Where to Go Skiing

Parent Q&A

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  • My kids who are 11 and 13 are really enjoying skiing now and I'm wondering how folks find a nice ski lease for the whole winter.  Are there good sites to look on or ways to organize with others?  We usually go up to Tahoe 2-3 times a year, but I thought it might be fun to try to do more next winter.  Bonus points if we find one that is dog friendly, but that's a nice to have not a dealbreaker.  Thanks in advance for any leads you can provide! 

    We've had good experiences renting ski and snowboard gear from Sports Basement. We've never done it for more than a few days at a time, but they do offer a season-long package https://shop.sportsbasement.com/collections/rentals

    It’s hard with kids, since most ski leases and childless younger people. Snowpals is a site that lists both houses and groups looking to add members. I found a ski lease we could do with a baby, where we switched off each week with the owners of the house, on Craigslist. 

    A lot of families do ski leases if their kids are in the ski teams (Palisades, North Star, Kirkwood, etc). I've done two years in a row sharing a ski lease with 2-3 other team families. I think Kirkwood has its own facebook group for leases, probably other teams have similar social groups. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Family-friendly skiing that's not too far away

March 2012

I just spent a fantastic long weekend skiing with my 5-year-old at Mt. Rose Ski Resort. It was his first time and he loved it! We'd like to go more often, but the distance (and expense) make it difficult.

For those of you with young kids, what ski resorts do you love, and why? Our ideal resort would be not too far away, plenty of easy-moderate slopes, a family-friendly vibe, and not too expensive.

Also, any tips for how to make ski trips with kids successful? e.g. how do you get them to stay hydrated? Take breaks before getting exhausted? Get them onto and off of the lifts? etc? need to ski

The three closest resorts are basically Boreal, Sugar Bowl and Donner Ski Ranch. Of the three, Sugar Bowl has the best combination of infrastructure (high speed lifts, etc.), range of runs, length of runs, and proximity. Donner Ski Ranch is good for learning and cost. The roads are pretty clear most of the time although parking can be challenging. Kirkwood is also close but roads can close during major snow storms. The runs are pretty good if short but the lifts are glacial. With Vail buying Kirkwood's operations, infrastructure might improve but cost could increase. Long story short, we are big fans of Sugar Bowl. Kiddie Koncierge

One option for skiing is Bear Valley. It is (or seems) a little closer than Tahoe. And the drive is scenic and you don't have to deal with the traffic on 80.

You can stay in Arnold, which is maybe 30 minutes from the ski resort. And if you don't feel like skiing one day, there are places right off of Hwy 4 where you can pull over and play in the snow or sled.

Murphys is nice as well--closer to the Bay Area, but further from skiing. You can also find a lot of cabins to rent in the area if you want to stay for a while.

If you do want to truck up to Tahoe, we have found the ski school at Heavenly to be great for our now-7-year-old. After two seasons he is a solid blue run skiier. Bryan in Oakland

We have a cabin at Serene Lakes in Soda Springs and when our 4 kids were small we always went to Soda Springs ski resort which was small and easy to maneuver with kids. The lift tickets were free for kids under 7 and seniors. It might be a little different now . They also have tubing, a kids play area, an easy cafeteria with a view of the bunny slopes and a lovely sunny deck. The adult runs are not very challenging but as your kid improves you can move to Sugar Bowl which is a few miles further on on old highway 40 at the same Donner Summit exit. This is the closest ski area to the Bay Area and not having to come back up to the summit through Truckee really makes the trip much quicker and avoids a lot of traffic. Are we there yet?

X-Country Skiing Between here and LA

Oct 2011

I'm looking to meet up in some snowy place with my LA family over the holidays. We're hoping to find something mid-way that is also good for some winter fun. We're mostly interested in some xcountry and sledding and none of us have 4 wheel drives so we'd rather avoid roads that aren't typically cleared and well used. Also, ideally we'd like to rent a vacation home. It looks like Kings Canyon and Sequoia are pretty much mid-way. Have you skiied at these places? Where did you stay? How was it? Thanks! Ye Olde Familie Vacation Planner

Our kids are in their 20's now, but when they were younger and we lived in LA we went to Montecito Sequoia Lodge. It was a great family spot. Good cross country skiing and lots of other activities as well. They had a large dinning hall where you ate, played games and socialized with other guests. It's a beautiful area and we didn't need a 4 wheel drive to get there. check it out. http://www.montecitosequoia.com/ Reva

New parents want to go skiing!

