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Advise Sking Tahoe Area

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I'm sking with my son for 3 days in the lake Tahoe area for the first time, around the Jan 10th. He lives in San Fransisco and we were thinking of sking Mammoth, but the drive to this area seems like at least 1.5 hrs longer than Mammoth.

Opinoins on sking at Mammoth vs skiing Tahoe area such as Squaw Valley and nearby areas (even Heavenly) during mid-January? Worth the extra drive for 3 days? Squaw valley rating and sugestions for others in this area?

We have little interest in Casinos or night life other than a reasonable dinner in the evenings.

post #2 of 27
I have never skied Mammoth, so I cannot give you a comparison.

But, you can't go wrong doing one day at Squaw, one day at Alpine Meadows and one day at Mt. Rose. All great skiing areas in their own respect, IMO.
post #3 of 27
Squaw isn't really near casinos, but If you go to Heavenly...

Where are you driving from because S.F is fairly close to Squaw.
post #4 of 27
Bluebear, it will take you up to 3.5 hours longer to drive to Mammoth than any Tahoe ski area. Its a huge ski area and a definite must at some point, but the drive is a consideration, especially if weather is bad. From the Bay area, you can reach either north or south Tahoe equally easily. Where you should go, depends on the experience you want. Squaw Valley is a huge experience, but you need to make provisions to get together if you get separated. Other areas seem to be easier to stay together and clearly have more of a family vibe (Alpine Meadows).

To answer your question, it would help to know:

What is your favorite terrain?
What do you want to do after skiing?
Relatively speaking, are you on high or low budget?
post #5 of 27
I live just south of San Francisco. I have only skied Mammoth on July 4th weekends, for the simple reason that the mountain pass closures make travel to Mammoth impractical during the year. Effectively, and assuming decent weather, you need to drive four hours or so to Tahoe, then head south for about the same distance to get to Mammoth. I love Mammoth, but there's no way I'd drive past Heavenly and Kirkwood, let alone Alpine and Squaw, to get there.

Some information about what you like to ski would help suggest Tahoe areas. CirqueRider's questions are a good start.

South of the lake, Heavenly is known for its groomed runs and its lake view, and Kirkwood is known for its rugged terrain and lack of convenient lodging or access. After you pass Sacramento/I-5, the drive to either of those is primarily on a two lane highway, which my wife hates doing during the summer, let alone the winter, so we've only done one south trip.

On the north side of the lake, the major areas heading east from San Francisco on I-80 are Sugar Bowl (longest-lived resort in the area, high base, nice terrain, but not much vertical), Squaw (largest north lake resort, full-service base area, "extreme" terrain, prices and attitude), Alpine (often considered the Alta to Squaw's Snowbird, with similar terrain, less attitude and cost, but with few lodging options at the base), and Northstar (known for groomers and pipe/park, more of an intermediate hill than Squaw, Alpine, or Sugar Bowl, full-service base). I'm partial to Alpine, where my kids are on their third year on team and I'm a patrol candidate this year, but the lodging options at and near the base are more difficult for weekend trippers (which does tend to keep crowds mercifully small).

The best basic summaries I've found of the different resorts are here. You can also search around here.
post #6 of 27
All depends on the snow. Last year with meager amounts, Mammoth had better coverage. If there is ample at Tahoe, the additional drive time may not be worth it. That being said, Mammoth when in full operation is a GIANT mnt. 3 separate lodges, main,canyon, eagle. And June mnt is right next door. Tough call!
post #7 of 27
I think some of the above statements overstate the drive to Mammoth. I ski Mammoth from San Francisco 1-2x every other year. In good raods, it is generally another 2.5 hrs from Heavenly - but I generally do not go via South Lake Tahoe, but 88 to Gardenville, NV south to 395.

However, almost NO ONE from SF/Bay Area skis at Mammoth. There is too much chocie in Tahoe. However, I find if you are skiing the South Shore it's not bad to tack on a day or two. But 3 days is too short...especially if it snows.

Mammoth is probably the best balanced mountain in California - Heavenly lots of intermediate - Squaw lots of expert - but Mammoth has both.

