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Family resort in Tahoe

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
We are going to South Tahoe for 8 glorious days the beginning of March.  I grew up skiing in NH and VT.  My wife has skied a half dozen times, and my kids (5 and 8) have never skied.  I would love to ski Heavenly, but the prices for the kids (rental, lift and lessons) is pretty expensive.  Sierra at Tahoe seems to have the best deal by far for kids to learn to ski ($74 a day for a 3 day pass).

This is our first trip to Tahoe, so I would love to get some tips on the resorts, the in's and out's of things, and any suggestions anyone might have.
post #2 of 28
Since it doesn't look like any of the current locals have taken a stab at this I will.
I'm a NorCal expat who used to ski Tahoe 40+ days a year, but I offer the upfront caveat that it's been 5+ years since I've skied in CA.
I'll admit to a bias towards the CA side of North Lake, and my personal advice is to avoid Heavenly like the plague.  I find Heavely poorly laid out, crowded, and overpriced.  Squaw and Alpine are simply superior mountains both in terms of terrain and efficiency of moving crowds, and have the additional advantage of not being surrounded by tacky casinos.

While Sierra isn't a bad resort for families, it comes with the major disadvantage of being hard to get to and a long way from *anything* else.  It's an hour to South Lake Tahoe from Sierra, and 1.5 hours to Kirkwood (which is a hidden gem for advanced skiers, FWIW).
In short, you won't have much of a "Lake Tahoe" experience out there at Sierra.

If you're coming from Phoenix, I'd recommend flying into Reno, and driving up to North Lake Tahoe.
You'll want to stay somewhere in the triangle between Tahoe City, King's Beach and Truckee, will put you within short, striking distance of 3 of Tahoe's best resorts: Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, and Northstar.
Of the 3, Northstar is the most family-friendly, and - a little known fact - is Tahoe's best-sheltered mountain in storm conditions: you can still ski pretty much the whole mountain at Northstar on days they shut the top half of Squaw down. Tree skiing on the backside of Northstar is fantastic on storm days, I might add. Squaw is huge and has something for everyone, Alpine is a bit smaller but has great terrain and tends to be less crowded on busy days than Squaw.

No matter where you stay in the "golden triangle" of TC-KB-Truckee, you won't be more than a 30 minute drive from Alpine, Squaw, and Northstar, and you'll also have the option of hitting smaller places within similar driving distance that may offer good lift ticket specials during the week like Sugar Bowl (by Donner) or Mt. Rose (on the Nevada side).

Good luck with your search!
post #3 of 28
What Veloscente said, with the addition that staying in that area also gives you the Homewood option -- well sheltered and family friendly like Northstar, but significantly cheaper and less crowded.  It might be a particularly good option for your never-ever kids.

If you want to be able to hit a bunch of resorts, Granlibakken is a good option.  I think they have lift deals and shuttles with all the resorts mentioned by Veloscente.  Otherwise, hit VRBO and Craigslist for condo or cabin deals.
post #4 of 28
I was at Sierra at Tahoe a couple of years ago on a guys trip so I can comment on their kids programs.  Something that might affect your kids, though, is that there were lots of teenage to young adult snowboarders there.  I'm not trying to start a bash snowboarders tangent but there was all sorts of foul language as well as sitting around at the tops of lifts and in the middle of trails.  If I was skiing with my kids I would've felt a bit uncomfortable having to protect them from the many blind heel side turns.  It didn't seem like there were as many young snowboarders at the other Tahoe resorts we visited.  I don't know if our experience is typical of Sierra at Tahoe or if it's a snowboarder magnet.  Maybe a local can shed some more light.
post #5 of 28
I've not skied there, but Sierra's reputation is as a park haven.  There's also supposedly some good sidecountry, but that's not particularly relevant here.
post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by sawyer1370 View Post

We are going to South Tahoe for 8 glorious days the beginning of March.  I grew up skiing in NH and VT.  My wife has skied a half dozen times, and my kids (5 and 8) have never skied.  I would love to ski Heavenly, but the prices for the kids (rental, lift and lessons) is pretty expensive.  Sierra at Tahoe seems to have the best deal by far for kids to learn to ski ($74 a day for a 3 day pass).
 
