of 33
I believe the OP mentioned "abundant beginner runs." Thrills are not necessarily what they're after,

I'm guessing Northstar is more the ticket.

That said, Sun Peaks would be my choice. No crowds, great ski-in ski-out accomodations/village and drier snow than Tahoe.
post #8 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post
 

Google Maps says the drive from San Fransisco to the Tahoe region is around 3 hours.  Are you on a ski vacation or just a general vacation with some skiing thrown in?  If you expect to stay in SF and ski every day it wouldn't make much sense.

That 3-hour drive can be like Gilligan's "3-hour tour" when there is a weather issue, traffic coming out of the City, traffic around Fairfield, and traffic around Sacramento.  Mammoth is too far away in the winter, unless taking a cheap flight (and there are some).  Lake Tahoe is the better bet if driving. Heavenly has enough beginner terrain in SLT, and N* is fine in the north end of the lake.  For beginners, just about any area in the vicinity--and there are less expensive ones--would work well.  Housing can be inexpensive in the casinos around Stateline.  The prices vary greatly depending upon demand.  In the past couple of years snow making was important. Let's hope that isn't necessary this season! 

post #9 of 33

OP lives in New Zealand and is in high school.  He started the planning for the family a while back.  Apparently they have enjoyed skiing in Europe.

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/127758/skiing-in-america-earlyjanuary

post #10 of 33
Quote:
The Drive time to Mammoth Lakes from San Francisco is 5 1/2 hrs - ish 

??? That's in the summer when Tioga is open.  In the winter you have to drive THROUGH Tahoe (or Kirkwood, just as long) to get to Mammoth from SF.  So closer to 7 hours.  Nonetheless there are situations where it will be worth it to do that (when it rained at Tahoe but snowed at Mammoth, or a late season warm spell).

 

I now notice the early January timing and 10 days from the other thread.  The Sierra resorts are best done with a rental car visiting multiple areas.  Thus not as good a beginner trip as the places in that thread (Aspen/Telluride, Big Sky, Sun Peaks) where you are "settled in" at a resort with easy ski access or maybe a short free bus ride.   In the Sierra you must have 4WD or chains if it snows.

 

With 10 days in early January leaving/returning to SF by car I would take to trouble to give Mammoth up to half of that time.  If June Mt has enough snow, it's a great area for beginners: very quiet with long easy and scenic runs from the top.  Mammoth has plenty of easy terrain, but most of it is near the lodges, which can be hectic on weekends though no problem midweek.

 

At Tahoe Northstar is the obvious choice for abundant beginner terrain, though on a busy weekend or holiday it will be less than ideal, especially for day skiers.  The lower lifts at Kirkwood are good, and the beginner sector of Squaw is up high and scenic with tram access (so you can ride it down too).   Heavenly seems to be the most famous area for international visitors. The casinos are near its base and most of the Tahoe lodging is in that area.  IMHO Heavenly's terrain is great for intermediates but not good at all for true beginners.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 8/3/14 at 4:05pm
post #11 of 33

It's great you are planning to come to North America to ski. Looking at this post and your previous post IMHO the idea of a ski commute from Frisco is probably the least desirable option or maybe I misunderstood. Perhaps your mom just wants to use Frisco as the port of entry then travel to your ski destination. Please clarify. 

For the record, barring rush hour traffic, it is a 4 to 5 hour drive to Sun Peaks from Vancouver Airport and mostly 4 lane although with one big snowy pass (Coquihalla) but being from New Zealand you will be comfortable with that type of road. Also Vancouver is no slouch as a city to visit.

post #12 of 33

Abundant beginner runs - Northstar.  Reliable snow in Tahoe in January = snowmaking = Northstar.


Just don't plan to drive up on a Friday afternoon/evening if you can possibly avoid it.  Not the most restful experience after a long haul flight.

post #13 of 33
Another thought: if one is going to fly from NZ to San Francisco, why not also take the short flight from SF to Mammoth?

Or for that matter from Vancouver to Kamloops?
post #14 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by DesiredUsername View Post

Another thought: if one is going to fly from NZ to San Francisco, why not also take the short flight from SF to Mammoth?

Or for that matter from Vancouver to Kamloops?


