Northstar Ski Resort
Northstar California (formerly Northstar at Tahoe) has transformed itself from a simple day ski area into one of the best destination resorts in the US. Since 2010, the Northstar Ski Resort has been owned by Vail Resorts, so it has the characteristics you’d expect of a Vail Resort; high quality customer service and very well developed infrastructure and amenities.
The Northstar Ski Resort is the Disneyland of ski resorts with all the bells and whistles you could dream of. Sure you might need to pay a pretty penny for the privilege of staying at the upscale Northstar Resort, but the Star is very fine indeed. And just like Disneyland, kids will adore Northstar Tahoe, as will their parents!
Northstar Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The Northstar Ski Resort is reasonably sizeable with 97 trails spread across 3,170 acres (1,283 hectares), and a vertical drop of 2,280 feet (695 metres). It’s easy to navigate with minimal traversing, especially compared to other Tahoe ski resorts like Heavenly
, and you won’t run the risk of ending up in Nevada for the night!
Northstar Tahoe is renowned for the impeccable corduroy groomers and the abundance of tree-lined cruisers. Beginners are incredibly well catered for, and the Northstar Ski Resort is absolute heaven for intermediates with 60% of the trails rated as blue, although on some of the trails you may experience a little déjà vu. Some of the black runs are groomed and appropriate for intermediates, or they are fantastic for advanced riders to really let it rip!
Some hard-core riders call it “Flatstar” because it’s reasonably mellow and there’s nothing to frighten experts, particularly relative to the gnarly Squaw Valley
with its cliffs and alpine cornices. At the Northstar Ski Resort, the terrain is below the tree-line, so the main drawcard for advanced riders is the tree skiing on Lookout Mountain as well as the glades on the Backside.
Like many other California ski resorts
, Northstar has the fabulous combination of plentiful sunny days and an abundance of snow fall. Northstar Tahoe receives an average of 350 inches (9 metres) of snow per season, and to help Mother Nature along, there are lots of snowmaking guns that amazingly cover about 50% of the terrain.
Where is Northstar Tahoe?
The Northstar Ski Resort is one of the northern Tahoe ski resorts
in California, just 7 miles north of Lake Tahoe (Kings Beach) and 7 miles south of the town of Truckee
Considering the great local transportation options, a Northstar ski vacation can easily incorporate other nearby Lake Tahoe ski resorts such as Squaw Valley
, Alpine Meadows
, Sugar Bowl
and Mt Rose
. With that much terrain on offer, you could never be bored!
The Northstar Village is medium sized and incorporates upscale lodgings, lots of shops, restaurants, and other amenities. Northstar lodging primarily consists of luxurious properties. There are modern condos for families or groups, multi-bedroom mountain homes, as well as some pampering at the 5-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel
. You can look at Northstar lodging
options here, including rates and availability.
More economical lodging options can be found on the north shore of Lake Tahoe (7 miles away) or in the town of Truckee
(6 miles away), which has some western charm.
The Northstar Village has a big ice skating rink. If you don’t want to don some skates, you can just watch the action rink-side whilst sipping on a cocktail. Or you can swap stories of the day beside one of the many fire pits whilst gobbling on a s'more (a roasted marshmallow and chocolate treat).
Other than shopping, other North Star activities include cross-country skiing, tubing, snowmobiling, dog sled tours, and snowshoeing, or for the ultimate relaxation you can indulge at a day spa.
Summary of Pros and Cons of Northstar California
- The Village at Northstar is upscale and has plenty to offer. The mid-mountain Ritz-Carlton Northstar hotel is also fabulous.
- The lift infrastructure is impressive and there are various fast chair lifts.
- The resort has a great family atmosphere and a well regarded kids ski school program. It’s ideal for families (with children 3 and up – child care is only for kids 2 and up and it’s in an inconvenient location).
- Northstar California has great beginner terrain and an abundance of trails for intermediates.
- It can be used as a base to explore other nearby Tahoe ski resorts.
- Riders on the storm… the trees can be fabulous when it’s puking snow and nearby resorts are on wind hold.
- A major strength is the freestyle terrain.
Pro or Con Depending on Your Perspective
- Northstar is very expensive, but good things never come cheaply. You have to pay truckloads for food, lift tickets, equipment rentals, ski school and lodging. If Northstar is within your budget, enjoy the exclusivity, and if not then go elsewhere.
- Northstar is popular for good reason, so it can be crowded, particularly on weekends.
- The Northstar Ski Resort is a very groomed hill. They’d groom the glades if they could!
- One of the reasons for the popularity of Northstar is the Epic Pass. Day lift tickets at Northstar cost a bomb, yet thankfully there are various Epic multi-day passes available that provide access to Heavenly ski resort and Kirkwood, as well as other Vail Resorts. These passes provide great value.
- Northstar is just a pimple of a hill; it’s not a mountain. There is nothing particularly steep, and the elevation isn’t very high so the snow can be inferior to neighbouring resorts. However there is an amazing amount of snowmaking to provide decent cover… if you like riding fake snow.
Ski tours in or near Northstar