2nd/3rd the North Lake option.

Homewood also has amazing views of the lake and it is in a very "Old Tahoe Charming" part of the lake.  (Our ski lease is 4 miles north of Homewood.)

If you would like more aggressive terrian for yourself take a look at Alpine Meadows.  It is bit higher in cost but I would recommend the kids program at Alpine Meadows (http://www.skialpine.com/lessons/kids-programs).  We used it until our kids were old enough to be on one of teams.  

Another option to look at is staying and Incline Village and skiing Diamond Peak with the family.  Very family friendly ski area.


Car Rental:  Rent a 4WD/AWD.  Having to chain up is less than fun.
post #7 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDad View Post
staying in that area also gives you the Homewood option -- well sheltered and family friendly like Northstar, but significantly cheaper and less crowded.

Ha, I forgot about Homewood!  As a teen I frequently stayed at Northstar, and we typically begged the parents to take us to Alpine or Squaw, so it wasn't 'till I was in college and looking to stretch my dollar that Rose, Sugarbowl or Homewood appeared on my radar.
Mt. Rose used to have a free ladies' day.  The boys and I showed up in lipstick and wigs a few times for that - the crew at Rose loved it!

Back to the present:
A quick comparison of lift ticket prices shows Northstar's standard ticket is $79 whereas single-day Homewood tix can be bought online for $39.
I'd read that Northstar had built a Ritz-Carlton and was taking things upscale, but with $84 holiday tix, it looks like N.Star is hellbent on Coloradicalizing their prices.
Take the family to Homewood, and if you want to branch out and "splurge," buy the $69 ticket to Alpine or pony up the $79 for Squaw.
Check out Alpine's website, they sell you a "Club" card for $15 that lets you ski for $44 on select days.
Not a bad deal.
post #8 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Veloscente View Post

Check out Alpine's website, they sell you a "Club" card for $15 that lets you ski for $44 on select days.
Not a bad deal.

Most or all are midweek days, but that should work fine for the OP.
post #9 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the great feedback.  I noticed that Sierra was kinda far from where we are staying in South Lake Tahoe, but the deals they have for the kids rentals, lessons and lift tickets is unbeatable at any other place, at least from what I can see.  I'm not crazy about driving an hour each morning to ski, but to save $500 or more, I'll do it.

We are going to drive there, and rent a nice SUV from Phoenix.  I'll make sure it has 4 wheel drive.

Are there any other great deals on the whole package for my kids?  That is what pushed me towards Sierra.
post #10 of 28
Homewood wins again:
$231 for a 3-day kid's lesson package, or $77 per day.
http://www.skihomewood.com/lessons/kids-programs

If you can cancel that South Lake reservation and book North Lake accommodations around Tahoe City, I'd strongly encourage you to do it, as it will give you much greater selection in terms of both resorts & dining.
If not, then you're looking at a 40minute lakefront drive each morning from S.Lake to Homewood, rather than an hour to Sierra.
post #11 of 28
 Northstar in particular has good teaching programs for children. In general, North Lake Tahoe has better skiing atmosphere/experience than South Lake Tahoe.
post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by nevils View Post

 Northstar in particular has good teaching programs for children. In general, North Lake Tahoe has better skiing atmosphere/experience than South Lake Tahoe.
You’re staying on the south shore.  Heavenly is a huge spread out ski area.  And that is where you are staying.  They will take Very good care of your kids.  But I have to admit its one of the last places I would take a family of never evers.  Try Heavenly first.  They are a destination FAMILY Ski resort.

If primary concern is Kids and Price.  And you’re going to Drive?  Try Mt. Rose
www.skirose.com

here is a link to a content intensive site that has info and links for every Tahoe Ski area.  The content is authored by a South Tahoe Skier
http://www.aboutlaketahoe.com/ski_resorts/ski_resorts.htm
Edited by MTT - 1/11/10 at 11:52am
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by MTT View Post



You’re staying on the south shore.  Heavenly is a huge spread out ski area.  And that is where you are staying.  They will take Very good care of your kids.  But I have to admit its one of the last places I would take a family of never evers.  Try Heavenly first.  They are a destination FAMILY Ski resort.

