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Northstar California Resort Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe’s Best Skiing

From Truckee and Martis Camp, you can measure the time it takes to reach your favored ski hill in a matter of sips. Simply warm up the car, hit the road, and settle into a mug of goodness.

Awe the joys of living in the midst of a skier’s nirvana.

NORTHSTAR CALIFORNIA RESORT

If your sights are set on Northstar California, then you’ll be hard pressed to take more than three or four sips; Martis Camp’s Lookout Lodge is just a matter of minutes away. If you’re looking to go further afield (or if you’re simply determined to savor that perfect cup of morning joe), then you’ve got more than a handful of excellent choices to head off to, most of which you’ll reach before you hit the bottom of your cup.

Such is the wonderful dilemma created by this abundant pantry of choices we have when it comes
to skiing the Lake Tahoe basin.

Where do we start? Let’s begin in the backyard, with Northstar California Resort. Quite simply, ski access doesn’t get any easier. There are several homes where you can glide right up to the back deck, unbuckle, and make a beeline for the hot tub. For others, Martis Camp’s private ski lodge at the base of Lookout Mountain, and direct ski access via the Martis Camp Express is a ten-minute drive…at the most. As for Northstar California, 3,170 acres of skiable terrain radiate up and away from a village that feels it’s been directly imported from Innsbruck. This resort’s grooming team is legendary and the combination of 20 lifts, three gondolas, 100 trails and a village with an ice rink, quaint cafes, fine dining and a shopping scene nothing short of “expert,” are what made Northstar California ranked #19 top ski area in the west by Ski Magazine. (Photos courtesy of Northstar California Resort)

SUGAR BOWL

Sugar Bowl Ski ResortFurther afield, yet still about one cup of coffee away, is Sugar Bowl. On Opening Day 1939, the wheels kicked in gear and California’s first chairlift was in operation. While Sugar Bowl has kept up with the times in terrain management and all things skiing, there’s still a distinct Bavarian feel to the mountain that an Austrian, backed by Walt Disney, envisioned as the ideal resort. There’s another thing about this mountain that’s very distinct: it consistently tallies the greatest accumulations of snow, about 500 inches a year. Sugar Bowl is made up of four mountains and is home to 1,650 skiable acres with 103 trails, 12 lifts, a terrain park and a sun-splashed deck that compels you to grab a quick bite or a fine meal and an afternoon lounge session with front row views of the bowl. (Photos courtesy of Sugar Bowl.)

DONNER SKI RANCH

Donner Ski Ranch TruckeeJust across old highway 40 from Sugar Bowl is another venerable resort riding the Pacific Crest – Donner Ski Ranch. This ski hill opened two years before Sugar Bowl in 1937 and remains family owned and operated. It’s also known as an outstanding ski resort for families in search of value-conscious lift tickets as well as a great place to enjoy tubing and something else that may come as a pleasant surprise – a selection of dessert pies that more than one local has deemed the area’s best. While it’s diminutive in comparison to the high-profile resorts (500 acres of skiable terrain, six lifts and 1,000 vertical feet), its high-altitude ridgeline setting guarantees phenomenal views and often results in epic powder days. On top of that, there’s a friendly, old Sierra vibe here that’s hard to rival. (Photos courtesy of Donner Ski Ranch.)

BOREAL MOUNTAIN RESORT

Boreal Mountain Resort TruckeeStill in the Donner Summit neighborhood of resorts is Boreal Mountain Resort. This mountain is likely the most easily accessed from Sacramento and the Bay Area as it faces I-80 and Castle Peak. It’s also traditionally one of the earliest to get the game of skiing and boarding underway. Halloween openings are never out of the question. There’s a renowned terrain park, Woodward Tahoe – a sport training facility with indoor trampolines, foam pits and ramps – and night skiing that runs until 9 pm.

PALISADES TAHOE

Palisades TahoeAlong that stretch of Sierra backbone that runs between Truckee and Tahoe City is Palisades Tahoe, one sprawling resort that extends to two separate mountains. For skiers and boarders, the decision for these two mountains to join as one a few years ago was cause for celebration. Their terrain includes some of the west’s greatest names, including the legendary Headwall and KT-22. In fact, this heralded resort was voted Best Ski Resort in North America in 2016 by readers of USA Today. It also hosted the 1960 Olympics and the ski vibe has only become more vivid. It’s a pulse you can feel on the mountain as well as in its shop-lined village. One mountain is made up of more than 3,600 skiable acres, four terrain parks and one leg-burning run that stretches 3.2 miles. The other mountain is spread out over seven bowls and 2,400 acres. All in all there are more than 270 trails and 42 lifts. (Photos courtesy of Palisades Tahoe.)

HOMEWOOD MOUNTAIN RESORT

Homewood Mountain Resort, Lake TahoeIn the battle for which resort is blessed with the most amazing views of Lake Tahoe, Homewood Mountain Resort often finds itself wearing the crown. Located six miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89, Homewood literally rises straight up from near lake level, landing at a perch whose views of the lake will put any poet to the test. There are eight lifts that lead you to 67 runs and six terrain parks, including Money Booter which is well known for the photo ops it provides featuring boarders sailing into a virtual infinity pool of sunny skies and deep blue waters. Being so close to the lake, Homewood’s annual snowfall is impressive, averaging 450 inches. Just as attractive are the quaint dining options that exist on the mountain as well as along the West Shore that’s known for its old Tahoe charm.
Named the “Gem of Lake Tahoe’s West Shore” by SKI Magazine. (Photos by silent A Photography, Courtesy of Homewood Mountain Resort.)

DIAMOND PEAK

Diamond Peak Resort, Lake TahoeThere’s another mountain that’s quick to challenge the claim of having the best views of Lake Tahoe: Diamond Peak. There are six lifts, dozens of runs, one terrain park and a constant sense that you’re being drawn toward the lake as many of the runs offer non-stop views from top to bottom. Diamond Peak was the first Tahoe resort to install snowmaking in the 1960s and continues to be at the edge of the latest evolutions in creating ski conditions that are as attractive as the lake itself. Even the drive to Diamond Peak makes for a great escape. From Martis Camp, drive To Kings Beach on 267, then left on Highway 28 to Incline Village, where you’ll turn left on Country Club Drive, then right on Ski Way. (Photo Chris Bartowski, Courtesy of Diamond Peak Ski Resort.)

HEAVENLY LAKE TAHOE

On the other side of the lake with its own claim to Tahoe’s most jaw-dropping scenery is Heavenly Lake Tahoe. This aptly named mountain straddles Nevada and California with 4,800 acres of moguls, steeps, terrain parks and long, groomed stretches of sheer bliss. There are 28 lifts (including a gondola that rises from the Heavenly Village), 97 trails, a 3,500 vertical foot descent, two terrain parks, countless pubs and cafes on the slopes and at the lodges, and – as a Martis Camper you’ll like this – a direct connection to the same Vail Resorts season pass that Northstar belongs to. Translation: that pass you bought for Northstar is also good at Heavenly Lake Tahoe (among many other resorts), a nice perk that makes this candy jar of alpine happiness even tastier. (Photos courtesy of Heavenly Lake Tahoe.)

There are a lot of factors that come into play when choosing where to ski:, including snow conditions, ease of access or the fact that curiosity calls out to you to explore new horizons. Either way, you’ve got a lot of great choices. And when the day’s over, you’ve got a great après scene at Martis Camp itself, whether it’s treating yourself to a spa session and dinner at the Camp Lodge or settling into a hot chocolate and a pair of slippers by the fireplace. It’s a pleasant skinundrum to be confronted with. Enjoy.

Written by Scott Mortimore.

 

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