Personally, I favor Tahoe's North Shore. I like Squaw and Alpine Meadows a lot - equally. And if you want crusing - Northstar is almost as good as Heavenly - just lacks the direct lake views.
post #8 of 27

tahoe resorts review
I think Tahoe is closer than Mammoth but Mammoth is pretty sweet and arguably in a class all its own...definitely the lightest snow in CA in my opinion...Tahoe is awesome because you can ski so many resorts...they are just packed in this favorites and probably most are Squaw, Alpine, Sugarbowl, Kirkwood and Mt Rose once the chutes open. No particular order on those either.
post #9 of 27
Go to Truckee and ski the following:

Day 1 Sugar Bowl
Day 2 Alpine Meadows
Day 3 Squaw
post #10 of 27
Expert Skier:
1) Heavenly
2) Squaw
3) Squaw/Kirkwood

Advanced Skier:
1) Heavenly
2) Heavenly
3) Squaw

Heavenly all 3 days

Anywhere is good, but Squaw with High Camp might be best

Tree Skier:
Heavenly all 3 days; amazing woods
post #11 of 27
Bluebear- All of the above is relatively accurate. I like Alpindad's synopsis of the Tahoe areas. Even if I'm partial to Sugar Bowl, the description of Alpine/Squaw/Sugar Bowl is pretty accurate.

Mammoth is a superior mountain to all of the Tahoe areas, but it's definitely a trek from the bay area.
post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks all who replied for the great advice and comments on the type of sking at each area. I'm flying in to SF and driving to the Tahoe area with only 3 1/2 days to ski (4 1/2 days including driving) so I'll take the advice most from of you and do some of the moutains around Tahoe. With so much to sample in one area Mammoth will have to wait until I have more travel time.

We'll definately do Squaw and Alpine, and decide on Northstar, Sugar Bowl, maybe Heavenly later. Kirkwood sounds too much for me. My 23 yr old son is a boarder, rides down most double black terrain, does a few passes in the terrain parks, and is about 70/30 off/on piste. He enjoys rugged as well as medium groomers with interesting terrain (Vail bowls, Snowmass, Whistler double blues).

We ski together except on the extreme stuff. I'm 50/50 on/off piste skier getting better each year, but I'm probably only an advanced skier. I don't jump cliffs (even small ones) go through the trees with steep terrain, etc. I can ski most blacks, enjoy most moguls, bowls, reasonably challenging ungroomed glades, and steep doesn't bother me but tight trees on steep terrain, rock obstacles, etc are over my head.

Sounds like we can find enough extreme and moderate difficulty at Squaw and Alpine and if our knees need a rest we can enjoy Heavenly or Northstar.

I don't mind driving 45 mins or so from lodging to try the different mountains. Unless there is a moutain I should avoid, thank you all for the advice.

See ya on the slopes!
post #13 of 27
Originally Posted by Bluebear View Post

Sounds like we can find enough extreme and moderate difficulty at Squaw and Alpine and if our knees need a rest we can enjoy Heavenly or Northstar.
for an easy day: Squaw is not a bad place to just spend the day on the groomers. Start the day on Shirley and work your way across the ski area.

If storm rolls in during your trip, look to go to Northstar or Homewood. Those places usually stay 100% open when Squaw and Alpine Meadows have to close their upper mtns.

Avoid: Northstar on a weekend with nice weather. Very crowded.
post #14 of 27
What StormDay said.

I'd be happy to suggest accommodations, but it would help to have a price range. I presume that you'd prefer something like a 1br with a pullout couch in the living room, so that you could each have separate beds?
post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
My usual price range is $130 to $150 per night, but I'd go up to $175. I know at some moutains that's the price of a closet. A one bedroom with two beds or one bed and a pull-out coach is good.

Can be a reasonable drive away from the mountain. I prefer to be close to one or two good/ medium priced restaurants. I'm not on a shoestring budget, but I'm not looking for a star restaurants and art galleries like at Aspen and Vail.