If primary concern is Kids and Price.  And you’re going to Drive?  Try Mt. Rose
www.skirose.com

here is a link to a content intensive site that has info and links for every Tahoe Ski area.  The content is authored by a South Tahoe Skier
http://www.aboutlaketahoe.com/ski_resorts/ski_resorts.htm

seconded that. And to reduce cost you can also stay in reno for significantly less .  Also, as per Stormday's suggestion, look at Diamond Peak, they specialize in family friendly and put on some great deals
post #14 of 28
Thread Starter 
We can't re-book our stay at a different resort, so we are in South Lake Tahoe.  We are driving in from Phoenix, so if I have to drive 40 minutes to a place in North Tahoe, no biggie!

I will start calling and looking at stuff on the different sites, and I'll focus on all the great advice you all have provided. 

Just skied the tiny SnowBowl in Flagstaff AZ, and Tahoe is gonna be so much better.  We can't wait.  I skied Utah back in the day, and grew up skiing all over NH and VT.  Can't wait to ski some great Tahoe powder!

Any more advice or tips, I would love to hear them.  For all you regulars and locals, would it be better to rent the equipment for the kids and my wife at a shop off-mountain, or just to it all on mountain?
post #15 of 28
Quote:
.  For all you regulars and locals, would it be better to rent the equipment for the kids and my wife at a shop off-mountain, or just to it all on mountain?

Depends if you are only going to ski in one place or try several.  If the former rent on mountain and you can easily rectify any issues immediiately.  If travelling about, rent off-mountain in SLT where you are staying.
post #16 of 28
8 days in Tahoe, woohoo !  Since you are staying in south lake, you can take heart that Sierra at Tahoe is generally a 30 min. drive. It's  about 18.5 miles from stateline. Mapquest can be your friend for times to the other resorts as well.  One note about access to Homewood from SLT, the road from the south gets closed, due to snow or a truck load getting overturned on one of the hairpins.  

Saving $500. on beginning lessons for your kids is a lot of money.  Couple things to point out about Sierra for you.  You can drop your wife & kids right in front of the kid's center & go park. Parking is extremely close. If you make reservations the day before for the kids, it makes things really fast. Makes less of a production/hassle for a new skier. SAT's 3day kids deal includes skis/boots. If you are going 3 days in a row before going to other Tahoe areas, ask about just keeping their gear or ski checking it overnight. I think rented skis are checked free?   You may want to see what kind of 3 day deals for your wife as well ?

With 5 more days to your trip, there may be a day or two when the kids or wife want to do something else.  That's a good time for you to hit Heavenly.  Really, you do have to ski there at least  once while in Tahoe.  Hope you all have a great time.
post #17 of 28

We have kids ranging from preschool to early teens and have tried squaw, sugarbowl, alpine, heavenly, and northstar.  Squaw is the place to go if you're an expert and it's bowls and chutes gives you challenges like nowhere else in Tahoe.  The squaw village is ok for apres ski but a bit dated IMO.   Sugarbowl and Alpine have good terrain and good snow but both lack any sort of apres ski activities.  Heavenly has casinos/shows right next door for all the nightlife you want but personally it is not the family experience I look for in a ski resort.  Don't get me wrong I like going to Vegas occasionally for the shows and restaurants but these casinos by Heavenly are nothing like Vegas and frankly I find them a bit cheesy.

 

We have settled on Northstar as the best family ski experience in Tahoe.  We love the terrain at Squaw so Northstar was a compromise in that sense but its other strengths more than make up.  Northstar doesnt have the hardest skiing but we're usually on the Backside and Lookout mountain for the steepest terrains plus the tree skiing is great.  During the holidays the lift lines can be quite long on the front side but these two areas are rarely crowded.  Plus we have the 'Fast Pass' that allows one to pay a bit more to bypass the main line so we never have a problem with crowds.

