10 Best Lake Tahoe Resorts for Families

Catherine Parker Avatar

Heavenly Ski Resort
Heavenly’s view of Lake Tahoe are some of the best. Credit: Vail Resorts/Heavenly Mountain Resort

Straddling the border of California and Nevada, the Lake Tahoe region is a winter playground for all ages. For families, Lake Tahoe boasts more than a DOZEN ski resorts within an hour’s drive. With so many options, it’s hard to experience all of them. Off the slopes, families can ice skate, snowshoe, cross-country ski, snow mobile and of course find lots of places to eat close to the best Lake Tahoe resorts for families.

After visiting Lake Tahoe resorts for more than 20 years, it’s still the top place for me and my kids to hit the slopes. First, we love the variety of ski resorts. There are so many options for all types of skiers and snowboarders (with a equal split of both), along with lots of terrain parks that kids love.

Plus, we love the sun. Lake Tahoe boasts about 300 days of sun a year so it feels warmer when you are skiing.

Finally. I appreciate the different types of lodging you can find in the area, from luxury condos to 3-star hotels. Here’s the best Lake Tahoe resorts for families.

Read More: TMOM-tested and recommended snowboard and ski gear for families.

Palisades Tahoe (Formerly Squaw Valley)

12 miles south of Truckee, California, along California Highway 89. Olympic Valley is located at 1960 Olympic Valley Road, Olympic Valley. Alpine Meadows is located at 2600 Alpine Meadows Road, Alpine Meadows.

Two kids watch the gondola at Palisades Tahoe, the largest of the Lake Tahoe Resorts
The Aerial Tram at Palisades Tahoe moves a lot of people. Photo credit: Palisades Tahoe 

The legendary Squaw Valley has a new name—Palisades Tahoe. With 6,500 acres to explore, this Lake Tahoe resort still tops lists around the world and its runs, like the KT-22, are legendary. It’s the largest resort in the Lake Tahoe area and a bucket list destination for winter sport enthusiasts from around the world. 

As the location of the 1960 Olympic Games, it’s still home to world-class athletes; the main area is called Olympic Valley to honor that heritage. The Washoe people, the original inhabitants of the area, collaborate with the resort by offering cultural tours throughout the season. 

Alpine Meadows, once a separate resort, is more integrated into the new Palisades Tahoe, which emerged in 2021. The mountain areas are called Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows, though you’ll find similar offerings at both locations with convenient shuttle service to both. 

What Stayed the Same?

Palisades Tahoe is the Lake Tahoe resort where locals take their friends when they want to ski big. But don’t think that means it’s not for families. Far from it. My kids love this resort since it’s the only one to offer mountaintop beginner skiing (green runs).

Palisades Tahoe offers group, family and private ski and snowboarding lessons for kids as young as 3. Lessons are offered in both areas, Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows. Also Palisades Tahoe offers a full range of runs from beginner (green) to expert (double black) along with several terrain parks that my kids love. 

Read More: Tahoe, Charleston and More: The Top July Vacay Spots

Food, Fun and Lodging at Palisades Tahoe Resort

Palisades Tahoe offers lots of dining at the base lodge, mid-mountain and at the summit with everything from fine dining to grab-and-go, so it’s easy to feed a family on the run.

Activities at Palisades Tahoe celebrate the outdoors so the resort offers everything from yoga to guided snowshoeing, back country exploring, cross country skiing and snow tubing. Don’t forget the s’mores fixings since it offers fire pits. My kids perk up after a long day of skiing with a roasted marshmallow. 

Palisades Tahoe offers a range of family-friendly lodging, some with fireplaces, full kitchens, wifi, hot tubs and saunas. The larger units feature washers and driers and even a fitness center on-site for your ski getaway.  

Olympic Valley Area Stats

Base Elevation: 6,200 ft. Summit Elevation: 9,050 ft.
Vertical Drop: 2,850 ft. Skiable Acres: 3,600
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 15%
Blue 35%
Black 50%
Total Named Runs: 177
Lifts: 30 total: 1 aerial tram, 1 funitel (cableway), 6 high speed 6-pack, 2 high-speed quads, 1 quad, 8 triples, 4 doubles, 1 rope tow and 5 surface lifts

Alpine Meadows Area

Base Elevation: 6,835 ft. Summit Elevation: 8,637 ft.
Vertical Drop: 1,802 ft. Skiable Acres: 2,400
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 25%
Blue 40%
Black 35%
Total Named Runs: 100
Lifts: 13 total: 1 high-speed 6-pack, 3 high-speed quads, 2 triples, 5 doubles and 2 surface lifts

Read More: Ultimate Packing List for Family Ski Trips

Northstar Mountain Resort

7 miles south of Truckee, California, along California Highway 267.

The ice skating rink at Northstar Mountain Resort., one of the best Lake Tahoe resorts for families
The ice skating rink at Northstar Mountain Resort. Photo credit: Vail Resorts/Northstar

Northstar might be the most popular resort for families at Lake Tahoe and with good reason.

Its lessons are industry-leading, like engineered runs that guide kids into perfect turns. My youngest noticed the difference and it really help boost his confidence.

The Burton Academy for snowboarding, the only Lake Tahoe resort to feature the program, teaches kids as young as 3 to snowboard. After getting three kids on boards and skis, I’ve learned a great ski and boarding program is one of the most important features of a ski resort for families. 

NorthStar’s protected location keeps the wind a bay so kids don’t feel cold. Families enjoy mountaintop skiing a gondola ride away from the village, packed with ice skating, a theatre and live music along with a slew of restaurants and shopping.

Families can spend their family ski vacation at Northstar with a range of lodging, including the Ritz-Carlton, ski-in, ski-out property.