Or SF to Reno.

post #15 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by DesiredUsername View Post

Another thought: if one is going to fly from NZ to San Francisco, why not also take the short flight from SF to Mammoth?

Or for that matter from Vancouver to Kamloops?

Probably because it is a San Francisco-centered vacation, and not one exclusively for skiing.  There is a lot to do around the City for tourists...

post #16 of 33

To the OP,

 

If your mum wants to spend time in a city and you want to ski, there are better places than San Fransisco. 

 

If you want to stay on the West Coast, Vancouver would work well.  It is a vibrant, incredibly beautiful city with skiing close enough that you can take the city bus to the lift.  While it's very close in, Vancouver skiing is not as good as Tahoe but you can probably fit in a day or two at Whistler which is world class, and much closer to Van than Tahoe is to SF.  For your mum, it's a stunning place to be, with shopping and cultural amenities to rival anywhere.  It blows San Francisco out of the water for natural beauty and is it's equal at least for being cosmopolitan.

 

If for some reason you want to be in the States, Seattle is somewhat similar, but it's farther from skiing (.75 - 1.5 hours), though the skiing is better (except if you factor in Whistler).  Both places are better ski destinations than SF.

 

Portland could work too. It's a bit more quirky and, similar to Seattle, is over an hour from skiing.  It's a super cool city for the young crowd.  If you're 21 or over it's a beer lover's paradise.

 

The traffic to the ski hills from all of these cities is much less of a problem than from San Francisco.

post #17 of 33

^ I think you might be missing the point - Mum has decided for whatever reason that SFO is the entry point (well served by flights, interesting city etc etc?) and therefore its a matter of maximising the ski experience from there.  They would be insane if they were thinking about day tripping from the city so the traffic is only really an issue outbound and return which basically equates to avoid Friday nights/Sunday pm return and hope you don't hit a storm. Tahoe would be fine for them - places like Northstar are custom designed for this exact demographic.  Plus there are a range of places to stay from Incline to Tahoe City and Truckee if you don't want the full on cheese of NS village itself.

post #18 of 33

Well, Mum may be influenced to change her mind if some of her requirements are met elsewhere.  I was trying to give him some other options to discuss.  The difference between Sun Peaks and San Francisco is huge and she is sure not to be swayed if that is what there is to choose from.  Not so much with the other places, so he might stand a chance to reach a compromise.  We don't know the family dynamics, so all we can do is give possibly helpful information and let the OP do what he will with it.

post #19 of 33
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys, yeah San Fran will just be the entry point to Tahoe/wherever we go. It will be very early January and we are a mix between intermediate and beginner skiers.

Cheers

post #20 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by HaydenSchampers View Post

Thanks guys, yeah San Fran will just be the entry point to Tahoe/wherever we go. It will be very early January and we are a mix between intermediate and beginner skiers.



Cheers


 



If you decide to do a North Lake Tahoe ski safari and visit a few areas, besides skiing the big ones like Squaw and Northstar, I think your group would enjoy a mellow day at Homewood. Cheap, low crowds, and incredibly scenic low-intermediate runs: http://www.epicski.com/a/homewood-ca-a-pictorial

I did a ski trip using SFO as the gateway airport a couple years ago including some sightseeing in San Francisco, it's a great combination of activities: http://www.dcski.com/forum/69289
post #21 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post
.....
I think your group would enjoy a mellow day at Homewood. Cheap, low crowds, and incredibly scenic low-intermediate runs:

 

Quail Face... :)

 

 

and of course... powder days... :D

 

post #22 of 33

On your way from SF to Tahoe, consider taking the Jelly Belly factory tour and visiting the Auburn Ale House.  There's probably some Gold Rush history to be had along the way, too.

post #23 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by LouD-Reno View Post

 

Quail Face... smile.gif

 

 

and of course... powder days... biggrin.gif

 

 



Nice Lou. That first video is what I'm talking about for novices. Maybe save Quail Face for the second day after they get some practice :-)
post #24 of 33

If I were the OP and wanted to ski the area with some beginner terrain and the most intermediate terrain (Heavenly), I'd visit a few Amador County wineries during the drive to the southern side of the lake.    

 

I can think of two weeks of activities to do around SF, too.  I hope they have a great vacation.


