Northstar, North Lake Tahoe

California, USA

Northstar California Resort is one of the less well-known Tahoe ski resorts, so most people who come here are pleasantly surprised. The resort has undergone gigantic improvements in recent years and the European-style village is now a vibrant and happening place. There’s a variety of accommodation options, shops, bars and restaurants on pedestrian-only walkways that meander around buildings and an ice-skating rink. Oh, and the skiing and freestyle facilities are pretty good too.

Scout Loves

  • For those into terrain parks and pipes, Northstar has some of the best facilities in the country.
  • Northstar has the only Burton Snowboard Academy in the world.
  • Great tree skiing, particularly around Backside Express.
  • The Ritz-Carlton – Tahoe’s only five-star hotel is found half-way up the mountain.
  • Wind protected slopes.

Scout Tips

  • Northstar is a fantastic family resort.
  • There’s a ton of intermediate terrain – 60% of the slopes are designated intermediate areas. Advanced skiers looking to be challenged will probably be disappointed, though if staying here can easily do day trips to nearby Squaw Valley.
  • Most of the value-oriented accommodation is situated far enough from the base area to require a short but frequent shuttle bus ride. Other good budget accommodation options are in Truckee (10 minutes) or in one of the lakeside towns (15-plus minutes)

Scout Review

Northstar California Resort would have to be one of the best options in the Lake Tahoe area for a high-quality family ski vacation. With terrain largely dedicated to intermediate skiers, it also features great beginner runs and the Backside area has some skiing for the more advanced.

However, where Northstar really excels as a family destination is its newly developed village area. From the complimentary S’Mores to the huge ice-skating rink in the center of it all, kids will be kept happy here once ski school is over. Parents will also love the village for exploring the many bars (don’t miss Petra wine bar) and restaurants. There’s also some great shops, a movie theater, yoga studio and day spa.

There is some top-notch accommodation right in the village as well as more value-oriented condos a short shuttle ride from the base. However, if the ultimate in luxury is your thing then head straight to the Ritz-Carlton a little further up the hill.

Another selling point of Northstar would have to be its terrain parks and pipes. A 22ft Superpipe was designed by two-time Olympian Shaun White and when he’s not using it to train for competitions, it’s open to the public. The resort is host to some qualifying freeskiing and snowboarding events for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

Northstar Accommodation

There is an array of accommodation available in and around Northstar. Some is centered around the village and includes anything from basic loft rooms to luxurious ski-in ski-out condos. A little further out from the village are some mid-range condos in various townhomes and complexes. The Ritz-Carlton sits half way up the hill and is the choice for the more discerning. If you are on a tighter budget you can try nearby Truckee or one of the lakeside towns. View Northstar Hotels.

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Resort Activities

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Along with the many village activities (S’mores, ice-skating, yoga, shops, live music and movies) there’s also a bungy trampoline and ropes challenge, tubing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Getting There and Around

Getting to Northstar is relatively easy. It’s just over a 45-minute drive from Reno-Tahoe International Airport which has 72 daily departures non-stop to 15 cities. There are several shuttle services, including the North Lake Tahoe Express which costs $45pp one way. If driving from San Francisco, it will take about 3 hours – though longer with weekend traffic and much longer with bad weather.

If you are keen to explore the Lake Tahoe area, including other ski resorts and towns, it is worth having your own car. There are shuttle services, taxis and buses but it may require some connections to get where you are going.

When To Go

Northstar is open for skiing from mid-November–mid-April.

It could get busy during the Sprint US Snowboarding and Visa US Freeskiing grands prix, which are being held in the resort from January 9-12, 2014.

Other holiday periods that are busy are:

  • Christmas and New Year.
  • Martin Luther King long weekend, January 17-20 (2014).
  • President’s Day long weekend, February 14-17 (2014).

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 6330ft / 1929m Gondolas 2 Beginner 13%  
Summit Elevation 8610ft / 2824m Express Six Seater 1 Intermediates 60%  
Vertical Drop 2280ft / 695m Express Quads 7 Advanced 27%  
Skiable Area 3170ac / 1282ha Quad Chair 1      
Annual Snowfall 350in / 9m Triple Chairs 2      
Longest Run 1.4 miles / 2.3km Surface Lifts 2      
Snowmaking 50% Magic Carpets 5      
    Lift Capacity per hour 34,799 per hour      
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