Ski season is already here. From luxe lodges to secrets of the ski bums, we’ll point you to the spots the best suit your family’s style, and budget. Take a tour of our West Coast favorites.
No guide to California family skiing is complete without Northstar. It’s been described as ‘upscale without being pretentious’, which seems pretty much on the mark. It certainly offers all the shopping, style and amenities of a high-end resort, but still manages a casual, family-friendly vibe. One of the other area resort featuring a licensed childcare facility at the resort (see Heavenly, below, for another), they also offer a solid deal, dollar-for-hour, on kids ski lessons. Those looking for something closer to a private lesson, and willing to spend a little more on lessons can enroll in their Ultimate 4, which guarantees no more than four students per instructor. There’s tons to do in the village and they have one of best ice rinks in the area, but it’s their runs that really have us enchanted—Northstar is overflowing with true moderate runs, and lots of long ones at that—making for a great day of fear-free skiing with a family of mixed skills.
Northstar image courtesy luxuryskitrips.com
WHERE TO STAY
RITZ-CARLTON, LAKE TAHOE
The Ritz offers the best of both worlds: You’re steps away from the gondola, but still out of the hustle and bustle of the Village. A gorgeous, sweeping property, the Ritz really envelopes you in mountain luxe, and like many smart high-end properties, they make sure the kids feel treated as well as the adults. Their Ritz kids program offers enough activities to keep even the most active little one occupied. One standout is their Indoor Campout Package that delivers a campout right to the room, delivering a tent, featherbed, linens, activities and s’mores kit for a night they’ll definitely remember. (Ages 4-8)
$$$-$$$$ Luxury to Mid-Priced
Northstar has tons of convenient lodging options, from condos and studios right in the village to more value-priced mountain homes and condos only a short free-shuttle ride away
Heavenly Mountain Resort accommodates skiers of all ages, and we’re specifically referring to the 0-2 year old end of the spectrum. This south Tahoe spot has a well-rounded offering of runs, but its one of the few that offers a licensed day care center at the resort (for children 6 weeks and up) and even nanny services. For kids old enough to toddle onto skis, there’s a wide selection of ski days, from just an hour or so on the snow paired with the rest of the day of indoor play to half snow-half indoor to full day lessons. They really go out of their way to give parents lots of options and ways to ease them onto the slopes. Outside of the kids offerings, Heavenly is one of the area’s largest resorts, with a serious vertical drop.
WHERE TO STAY
FOREST SUITES RESORTS
Forest Suites aren’t the grandest of accommodations, but within walking distance of the gondola, ski schools and a grocery store, you can’t beat the location. They’re wonderfully spacious and go out of their way to make families feel welcome, including a deal where their on-premise ski shop will come to your room and outfit the entire family.
This photo showcases a few of the perks that put Homewood at the top of my list for family skiing in the Lake Tahoe area: Relatively uncrowded runs; No long waits at the lifts; Parking just feet away from the lodge. Don’t believe me—check the photo for yourself. Homewood isn’t known for its frills. The lodges are small, basic and you won’t find fancy amenities or extensive play parks for kids. It’s also a relatively smaller mountain, but still has enough runs to keep you exploring for a long weekend or more. What you will find is much lower stress levels, a family-friendly atmosphere and great ski instructors. With plans for an expansion and update underway, don’t wait to get to Homewood, its small-resort charm is soon to be a thing of the past.
WHERE TO STAYGRANILBAKKEN RESORT
Budget to Mid-Priced $$-$$$
There are lots of condos to rent in West Tahoe, but if you’re looking for something that has a touch of hotel service with the savings and room of a condo, Granilbakken is for you. Set just back far enough off Hwy 89 to be quiet without being inconvenient, Granilbakken is a West Tahoe lodging option you will not want to pass up. It’s clean, spacious and it’s tasteful cabin-themed decor gives this value-rate hotel an air of an upscale resort, without adding zeros to the bill. There’s awesome sledding, a hill big enough to ski and their amazing Treetop Adventure Park where kids 5 and up can zip or climb through the treetops. Accommodations range from suites to condo-style rooms, and staff is known for their helpful attitude where they treat guests like family. . If you do decide to head to a local mountain, check into their Ski/Snowboard Package that includes lodging and lift tickets for just over $150.
All Granilbakken & main image photo credits: Tor Johnson and Vance Fox