Edited by quant2325 - 8/7/14 at 4:28pm
post #25 of 33
Ummm......quant, your link had nothing to do with wineries or skiing. Mistake?
post #26 of 33

I've had bad luck with Tahoe in the winter, so I'll recommend an alternative. Badger Pass, within Yosemite National Park, is a great little area, particularly for beginners and intermediates. The employees are friendly, and it's much more laid back than the big Tahoe resorts. And they have fantastic grooming.

 

So, it's definitely a fun resort, but the biggest draw is probably Yosemite itself. You could easily spend a day at Yosemite Valley, and if you're flying all the way to San Francisco, it'd kind of be a shame not to see it. If you get bored at Badger Pass, you can head out of the park to the south, see the giant sequoia trees, and ski a day or two at China Peak, potentially.

 

Hopefully some others here might be able to weigh in with more experience on the ski conditions... I've had fantastic conditions on one trip to Badger/China Peak, and lousy conditions on two trips to Tahoe, but that could very well just be random chance. However, I am confident in recommending Yosemite Valley, no matter the conditions. It's that spectacular.

post #27 of 33

There are a lot of alternatives on this trip if snow is not cooperative, Yosemite being one of them.  Badger and China Peak get mostly the same Sierra weather as everyone else.  They are low altitude so get more rain than the higher Tahoe areas.  Early January I would leave the lodging decisions flexible.  You will not have any difficulty finding it, especially midweek. 

post #28 of 33

Since you are driving from San Francisco, you need to be aware that the drive to Mammoth would take close to 8 hours with dry roads. The ski resorts around Lake Tahoe are 3.5 to 4.5 hours from "the City" with dry roads and moderate traffic. Tahoe has 2 main regions - South (up US Highway 50 from Sacramento) and North (up Interstate 80).  Mammoth is a fabulous place with everything, but it is a circuitous drive as most other cross-Sierra highways are closed by snow in winter.

 

South Lake Tahoe resorts include Heavenly, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood.  Heavenly is huge and is nearest most of the lodging, including the big casino hotels at the Nevada state line. Lots of long groomed intermediate runs with terrific views, but it can be difficult to keep a group together. Sierra is a half-hour drive from town, and is a great (medium-sized for Tahoe) resort with a nice variety of terrain for all, nice facilities and high-speed lifts to access nearly the entire area, and it is much easier to stay together there.  Kirkwood is a lovely, remote (45-minute drive from town) medium-to large place with deep snowfall, great advanced terrain and some interesting intermediate and novice terrain.  Many of the lifts are slower fixed-grip chairlifts, but there are two high-speed lifts, one each accessing advanced terrain and novice-low intermediate runs.  Most of the longer runs are advanced level.

 

North Tahoe has a total of 11 ski resorts from small to huge, and a variety of lodging options around the lake shore and in Squaw Valley and Truckee.  Each ski area has its own flavor - busy Northstar all tree-lined, mostly long, easy runs nearly all from high-speed lifts.  Giant Squaw Valley with wide-open (more like NZ) bowls and an incredible variety of terrain and huge lift system.  Cool, fun Alpine Meadows and Sugar Bowl with bowls, chutes, some tree-lined runs, great lifts and a more relaxed vibe.  Funky, wonderful mid-size Homewood with spectacular lake views, trees and open areas, always open even on windy days, old-fashioned and uncrowded. Smaller Diamond Peak, with less snowfall and variety than Homewood, but nicer lodge facilities, also has great lake views and is probably the best in Tahoe for keeping track of each other - DP and Homewood are each a great antidote from the bigger resorts.  High-elevation Mt.Rose has great lifts and terrain, especially for upper intermediates and above (but some nice easier stuff with decent length, too).  Then there are a few smaller places, too - Boreal, Donner Ski Ranch, Soda Springs and Tahoe-Donner - that can be appealing even though the runs are short and there is less variety.  If you only ski or ride a small part of a mountain anyway, want to save money, or just want a shorter day without the stress of parking, shuttles, long walking, etc. then the mid and smaller places can be just right.  Plenty of choices and something for everyone around North Tahoe.

 

My favorites as a life-long SF-area skier - Squaw, Sugar Bowl, Homewood, Alpine, Sierra and Kirkwood - but Rose and DP are high on the list for certain situations and conditions, too.