Dec 2010

My husband and I are the proud parents of a 6 week old baby, and would like to resume some skiing/snowboarding this winter. I'm interested to hear about how other parents solved this problem. Parents' lift tickets seemed like the way to go but they are expensive. Are there any parents' season passes, deals or programs? I think our baby is too young for resort day care, but some resorts have baby sitters; does anyone have experience with this? Any other advice to facilitate a bit of snow fun this winter is greatly appreciated.

We started skiing with our kids when they were about 18 months and 3 years (they're now 4 and 7). Based on our experience I'd suggest the following:

1. parental predicament ticket (yes that's what it's called). It's a lift ticket you can swap back and forth between adults. Truthfully you can do this with any ticket as we've never had a resort in tahoe question us. Keep an eye out for deals and you can get some pretty cheap tickets.

2. Share a ski house with other parents so you can take turns with childcare. We're getting a ski lease this year and are always looking for guests. Contact me if you're interested.

3. morning/afternoon spouse swap whereby either you or your husband ski or babysit for the morning or afternoon then swap. It's easier to be with the kids off the mountain so the babysitter drops off the skier and you also don't have to deal with parking.

4. Cross country with the kid in a sled or backpack. Not the same as downhill, but you're still outside in the snow.

It's definitely a lot more work then skiing before kids, but very much worth it. liz

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Cross-Country Skiing

Dec 2008

We'd like to go for a cross-country ski weekend with our almost 4-yo son. Any ideas about go places to go for a long weekend from the Bay Area? Lodging too? Thanks! Julia

When I was young, we stayed in Bear Valley and cross-country skied in the meadow across the road, and then later downhill on Mt. Reba. You can stay in the hotels, rent a condo or a private residence. In the winter the roads are not plowed and you walk, ski or use a snowmobile to get to the cabin. The condos and hotels are right there in the village, easy to park and such. It is so beautiful there. Have fun and go often. It really is a great place for kids and doesn't have the same sense of entitlement that Tahoe does. Hope things haven't changed too much. I Heart Bear Valley

South Lake Tahoe is 3 hours from the East Bay, and has a lot of cross-country skiing opportunities. We have a cabin that we use a lot throughout the year, but also rent at what we consider affordable rates for the market. We have a 4 year old, so the cabin is set up for her enjoyment, as well as ours, i.e. movies, games, toys appropriate for kids. We prefer to rent to family groups, and allow pets (I think people have brought dogs for the most part). Please check us out at www.casatahoe.com For cross-country skiing, just google South Lake Tahoe cross country skiing Casa Tahoe

Going to the snow without driving?

Jan 2008

I am so tired of driving my kids to the snow so they can snowboard, and does anybody know of an organisation or any other way to get them up there without me driving/coming along? and how old do they have to be to send them on their own? is 13 too young?

Check out bayareaskibus.com - they offer day trips up to Tahoe for both teenagers (13-17)and adults. My teens have been doing it for a couple of years now and they absolutely love it. I've been really impressed by how organized the company is and I think the price is very fair for what you get. -happy to stay home

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Where to cross country ski with kids

December 2006

We are looking for a fairly quiet cross country ski area and cabin or home that will hold 4 adults, 2 toddlers, and 1 teen. Mostly interested in cross country and sledding, within 3-4 hours from the Bay Area.

Check out Serene Lakes, which is right near Royal Gorge about 3 hours from Berkeley (near Soda Springs/Sugarbowl)

Ski Club to take kids skiing

Nov 2006

My 14-year-old want to go skiing more than we want to take him. I grew up in San Francisco and my siblings were members of a ski club called Mogul (late 60s & 70s) that would take busloads of kids up for the day on the weekends. Does anything like that exist in the East Bay? Or does anyone have any other ideas? Mollie

I remember Mogul too! The closest thing I've found to that for my son is a group called Blue Angels. They take kids up 5 Saturdays in Jan. & Feb. It's not inexpensive, but it's extremely well run and my son LOVES it - this will be his 3rd year. Buses leave from several different Bay Area locations. You can get more info at their website, blueangelsnow.com or you can call them - Griff, who runs the program is a really nice guy and he was great about answering all my questions when I first called about the program. Kathy

Northstar vs. Heavenly for Ski Trip with Small Kid

Oct 2006

We're planning a 4-5 day ski trip in early January with our two kids aged 2 1/2 and 5. Last year we went to Northstar, which had a great ski school program for my son. We rented a condo nearby and loved the easy transit and also being able to do stuff in Truckee. But the crowds were overwhelming - we went the week between Xmas and New Years. Also, because you had to take the Gondola up to just start your skiing or to get to the ski lessons there was a big bottleneck. Hauling both kids and everyone's equipment up every morning was a huge production.