The best things at Northstar happens after you take off your skis.  The Ritz Carlton mid-mountain is great place to have a civilized table service lunch or just hot chocolate in a relaxed setting.  In the village ice skating happens every late afternoon/evening with rink surrounded by firepits and comfortable seating.  We often gather with other families for an evening of skating/pizza/beer/s'mores around the fire.  There is a great pizza/pasta restaurant that does take out.  There are other restaurants surrounding the rink including a Sushi restaurant and a few bars.  A favorite is the Chocolate Bar which is like a bar/restaurant with adult drinks and chocolate themed desserts for all ages.

The village has many many upscale condos for rent from one to 4 bedrooms all with full kitchens, heated outdoor pool, Jacuzzis.  There is a Hyatt at the edge of the Village and a Ritz Carlton mid-mountain.  There are many shops, ice cream places and yes there is a starbucks which I really appreciate in the morning.

If you feel like fine dining or spa service the Ritz Carlton is a short gondola away from the village no cars needed.

Nearly everything is right there in the northstar village so even if we stay for a week or two we only step back in the car for a run to the Truckee safeway or for a day in Reno at circus circus.

No other Tahoe resort offers the same level of luxury accommodations and village experience.  The cons are lack of expert terrain and the cost of renting a place in the village.


Edited by trickortreat - 10/8/10 at 12:18pm
post #18 of 28

It sounds like your experience went somewhat opposite of ours.  We started out at Northstar, assuming it's the "family place".  I think the kids program was good; we did it for age 3 and 4 with some kicking and screaming.  The village/skate area and pizza are definitely nice.  What I didn't like was the skiing and the cost of accommodations.  My thinking is that Northstar built a village with too few, too nice condos.  For me, family friendly means staying within a short walk to the kids' drop off.

 

A friend of mine who's far more experienced than I in these things suggested Squaw's kids program.  I was dubious.  The reason I decided to try it out was that I found accommodations at Squaw for around half what they were at Northstar.  I also found availability when I wanted it.  So, we went.  As expected, the skiing was great.  Surprisingly, my then 5-year-old finally caught the ski bug at Squaw Kids.  The pizza and sushi are good.  A base-level skating rink would be nice, but no big deal.

 

At this point, we're Squaw regulars.  My oldest is now 7 and skied down KT-22 last season.  She's joining the Mighty Mites "team" this season.  My 4-year-old did her first year with Squaw Kids and is now comfortable on all the greens.  She turns both ways, stops, can straight-line and ride the "real" lift with help.

 

When we're feeling like luxury, it's easy to get a babysitter and go out to Plumpjack.  For brunch, we can take the whole family to the Six Peaks Grille over at the Resort at Squaw Creek, a short drive or shuttle ride away, or a long walk.  We can enjoy the hot tubs at the village or sneak into the fancy one at the resort.

 

In the end, I decided, it's the terrain, the instruction, and the more, ahem, democratic lodging that clinch it.

post #19 of 28

Forget South Lake. In the winter, even with good weather a theoretical "40 minute drive" will easily be 3 hours (no fun). Come to North Tahoe, you will vastly open up your options. You will have more mountains to choose from, better housing options, more places to eat, it will be less expensive, be closer to everything, the list goes on and on. Just do it.

 

There is also a lot of good advice above, so listen to it.

 

Now what I would like to add is DO NOT bring your family to Northstar. Let me explain.

Northstar does have a great kids / ski school program, They also have the best village, best grooming, best nightlife, best deals (stay and ride free, lots of discounts), most convenient housing, most convenient dining, nicest amenities, best tree skiing, the list goes on and on. BUT it is by far the most crowded and because of the massive numbers of people (especially in beginner zones) is flat out dangerous. I would never bring a brand new skier to Northstar.