 

Check out the map to get the lay of the land, look at the websites to choose where to go, then be willing to change plans if the weather turns blustery, snowy, sunny, warm or colder (sunny - anywhere, windy - avoid Squaw, Rose, Heavenly, snowy or poor visibility - go where there are more trees for contrast like Homewood, Northstar or Sierra).  Look at the websites of the various resorts - have fun with the anticipation, and hope that this winter we get the usual 7 to 12 meters of snowfall, rather than half that amount as we have had the last couple of years.

post #29 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by KJCee View Post

Since you are driving from San Francisco, you need to be aware that the drive to Mammoth would take close to 8 hours with dry roads. The ski resorts around Lake Tahoe are 3.5 to 4.5 hours from "the City" with dry roads and moderate traffic. Tahoe has 2 main regions - South (up US Highway 50 from Sacramento) and North (up Interstate 80).  Mammoth is a fabulous place with everything, but it is a circuitous drive as most other cross-Sierra highways are closed by snow in winter.



 



South Lake Tahoe resorts include Heavenly, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood.  Heavenly is huge and is nearest most of the lodging, including the big casino hotels at the Nevada state line. Lots of long groomed intermediate runs with terrific views, but it can be difficult to keep a group together. Sierra is a half-hour drive from town, and is a great (medium-sized for Tahoe) resort with a nice variety of terrain for all, nice facilities and high-speed lifts to access nearly the entire area, and it is much easier to stay together there.  Kirkwood is a lovely, remote (45-minute drive from town) medium-to large place with deep snowfall, great advanced terrain and some interesting intermediate and novice terrain.  Many of the lifts are slower fixed-grip chairlifts, but there are two high-speed lifts, one each accessing advanced terrain and novice-low intermediate runs.  Most of the longer runs are advanced level.



 



North Tahoe has a total of 11 ski resorts from small to huge, and a variety of lodging options around the lake shore and in Squaw Valley and Truckee.  Each ski area has its own flavor - busy Northstar all tree-lined, mostly long, easy runs nearly all from high-speed lifts.  Giant Squaw Valley with wide-open (more like NZ) bowls and an incredible variety of terrain and huge lift system.  Cool, fun Alpine Meadows and Sugar Bowl with bowls, chutes, some tree-lined runs, great lifts and a more relaxed vibe.  Funky, wonderful mid-size Homewood with spectacular lake views, trees and open areas, always open even on windy days, old-fashioned and uncrowded. Smaller Diamond Peak, with less snowfall and variety than Homewood, but nicer lodge facilities, also has great lake views and is probably the best in Tahoe for keeping track of each other - DP and Homewood are each a great antidote from the bigger resorts.  High-elevation Mt.Rose has great lifts and terrain, especially for upper intermediates and above (but some nice easier stuff with decent length, too).  Then there are a few smaller places, too - Boreal, Donner Ski Ranch, Soda Springs and Tahoe-Donner - that can be appealing even though the runs are short and there is less variety.  If you only ski or ride a small part of a mountain anyway, want to save money, or just want a shorter day without the stress of parking, shuttles, long walking, etc. then the mid and smaller places can be just right.  Plenty of choices and something for everyone around North Tahoe.



 



My favorites as a life-long SF-area skier - Squaw, Sugar Bowl, Homewood, Alpine, Sierra and Kirkwood - but Rose and DP are high on the list for certain situations and conditions, too.



 



Check out the map to get the lay of the land, look at the websites to choose where to go, then be willing to change plans if the weather turns blustery, snowy, sunny, warm or colder (sunny - anywhere, windy - avoid Squaw, Rose, Heavenly, snowy or poor visibility - go where there are more trees for contrast like Homewood, Northstar or Sierra).  Look at the websites of the various resorts - have fun with the anticipation, and hope that this winter we get the usual 7 to 12 meters of snowfall, rather than half that amount as we have had the last couple of years.


 



OUTSTANDING FIRST POST. Welcome to EpicSki.
post #30 of 33

IMO Kirkwood as some fantastic beginner terrain with very little crowds. sure there's entire areas of the mountain (10 and 6) that novices would want to avoid but If you're looking for low stress novice terrain that doesn't feel like thunderdome then it's a great option. Plus the snow is usually a little deeper (usually). 

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