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Tahoe question

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I know that Squaw and Heavenly get all the press but mostly because of their steeps. I would like everyones opinion on the "other" tahoe ski areas. My wife and I are beginner/lower intermediates and we are more interested to know which of the areas would best serve our abilities. We have looked at Northstar, Sugar Bowl, Sierra-at-Tahoe, and others. Please offer any advice you may have.
post #2 of 13
Both have plenty of beginner terrain to go around. You can't go wrong with either.
post #3 of 13
I spent a winter on the lift crew at Sierra at Tahoe, then Sierra Ski Ranch. Lots of intermediate runs there. It's located up high in the pass so the snow is usually pretty good too. Doesn't get so many tourists or die hard experts. It does draw a lot of folks from San Fran and Sacramento on the weekends though.

Euclide is right about Heavenly and Squaw - plenty of easy blues. And, while I don't really like Heavenly all that much - If you haven't skied there, you haven't skied Tahoe. The view is killer. Makes you feel like you could dive off the mountain right into the lake.
post #4 of 13
I know that Squaw and Heavenly get all the press but mostly because of their steeps.
Both Squaw and Heavenly have more beginner and intermediate terrain than diamond and "extreme" skiing. Cliffs and chutes make great pictures and press, but the people who spend money and are essential for ski area survival are more like you. These ski areas can meet your needs with lots of terrain, and most visitors to these areas never set foot in a couloir or huck off a cliff. These areas are well known because they are the largest in Tahoe for Vertical, area and runs, and they meet the needs of a wide variety of skiers.

Heavenly is one of the largest resorts in the area and has one of the largest verticals in Tahoe, but it is difficult to ski it top to bottom due to traverses and the need to connect multiple lifts to reach the summit. This is an advantage because it discourages snowboarders. Chances are you can spend days exploring the blue and green terrain off Sky Express, Canyons, Powder Bowl in California and Comet, Dipper, Galaxy, Tammerack and Stage Coach in Nv. Trails are well marked and you will not accidently stray onto diamond terrain.

Squaw Valley has miles of intermediate terrain and features more open skiing rather than trails. Squaw is rightfully well known for extreme terrain and celebrity skiers, but the majority of the area is enjoyable by mere mortals.

Sierra at Tahoe offers 50% blue terrain including nearly the entire West Bowl area and the 2-1/2 mile long (green) Sugar and Spice trail. Sierra is located only 20 miles from Kirkwood near Echo Summit and gets more snow than most areas in the Tahoe basin. SAT is a smaller area with over 2200 feet vertical that you can quickly become familiar and comfortable with. SAT sells lots of season passes that are good at both Sierra and Northstar. So, lots of locals ski here. Weekdays are all to yourself, but weekends and holidays can feel crowded.

NorthStar is a huge area with most advanced terrain confined to Backside and Lookout. Its a big area that could take you several days to cover just the blue and green terrain. Both Sierra and Northstar are owned by the same company so you can get a package deal to ski both, but the distance between them is considerable. Very family oriented atmosphere.

There are something like 15 ski areas here. You would have a hard time NOT finding something you like at any one of them, including the unknown areas like Homewood, Donner and Boreal or mid-size Diamond Peak, Mt Rose and the destinations of Sugar Bowl, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood. Here is a link with a list of areas and some basic stats. http://www.virtualtahoe.com/SkiTahoe/SkiAreas.html

In the 15 years I have lived here, I am yet to ski all these areas. Shame on me.
post #5 of 13
While I agree that every area will have plenty of easy blues, I think a more direct answer to your question is.....Homewood and Diamond Peak. Both of them are *smaller* areas (only when compared to the mega-resorts) and cater to the folks just like you (or at least that ability level). Both areas also have awesome lake views, though not to rival Heavenly's. Another bonus is the lift prices...I'm not sure about Diamond Peak but Homewood is $25 monday thru thursday.

If you want to stay up north, I'd say Boreal and Nortstar would fit the bill as well.
post #6 of 13
I went out there last year, and skiied Squaw, Kirkwood and Alpine Meadows. If I was going with intermediates or beginners, I'd hit Squaw for sure. A lot of thier beginner terrain is atthe top, so I think they'd get more of a mountain experience as opposed to an "I'm stuck on the bunny hill" experience.
post #7 of 13
The hype they get is well deserved, so concentrate on these 2, then do Northstar. Sugar Bowl looks interesting but I haven't been there. Kirkwood's lifts are horrible!

