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California has it all. Excellent ski resorts included. With Sierra Nevada peaks piercing through the center of the state, Lake Tahoe serving as a fantastic skiing backdrop, and San Bernardino Mountains providing areas to play for the southerners, you’ve got quite a choice of places to hit the powder. The Golden State has solid snowfall, relatively high elevations, developed infrastructure, and a rich accommodation scene. You’ll find rides for all levels, an abundance of terrain parks, and functional lifts. These top ski resorts in California are the ones to pay attention to for your next snow-filled adventure.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort
If you’re up for a large and diverse selection of rides, Mammoth Mountain would be glad to welcome you. With an impressive 3,500 acres of skiable terrain, the volcanic Long Valley Caldera location makes it absolutely breathtaking, and annual snowfall of 400 inches ensures amazing riding conditions. On par with Austrian or German alpine resorts, Mammoth Mountain gives you an all-encompassing skiing holiday with a plethora of activities for the whole family. Take a gondola to the highest lift-served summit in California (11 053 feet) to admire the Sierra Nevada vistas. Engage in cross-country skiing, snow tubing, and snowmobiling. Ten terrain parks with various jibs, humps, and two halfpipes will be a winter paradise for snowboarders.
Palisades Tahoe - Olympic Valley
Formerly known as Squaw Valley, Palisades Tahoe is among the best ski resorts in California and an ultimate winter destination in the Lake Tahoe region. Proudly wearing the badge of one of the 1960 Winter Olympics venues, it boasts 400 inches of snowfall, 270 trails, and 43 lifts. The resort is strongly associated with the best expert rides in the country. Still, with 6,200 acres of skiable terrain (combined with the nearby Alpine Meadows resort), Palisades Tahoe is a must-visit for all levels. Be sure to explore the free Olympic museum, take a scenic Aerial Tram, and ride the only funitel (a lift carried by two cables) in the US. After an adrenaline-filled day on the slopes, descend to vibrant The Village at Palisades Tahoe to find a kaleidoscope of restaurants, fancy apres-ski bars, and shopping.
Kirkwood Ski Resort
Located south of Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood is one of the most beloved ski resorts in California. Renowned for its high levels of snowfall, family-friendliness, and no-nonsense attitudes, it’s a perfect mid-range winter destination in the Golden State. You’re getting 65 runs, with advanced/expert ones taking more than 50%, a skiable area of 2,300 acres, backcountry skiing opportunities, and fantastic mountain views throughout. The pros would fall in love with its steep cliffs and ridgeline, while beginners would have comfortable slopes to start. While you won’t find luxury here, Kirkwood is known as a very friendly and easygoing place, so that’s the deal.
Big Bear Mountain Resort - Big Bear Lake
While Los Angeles, with the swinging palm trees, ocean breeze, and heat, doesn’t send particular skiing vibes, we’re in California, and everything’s possible. Just a two-hour drive from Downtown, and you’re transported to another world. San Bernardino mountains-located Big Bear Mountain Resort, is the winter fun capital of Southern California. It provides relaxing snowy fun with quite an awesome deal of 400 skiable acres, 19 lifts, and 58 runs. Along with the Snow Summit sister resort, Big Bear is a quintessential winter holiday getaway ideal for a family outing. Snowmaking covers 100% of trails, you’ve got a solid terrain park, and there’s a night riding option. The gentle slopes and a riding school make it an awesome place for beginners.
Heavenly Mountain - South Lake Tahoe
The jaw-dropping Lake Tahoe views will accompany you on the rides in Heavenly, which is among the best ski resorts in California for intermediates. The tree skiing among pine trees is a special moment, 10,067 feet in elevation is the highest among the Lake Tahoe resorts, and 4,800 skiable acres call for exploration. You will have a luxurious proposition of South Lake Tahoe, CA, and Stateline, NV, with their neverending supply of apres-skis, fine dining, and entertainment to pair with the slope fun. The snowmaking gets you the ideally groomed trails, and 28 chairlifts try their best to take away the hassle from the skiing experience (although during the peak season, be prepared for crowds). A curious plus of Heavenly is a chance to ski straight to Nevada and then return to California.