My Mom is advocating for trying Heavenly this year. How does it compare? (Besides being bigger and more expensive). I like challenging skiing, but I know I won't get more than three or four runs a day given the kid care needs. We are looking for a place that's good for all ages. It seems like there's much more to do at Heavenly, but the casinos are a big turnoff for me. What do the skiing families out there prefer? And will the crowds be less of an issue the first week of January?

You are correct that there is more to do at South Shore than Northstar, and more than just the the casinos. I would like to recommend my beautiful new cabin on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe in a 100-acre private naturalist reserve called Tahoe Meadows. Skiing is close by at Heavenly, and it is a short walk or drive across the street to the south shore redevelopment area with gondola to the top of Heavenly. Restaurants, grocery stores, video games, cinema, nightlife (and the casinos), are all outside the gates within a short drive or walking distance. When in Tahoe Meadows, it is a peaceful family-oriented gated community in the woods and right on the lake, and often with snow on the ground for the children to play in. There is a great sledding hill at the top of Ski Run Blvd., a 5 minute drive away. You are correct about the crowds the week between Xmas and New Year's--it is the biggest and busiest week of the ski season and rates go way up too. The first week of January will have fewer people, and even fewer after the third week of January, especially mid-week. Weekends are normally crowded in January and February.For more information please see my website at: http://www.fretlessconsulting.com/StarkweatherCabin/

Nearby ski trip with toddler

Feb 2004

We'd like to take our kids, ages 4yrs. and 18 mo.s, on a trip to the snow. I hear that the area near Dodge Ridge, out past Sonora, is closer ( and faster to drive to) than Tahoe, and tends to be cheaper. Any thoughts on this? Also, though I'd like to get my 4-yr. old on skis for the first time, I don't imagine that would translate into a lot of time on the slopes for any of us, and I can't figure out what to do with the toddler in the meantime. Would I have to try to find a local babysitter? Or stay in the cabin while my husband and daughter hit the snow? What I'd really like to find is a place that has sleigh riding, tubing, tobaggoning, etc., (where you can rent the equipment, since we don't own any), and where we can all play in the snow together. I have no idea how/where to do this. Any / all suggestions appreciated! stephanie

Yes, go east to the Dodge Ridge area. I have stayed in Twain Harte, which is a lower elevation, but if there's no snow it's just a short drive up to lots of snow, and I've stayed in Pine Crest and Strawberry, both small towns above the snow line. There's a sno park near Strawberry -- you get great sledding and a place to have hot chocolate and take a break from the cold. There are ski and sled rental places on the highway. Cross country skiing is easy -- rentals are in lots of places and kids can usually catch onto it pretty quickly. Dodge ridge is the downhill spot, and we haven't been there. It is a great alternative to Tahoe -- many fewer people, gorgeous scenery, much much less developed, cheaper to rent a place. I found a great place at Christmas on Craigslist. It's only about 2.5 - 3 hours from the Bay Area. Have fun -- we love it there! anon

I know you were thinking about somewhere other than Tahoe, but just wanted to say that last winter we went to Heavenly with another family, and they had a great 1/2 day ski school for the 3yo while the grownups skied, then we all went tubing at Hansen's (http://www.hansensresort.com/) and the two 18mos had a blast going down the hill with their dads. Heavenly also has licensed daycare for kids 6 weeks-6 years old - it's a bit pricey ($90/half day), but might be worth it if it means you get to ski and relax. I'd bet other resorts have similar daycare and ski school options. JP

Cross-country Skiing spots

Feb 2004

We just started cross country skiing and really enjoy it.Can anyone recommend a Cross Country skiing place that is close to the Bay Area and inexpensive? We have 2 daughters, 4 and 5 years old. The 5 year old has just started learning and loves it.We have been going to Royal Gorge because we don't know anywhere else but it is a bit expensive. ex down hill skier

Yosemite & Badger Pass is great for families. They have reasonable prices, a ''down home'' atmosphere, great hiking, xcountry & snowshoeing, tubing (for the rest of us), indoor & outdoor seating, food, lockers, free shuttles to & from Yosemite Valley. All this & Yosemite too! We've taken ''winter wonderland'' vacations there 5 times in the last 3 yrs. with our (now just turned)5 yr. old and my 26 yr. old.Always great! Curry also has sledding areas & a great outdoor ice rink w/rentals, campfire, and Half Dome above you. andrea