If you have a car, take a 2 hour drive from heavenly to MAMMOTH (yes, it's huge), and give it at least 3 days.

post #8 of 13
It may depend on where you decide to stay since staying on the North Shore and skiing south (or vice versa)can involve more driving than you may want to do. That said it is by no means impossible. We stay in Incline Village on the North Shore but within 30/40 minutes drive are Heavenly, Squaw, Alpine Meadows, Northstar, Mount Rose and Diamond Peak(which is in Incline). Sugar Bowl was maybe 40/50 mins away.On a variety of trips we have skied them all and any one of them will have terrain which you and your wife will like.

Diamond Peak is the probably the smallest in area terms followed by Mount Rose. The others are bigger and Squaw/Heavenly are probably the biggest.

Northstar and Diamond Peak are the ones that are most probably solidly intermediate ie no real steeps etc. They would be great for the level you describe as you may be able to go more or less anywhere, at least on the front side of Northstar.

Alpine Meadows, in my view, had a nice "feel" about it ie a good variety of terrain but not a mega type of resort. Squaw has a a lot of oomph about it eg the gondola up, High Camp where they have a swimming pool/ sun deck and as someone says a lot of beginner/intermediate stuff up top (as well as a lot of sterner stuff). Heavenly we found to be the busiest (on a weekday) by some margin, so we did it once and didnt go back. Lots of good terrain for your ability level though. Sugar Bowl we have skied twice and it was fine, but for us to get there you had to drive past Squaw and Alpine Meadows and frankly I didnt like it as much as those. That said if you want to ski a different resort every day I certainly would not put you off it and I know from other posts that it has a number of supporters on this site.

Mount Rose was very convenient for us and I liked it. Park in the lot, a very short walk to the lifts, no lines at all and when we were skiing the backside I reckon there were maybe 5/10 other skiers on the hill. There is quite a lot of stuff there for your level and also some stuff where you can maybe push yourselves without going in over your heads( by which I do not mean the new area likely to be opened this year (see another thread) which may be a bit tough !)

A lot of the smaller areas do deals midweek on tickets, so generally you only pay full price on weekends. Not usually Squaw/ Heavenly /Northstar though.
post #9 of 13
Excellent post Colin!!!
post #10 of 13

Tahoe for beginners

Last season was my first and I have skied at Boreal and Sierra at Tahoe this year. From my experience level I really enjoyed Sierra at Tahoe and Sugar Bowl. Sierra has a great wide easy hill right by the lodge. Good to get aquinted with your equipment and wide enough to go as slow as you need. Sugar and spice is a long green that is wide. Over a mile long and fun. Sugar Bowl has some really good greens and the blues that I tried with an instuctor last year were challenging. I plan to go there next ski day. I skied Heavenly last year, my first, and yes, it is breathtaking, but from what I saw last year a bit more challenging even on greens than my limited experience allowed. I ended up walking a bit down some of the hills. I think that after two trips this year Heavenly would not be as intimidating as last. I will probably give it a try later. Boreal is close to the Bay area and has good greens, if short and limited in variety. Definately a beginner park IMO. I have also been to Homewood on the west shore and it looks fun but haven't skied there. Hope to find the right hill. Tahoe is wonderful!!!!!!!
post #11 of 13
By all means go!

I skied Heavenly 2 years ago as a beginner with 1 year of skiing. I found the beginner trails almost too easy (compared to some of my local East Coast areas), which gave me the confidence to try some of the easier blues like Orion on the Nevada side.

Heavenly has something for everybody; even the extreme double black members of our party had fun off in the bowls while we greenies experimented with our 1st serious blue runs and had a wonderful time.

If you go to Heavenly, save a day and head over to Squaw. A whole different experience but also has terrain for beginners. The only problem I had with Squaw was that it didn’t have runs/trails, per se. it had great expanses of groomed white stuff and you took your line down depending on what you thought you could handle steeps-wise.
post #12 of 13
I will just back up a few of the other posts in saying that Squaw and Hevenly both have beginner terain. Squaw has a huge section of beginner terrain and the best part is that it is at 8000 feet so even the beginners get to take a tram or funitel ride up to what seems like a steep summit, but is really rolling slopes surounded by serious steeps for the advanced.

post #13 of 13
i'm sure others have already posted this, but i do not consider heavenly steep as an intermediate. heavenly is known for blue cruisers from my experience. all there blues are easy and you+the wife will love ridge run to look out at the lake will skiing down the hill.
i dont consider sierra@tahoe steep either. squaw, kirkwood have the steeps.
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