Sugar Bowl - Norden
In its inaugural 1941 Disney cartoon, the world-famous clumsy dog Goofy learned skiing on the slopes of Sugar Bowl. The choice of the place wasn’t a coincidence, Walt Disney invested in the mountain, and now one of the peaks honors his name. Today this long-running resort is one of California’s finest. Down-to-earth, easygoing, affordable, and largely uncrowded, it’s a perfect mid-sized ski resort to take your family to. 103 runs located along the 1,650 acres of skiable terrain will satisfy all levels, proximity to the Bay area is a big plus, and 500 inches of annual snowfall will deliver ideal conditions. Sugar Bowl is also among the oldest resorts in the US, with rich skiing traditions that are duly respected.
Homewood Mountain Resort
Riding on the slopes of Homewood Mountain Resort is quite a magical experience. It’s right next to Lake Tahoe’s western shore, so you will literally descend into the expansive waters, something hard to find anywhere else in California. Homewood is a straightforward 1,260-acre destination, catering mostly to families with eight lifts and 64 runs. It’s quite tiny compared to other Lake Tahoe resorts but definitely a winner for those looking for less glamorous and calmer skiing that comes with spectacular vistas. Four terrain parks are there to give plenty of playing space for the snowboarders to practice.
Mountain High Resort - Wrightwood
Want to have the Mojave Desert and Catalina Island views while skiing? Mountain High gives you such an opportunity. Three mountains are united under one resort in this prime Southern California winter destination located just an hour and a half from Downtown Los Angeles. Accessible rental, great riding school, and diverse dining options make it a nice choice for a family outing. You also have a North Pole Tubing Park, officially Southern California’s biggest. The three mountains are connected by free shuttles, so you will comfortably profit from the varied terrain.
Northstar California - Truckee
Adding a more upmarket edge to the Lake Tahoe ski resort experience, Northstar is among the best places to ski in California. While slightly more priced than its counterparts, it brings a more exclusive proposition, with plenty of de luxe hotel choices in the area (Ritz-Carlton being the finest), upscale restaurants, and an unrivaled apres-ski scene. It has something of the French alpine resorts in its DNA, a certain mountain chic that the hedonism-seekers will value. Well-groomed trails spread across 3,170 acres of skiable area. There are eight terrain parks, a charming ice rink during the holiday season, and wonderful Lake Tahoe views from the summits.
June Mountain - June Lake
Having a fear of crowds and looking for a tranquil family skiing? June Mountain is what you’re looking for. Located a short drive from Mammoth Mountain, it’s worlds away in terms of the vibe. Queues are almost non-existent here, the atmosphere is amiable, and prices moderate. Still, you’re getting incredible Sierra Nevada vistas from the slopes, 41 runs, 1,500 acres of ski area, seven lifts, and a terrain park. Kids under 12 ski for free, so it is budget-friendly.
Sierra at Tahoe - Twin Bridges
You won’t find much fanciness at Sierra. It’s all about the mountain and providing exemplary skiing and snowboarding. Just 10 miles from Lake Tahoe, it’s one of the best ski resorts in California for beginners. 480 inches of snow annually ensures nice powder for the season. There are amazing tree skiing trails as well as a 320-acre backcountry ride through Huckleberry Canyon that would be a pleasant surprise for the pros. Sierra at Tahoe is strictly a ski mountain, and you won’t find lodging or very developed apres-ski here. That gives a more skiing culture-oriented crowd frequenting these slopes, which is great in its own right.
For an off-the-beaten-track kind of California ski resort, head to Bear Valley. Set in the heart of the gorgeous Central Sierra Mountains, a three-hour drive from Sacramento, it is a boutique winter destination delivering all you expect from a relaxing family holiday. Eighty-seven runs of all levels give a wide choice of trails, two terrain parks are a treat for snowboarders, and the sumptuous lodging offers allow for an unforgettable Sierra Mountains slopeside escape. There are several restaurants, bars, and cafes around the resort, so you’ll have a chance to dine with a view.