You don't need to go to a resort to go cross country skiing -- that is the beauty if the sport! You can get what is called a ''Sno-Park Pass'' at REI (or other like place -- or get them up where you are going at the ranger station). This allows you to park at most of those ''just off the road'' snow areas and ski, snowshoe, sled, whatever. It's like a snow permit and pretty cheap (maybe $10?). Then rent cross country skis here in the Bay Area or anywhere around Tahoe and go! We especially like the Fallen Leaf Lake area -- can't give you specific directions, but any Tahoe map would have it. I is enough off of the main road that you can have a great peaceful ski. It's mostly flat. Bring along a pack with some lunch/drinks/snack, and you have a pretty full day -- naps guaranteed! There are tons of spots -- also one right off the freeway at Boreal Ridge -- other side of the fwy. though.. That one gets much more traffic. Hope this is helpful! Please feel free to email me with any ?s -- have fun! Trish

For AREAS, it's hard to beat Royal Gorge. The areas outside Truckee like Tahoe Donner are at lower elevation, and are generally closed by April Fools day. Plus, they are not that much cheaper, particularly when you consider that kids as young as yours are only going to want to ski a little while anyway. But other areas with set trails are Kirkwood, Bear Valley, and Northstar. I've never been to the last two, but Kirkwood was high enough to keep snow longer than Tahoe Donner. Sorenson's in the Hope Valley also has set trails, and it's a lovely place to stay, but again, it's low elevation.

A HIGH elevation place that's cheap and has set trails is the Sierra Club's Clair Tappaan lodge at Soda Springs. You'll have to walk or carry the kids up to the lodge, then up from the meadow behind the lodge the first, steep 100 yards, but then the main trail is quite gentle. http://www.sierraclub.org/outings/lodges/ctl/ctlinfo.asp#Winter

There are several guidebooks that cover skiing on public lands, but those trails, unless it just snowed (which presents it's own set of problems), can be pretty cut up and icey, not what you want for a first time for the little ones.

Here are some guidebooks for you, they are also available at REI and Wilderness Exchange: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0931255082/ref=cm_custrec_gl_rec/102-9930870-1256904?v=glance=books

Here's a good link: http://gorp.away.com/gorp/activity/skiing/cros_ca.htm

Don't forget Yosemite (Badger Pass, the valley rarely has enough snow to ski) and Giant Forest national parks, both have good beginner skiing on closed roads and snow covered trails. Been There, Done That

Try the Donner Ski Ranch. Coming off 80, after crossing Donner Pass, I believe you take a left and go up the hill across from the gas station. It is a smaller, more rustic area than Royal Gorge. kl

2003 & Earlier

Ski Resort with Childcare

December 2001

Couple looking to take ten-month old daughter on a short vacation this holiday (by car). Does any one know of a place where we could do some cross country skiing and hiking and have child care available? Other suggestions? John

Snow trip with childcare - Although it's a longer ride than other snow trips I highly recommend the Montecito -Sequoia lodge in the Sequoia National Forest 60 miles east of Fresno. It's a family style lodge (there are also cabins) and the price includes meals. THere are indoor activities as well as cross-country skiing. I'm sure that staff is available for childcare for children too young for the organized activities. Their phone number is 800 227-9900. (We haven't been there in a few years, but I can't imagine its changed much.) Lorberlin

Kirkwood, which is quite a large resort just south of Lake Tahoe, has a very nice cross-country ski area. Also since it is such a large resort they are likely to have childcare available, although I don't know for sure. We have often taken our little one with us when we go out as they rent sleds. Have fun! Hannah

My wife and I would like to get up and do some skiing this winter in the Tahoe area. We have a baby daughter who is now 16 months old and are trying to find a ski area that has child care facilities and programs that can accommodate our children less than 2 years old. So far, we haven't been able to find any ski resorts that will take care of children younger than 2. We would appreciate any suggestions as we are avid skiers and are having a difficult time figuring out how to get out this winter. Thanks. Adam

The only Tahoe place I know of with infant care is Heavenly: http://www.skiheavenly.com/resort/services/daycare/ -Mike Martin

We just got back from a week at Heavenly. They have a fully certified day care center that takes children from 6 months to six years. The day care facility is right in the base lodge on the California side. We stayed just across the street at the Tahoe Seasons Resort. http://www.tahoeseasons.com/Floorplans.html We could walk to the lifts. This made it very easy to pop back and forth between the resort and skiing - a great asset if you are trying to trade off on skiing and child care. Also, the rooms are all suites with separate living and sleeping areas, a wet bar/microwave and a huge tub. This kind of space makes a holiday with a baby much more pleasant. Lora