 

A good alternative is Tahoe Donner. Tahoe Donner is a hokey tiny ski hill (2 lifts) in Truckee, but their instruction is top notch, kids rental equipment is the best in the area, never is crowded and tickets can be dirt cheap ($5). It's worth giving it a go a least for your first day. Everyone will be happier because of it. It is small and boring but if you are serious about your kids learning to ski, it's the best choice.

 

Squaw is also a good choice, but is very expensive. There is also a very unique vibe at Squaw that you will either love or hate.

 

One more thing... AWD / 4x4 is useless in the snow without really good all season tires or dedicated snows. Considering you are renting a SUV in AZ, you will get neither. Don't be surprised if you have to chain up your 4x4 SUV... I've helped people chain up their Subaru's (sad yes) because of  inadequate tires.

 

Good luck!

post #20 of 28

The beauty of Tahoe is there is probably something for everyone and it depends on what your priorities are, level of expertise and price point.  

Squaw has world class terrain but the quality of the village experience and accommodations were more important to us with small kids.  I know ski purists who go to Alpine which has terrific terrain and is less skied but really does not have a village or accommodations onsite.   Kirkwood has terrain rivaling squaw plus a village experience but has old slow lifts, is in the middle of nowhere and can be snowed in.  

Our family really enjoys Northstar's village and luxury accommodations and manage to work around it's faults as outlined above.  It's not for everyone and there are lots of other choices around Tahoe.

post #21 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by trickortreat View Post

The best things at Northstar happens after you take off your skis.


Quoted for unintended insight of the damning with faint praise variety.

 

(Although the shuttle bus back to the parking lot wasn't tops on my list.)

post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDad View Post


Quoted for unintended insight of the damning with faint praise variety.

 

(Although the shuttle bus back to the parking lot wasn't tops on my list.)


Ha!  That is funny:-)   I stand by what I said although I do enjoy the skiing esp on Lookout mountain.   The anti-NS I guess would be Alpine - it's all about the skiing and 'nothing happens after taking off the skis'.  

 

Some go for the Yosemite experience and stay at the Ahwahnee and others only take a sleeping bag, iodine tablets and go hiking in high country.  Utah has Deer Valley on one hand and Alta on the other.

Different strokes for different folks.  To each their own.  I could go on with the cliches :-)

post #23 of 28

As mentioned, there's plenty to choose from at Lake Tahoe and yes, usually the smaller resorts give beginners the best bang for their hard earned bucks. I will mention one of neat things of Squaw for beginners, unlike almost any other major resort, is the fact beginners get to take the tram or gondola up to the beginner area. Most ski areas, the beginners are at the base and may not see the top of the mountain in a weekend of skiing. Not so at Squaw, where you can go get some killer  views on the green slopes.

post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by trickortreat View Post

The anti-NS I guess would be Alpine - it's all about the skiing and 'nothing happens after taking off the skis'.  


I guess it depends on how you define "nothing."  I've had a surprisingly good time doing what you appear to define as "nothing" at Alpine.

post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDad View Post


I guess it depends on how you define "nothing."  I've had a surprisingly good time doing what you appear to define as "nothing" at Alpine.



That's really nice.  Everyone is in their element and all is well in the high sierras :-)

post #26 of 28

Hey guys, hate to interrupt this NS vs. Alpine cage match, but you are aware you're posting on a dead thread, right?

Suppose it's all good for archival purposes

post #27 of 28

Well, make sure you stick your head in The Start Haus in Truckee and say hi to the Epic Staff!

post #28 of 28

This is not NS vs Alpine!  I really enjoy skiing alpine it has terrific terrain and I'm sure I'll be there again.   I was only saying Northstar is the best place for my family with older kids as well as pre-skiers but I didn't realize it is Tahoe's version of the Yankees - a team everyone loves to hate.   Ofcourse alot of this has to do with the success of the Yankees (and NS).

Northstar is not for everyone but for apres ski activities with young kids it really cannot be beat IMO especially if your accommodations are right in the village.

 

Start haus is a great place to get skis with helpful knowledgable staff.  When my kids were on ski team they had their skis and boots fitted by them and I would highly recommend!

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