Thanks for any recommendations.
post #16 of 27
For accommodations, here are some suggestions that I and others have posted in the past. The closest city to Squaw and Alpine is Tahoe City, although you have to drive a few miles past the access roads to get to it. Truckee is right by I-80 and about 20 minutes from the hills.

Originally Posted by Woodstocksez View Post
Casino hotels in Reno will definitely be the cheapest accommodations (especially mid-week), but you might not enjoy having to make the drive every day to Squaw (Yahoo Maps says 44 miles and 48 minutes from Circus Circus and that seems about right to me). ...

We've stayed at the Best Western in Truckee (13 miles and 25 minutes to Squaw, according to Yahoo Maps) and thought it was just fine. The free breakfast is acceptable, but mediocre, and there are no choices: I doubt you'll be happy eating that every morning. They have a hot tub on site. Mid-week rates are especially cheap (about $95) if you have a Snowbomb card (they've had a discount the past few years, but I haven't confirmed that they have it again this year). Here's the link to the Snowbomb card, which also provides discounts on lift tickets ($10 off at Squaw and a free lift ticket for Sugar Bowl or Kirkwood, if you're so inclined) and other stuff:

A place that we've stayed that I like is the Franciscan Lodge in Tahoe Vista (16 miles, 27 minute drive time to Squaw, according to Yahoo Maps). You're right on the main drag, convenient to a lot of things, but you can get a unit far enough off the road to not really know it's there. I like the ambiance of the place. We've only stayed on the forest side, but the lakefront units look like they'd be really nice, though perhaps they make more sense in the summer. Every unit has a little kitchen (as far as I know) and some have a fireplace or gas woodstove. Here's the link:

Another couple of places in Tahoe Vista (same owner, I think) that look good to me, though we've yet to stay there, are The Rustic Cottages ( and Tahoe Vista Lodge and Cabins (

I also agree with those suggesting that you check
Originally Posted by alpinedad View Post
North Shore brain farts below:

Not sure where you plan to ski, but if you're thinking Squaw is on the list (and Alpine is close by, just the next road down), consider joining the Squaw Valley Lodge's Granite Chief club on their website (it's free) and stay at the base of KT-22 for $147/nt midweek plus tax. IMHO, I'd rather spend a few bucks extra to be able to roll out of bed onto the slopes, and to have good restaurants. Also, Squaw central reservations has decent lift/lodging packages at the Lodge and at Plumpjack (you may also be able to get a good deal directly from Plumpjack).

Alpine has some deals, and I've heard good things about the Stanford Alpine Chalet in particular. I've stayed at Granlibakken (just south of Tahoe City), which has very good room rates, with discount packages and shuttles to Squaw and Alpine and a killer breakfast buffet. The River Ranch Lodge is on 89 at the base of the Alpine access road (the next turn south from the Squaw access road), and they've got an $89pp midweek ski/stay deal with Alpine, including continental breakfast.
Originally Posted by TruckeeLocal View Post
And this site sometimes highlights deals on lodging and stay/ski deals.
Originally Posted by Pete No. Idaho View Post
DTASki, north Tahoe, best skiing. Stay at the Tahoe Biltmore Casino Hotel, see them at Google. $1.99 breakfast, 2 restaurant one very reasonable i.e., $7 steak dinner, lots of specials, one expersive. They have inside Hotel Rooms and outside Motel Rooms in back. Either ok when on a budget I like back lst floor and can park truck right nextto room. Hot tub, gambling all there. Other restaurants etc. close 3 other casino's. Ski shops shopping etc. in Incline village about 6 min away. Diamond Peak - 10min., Mt. Rose 20 min, Northstar 20 min, Homewood 35 min, Alpine 30 min, Squaw 35 min, Sugar Bowl 50 min, So shore Heavenly 55 min. You didn't state how man of you there were but if 4 or more you can get a privately owned cabin pretty reasonable and that keeps you out of restaurant for all meals anyway. If you end up at Biltmore, you can pick up lunch at Safeway (on the Lake at Hwy267) better than most of the expensive junk food on the mountain. Tips: Squaw food sucks at High Camp or Gold Coast or main area, Alpine food worse. Northstar food good on top of mountain sucks in Main lodge. Sugar Bowl pretty good. I skied Tahoe for over 25 yrs and ran races agt almost all the resorts so if you need more info or have more questions just ask away. If you know some of this stuff for your lst visit you will have a better time.
post #17 of 27
Thread Starter 
Wow, talk aout recommendations! Thanks much Apinedad. You've given me great skiing and lodging advice.