We vacationed with a one year old last summer at a place in South Shore area that made our lives easy and our vacation extremely enjoyable, which was not the case at all with later vacations in other places and hotels. I know you are most interested in the North Shore, but I just have to recommend Lakeland Village. Usually we stay at a family home but would return to this place with our child gladly. I believe they have a website with lots of info. This is a condo operation with rooms inside the main lodge, and townhouses as well. We stayed in a one bedroom townhouse unit which also had a loft upstairs that could have slept two more people easily. The bedroom was downstairs, and the kitchen/living/dining area upstairs, so it was convenient to put the baby down for naps or evening in the bedroom without having to maintain silence. Also someone could sleep in (a vacation must!) while someone took the baby upstairs in the morning to play and eat. Having a real kitchen and not just a kitchenette meant we could prepare toddler meals and keep ample groceries and snacks on hand. There was even a VCR which allowed our son to watch some videos when we all felt the need for a little down time. Everything you needed was there with the possible exception of baby gates. For adults there were a fireplace and even an order in menu, and proximity to a lot of entertainment. The complex had two pools, one next to the beach which also featured a separate baby pool, quite large which our son enjoyed hugely, and also a private beach with calm, albeit cold, water to splash in and lots of sand to play in. There was even a small play area with climbing structure and swings in the complex, near our unit. South Shore is very informal, and there were many baby friendly establishments. As cheesy as it sounds, we went to brunch at the casino (Harvey's or Harrah's?) where there was a weekday breakfast buffet. Adults could enjoy a freshly made custom omelet and lots of other good things, and there was no charge for our child, who could happily eat (lunch for him) from all the choices there off of our plates. The staff was very friendly and tolerant of the mess of a new self-feeder. Another place our son particularly enjoyed was The Beacon, which is a short drive away at Camp Richardson. They have outdoor seating and a less formal bar menu, right on the beach, there was a lot to look at, and bored kids could follow the ducks or play in the sand. For the parents, there were great sunsets, drinks, good food and even some live music. We ended up here several evenings for dinner because it was so enjoyable and easy for our son, who loved the fries, and ourselves (honestly!) Hope you have a great vacation. cheryl

There's only one that we've found: Sierra at Tahoe, which takes kids from 18 months and up (no potty training necessary). We recommend the parent pass, available at Bear, Alpine, Northstar, Sierra at Tahoe, and other places. David

We are just looking into this ourselves but it looks as if Heavenly has day care for infants on up. Here's their website. http://www.skiheavenly.com/resort/services/daycare/ Amy

We just had a small vacation in Tahoe in the fall with our two daughters (2.5 and 6 months). We had a meeting to attend and I found a wonderful babysitter agency that I fully recommend, if you can't find a kid friendly ski-area. I found her on the web through the Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce. The agency was called Annie's Nannies, but Neta has bought out Annie and the named may have changed to Neta's Nannies. I was very apprehensive of letting my girls go to a stranger (I had never done so before), but once Neta walked in the door, carrying a large goodie bag of toys, including an Ariel mermaid costume (my daughter's favorite), I felt much better. She was very professional, has had CPR training and ECE credits, and my daughter adored her. Her prices were quite high ($16/hour) but I felt that it was a small price to pay to have peace of mind that my girls were in great hands. She will come to your location anywhere on the lake - I believe she lived in Truckee. I have lost her phone number, but I know the concierge at the Hyatt in Incline (who also referred her to me) has it as well as the Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce. Call her soon if you think you may want to go with this option, because she gets very busy, especially on the weekends. -Kerri

Diamond Peak in Incline Village in Nevada (25 mins. NE of Northstar) lists a drop in center 4 miles from the slope. It is open every day, including holidays. Advance registration requuired. Their # is 775 832 2582. Diane

When my youngest son was 18mths old we took him to Sierra at Tahoe for day-care. They have a fab facility right on the slopes and the daily fee includes, snacks, lunch etc. they even have their own fenced in play area in the snow. I would take breaks from skiing just to check on him but not let him see me, know how that goes? There is plenty of staff there and they listen to your instructions carefully. It's pretty pricy, about $85 for the day now but heck it's well worth it to have that day of skiing to yourself. You generally get a discount coupon for the next day which helps. Weekends book up early. have fun.

Easy Downhill Skiing

Does anybody recommend any of the down-hill skiing place around Tahoe? I am looking for a place with REAL EASY and large beginner area. My parents and brothers are going to visit us. I think going skiing for the first time will be fun for the young adults. However I am afraid that the beginner's lesson won't help my brothers too much because their English comprehension is perhaps quite limited. It would be even better if there is a snow-playing area nearby for my toddler and my parents. Any suggestion? I have surely checked our website already. :) Thanks! Cherri (12/99)

Re beginner skiing at Tahoe. Your best best is probably Boreal or Donner Ski Ranch. Both tame and not as expensive. There are some sledding areas around there, too. linda