post #18 of 27
here's my crazy suggestion:

Day 1 Drive up to Kirkwood.
Ski KW and then drive into SLT and around the East side of the lake into Truckee area. Stay in Tahoe City or Truckee.

Day 2 ski Squaw or Alpine Meadows (Squaw if you want the "Squallywood" experience, AM if you want the more low-key locals experience). Stay in Tahoe City or Truckee. Hit Cottonwood for dinner.

Day 3 drive out of Truckee and ski Sugar Bowl. quit a little early so as to beat return to City traffic.
post #19 of 27
Originally Posted by Bluebear View Post
Wow, talk aout recommendations! Thanks much Apinedad. You've given me great skiing and lodging advice.
No problem. If you're at Alpine that weekend, I'll be one of the guys with a patrol candidate armband, probably skiing on baby blue PM Gear Bro Models or else something with a "change for a nickel?" sticker on it. Say hi.

Originally Posted by dookey67 View Post
here's my crazy suggestion:

Day 1 Drive up to Kirkwood.
Ski KW and then drive into SLT and around the East side of the lake into Truckee area. Stay in Tahoe City or Truckee
That's a hell of a lot of driving for that first day, dook. I try to avoid driving more than I ski in any given day. IMHO, it's just not worth it.

On the other hand, spending Sunday at Sugar Bowl, then driving back to SF, is generally a very good option. That's particularly the case if you're staying in Truckee, in which case it'll cut an hour off your travel time for the day vs. skiing at Alpine or Squaw.
post #20 of 27
Thread Starter 
The 3rd day at Sugarbowl with a shorter return ride to SF makes sense.
Alpine, Squaw, Hevenly, Kirkwood... tough but fun decisions. Probably need to plan another trip to take-in all the ski areas. Alpinedad we'll look for you.

Thank you all for suggestions.
post #21 of 27
If its a problematic snow year, Kirkwood will have the most/lightest snow. If you are getting lots of snow with low snow levels, the North Shore resorts are find.
post #22 of 27

Looking to do a smaller-area crawl just after NYE?

My current list looks like:
- Alpine Meadows
- Sugar Bowl
- Homewood
- Diamond Peak
- Mt. Rose

The company I'm in is not, repeat not, ready for steep terrain. Any suggestions (this Sunday through next week?)
post #23 of 27
of those you listed I would say that Homewood is 1. the smallest and 2. the mellowest in terms of steepness factor.

Sugar Bowl has a lot of mellow terrain as well and even the steeper stuff the runs are fairly short.

I haven't been to Rose or Incline in years, so no updated/current comments on my end.

Alpine is a favorite and also has a lot of mellow front side terrain with "hidden" pockets of steepness for those looking for it.

All are fairly small-to-mid in size, stature, and vibe.


Sugarbowl is much more "modern" in that they have a new Lodge area on the Mt. Judah side.
Homewood has two very old ('60s/'70s) lodges. Alpine has a big main lodge, but it's pretty much cafeteria stylee.

So in terms of quaintness factor it would go:
post #24 of 27
^Good advice above. BTW: Bluebear - If your son has flexibility in his schedule (and you weren't needing 8 hours of road trip bonding time), then fly into Reno & have him come & get you. You'll save 3.5-4.5 hours each way (depending on weather/traffic) & you ski more.
post #25 of 27
There's a last minute lodging website for Tahoe called Something to think of considering this weekend's upcoming huge storm.
post #26 of 27
SKIP heavenly, it's traverse to the max! Squaw and Homewood.
post #27 of 27
With 5 to 10 feet expected through this weekend, you're timing couldn't be better.
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