Northstar Mountain Resort Stats

Base Elevation: 6,330ft. Summit Elevation: 8,610ft.
Vertical Drop: 2,280 ft. Skiable Acres: 3,170
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 11%
Blue 56%
Black 33%
Total Named Runs: 100
Lifts: 20 total: 2 gondolas,1 high speed 6-pack, 7 high-speed quads, 1 fixed-grip quad, 2 triples, 2 surface lifts and 5 Magic Carpet lifts

Read More: Best Winter Gear for Kids 

Mt Rose Ski Tahoe

22222 Mt. Rose Highway, 22 miles from the Reno/Lake Tahoe airport (RNO) and 11 miles from North Lake Tahoe

The first Lake Tahoe resort to open each season, Mt Rose is my favorite — and the favorite of Lake Tahoe locals. It’s minutes from Reno, the closest airport, and routinely offers discounts for lift tickets the same day as passengers arrive.

This friendly resort is a favorite with value-minded first time skier families looking for lots of green runs. I have found Mt Rose does an excellent job at providing interesting trails and dedicated lifts for kids (and their parents). For example, there are several runs grouped together with a combination of open and glade skiing and boarding .

I appreciate its convenient parking the most. Mt Rose Ski Tahoe doesn’t need shuttles or trams to get you to the lodge because it’s so close. That means it’s easy to make more than one trip to the car. When skiing with the kids, I can never get everything I need in one trip. After the lift lines close, Mt Rose offers the least amount of traffic when headed back to the lake, another important factor for me. 

Ski Lessons at Mt Rose

Mt Rose Ski Tahoe indoor facilities are smaller and less refined than other resorts. Because of its smaller facility, it doesn’t offer lessons for smaller kids or day-care facilities (lessons start for kids at age 6). Lessons are also limited to half-day options since the Rosebud Programs doesn’t offer a lunch break. Depending on the age of your kids, this might be a deal breaker. Though my three kids could take a refresher class in the morning, have lunch with me, then practice all afternoon. 

Mt Rose Ski Tahoe offers dining with indoor and outdoor seating, though indoor seating is reserved for dine-in customers only. Picnic tables are found on the deck outside. The main lodge also features a bar. Lodging isn’t available at Mt. Rose and the après scene is limited. 

SheBuysTravel Tip: Traffic is more congested into Reno than into the Tahoe Basin, so plan ahead for your trip to and from the airport if you fly into Reno.

Mt Rose Ski Tahoe Stats

Base Elevation: 8,260ft. Summit Elevation: 9,700ft.
Vertical Drop: 1,800ft. Skiable Acres: 1,200
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 20%
Blue 30%
Black

Double Black

40%

10%

Total Named Runs: 60
Lifts: 8 total: 2 high speed 6-pack, 2 high-speed quads, 2 triples, 2 surface lifts

Read More: Where Kids Ski FREE in 2021

Diamond Peak Ski Resort

1210 Ski Way, Incline Village, on the northern shore of Lake Tahoe and just 35 miles south of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport along Mt. Rose Highway (NV Hwy 431).

The stunning view of the lake from Diamond Peak, one of the best Lake Tahoe Resorts for families
Diamond Peak Ski Resort offers stunning lake views. Photo credit: Diamond Peak

As a smaller resort on the north side of Lake Tahoe, this resort is often overlooked. Located in Incline Village, it offers a convenient resort for families staying on the North side of the lake, especially for those staying at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe with its free shuttle. Diamond Peak Ski Resort also runs a free ski shuttle bus from several other locations throughout Incline Village.

I’ll take any perk I can get and that’s why we ski at Diamond Peak. It offers an interchangeable parent’s pass where parents can share a single lift ticket so one parent can watch the baby while the other shreds the mountain. And there’s more: kids under 6 ski FREE and skiers over age 80 get free lift passes too, so Grandma and Grandpa can take the kids skiing for free! Diamond Peak offers lessons for skiing and snowboarding for kids 3+ and uses magic carpet lifts and a beginner chair lift.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO), several airport shuttles drop off at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, located at 111 Country Club Dr. in Incline Village.

Diamond Peak Ski Resort Stats

Base Elevation: 6,700 ft. Summit Elevation: 8,540 ft.
Vertical Drop: 1,840 ft. Skiable Acres: 655
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 18%
Blue 46%
Black 36%
Total Named Runs: 30
Lifts: 1 high-speed quad, 2 quads. 3 doubles and 1 surface lift for ski school.

Read More: Lake Tahoe in the Summer

Boreal Mountain Resort

19749 Boreal Ridge Road, 80 miles east of Sacramento, California.

Boreal Lake Tahoe resort
Boreal is a favorite with teens for night skiing and lots of terrain features. credit: Boreal Mountain Resort

I visited Boreal Mountain Resort with my teen to take snowboarding lessons with Woodward, a leader in adventure sports at the Woodward Tahoe Bunker. Boreal also offers features that teens (and college kids) love, like night skiing and the Woodward Mountain Terrain Parks, a series of features from beginner to advanced. 

With lifts running until 8 p.m. daily, Boreal is another reason teens and young adults flock to this resort (no early alarm to suit up). Kids 5 and under can get buy lift tickets for $5 on the mountain (not available in advance). 

SheBuysTravel Tip: Boreal Mountain Resort offers Tahoe Tubing, an area for people 42” and taller for a groomed tubing adventure. Reserve your 90-minute timed tubing session in advance. 

Boreal Mountain Resort Stats

Base Elevation: 7,200 ft. Summit Elevation: 7,700 ft.
Vertical Drop: 500 ft. Skiable Acres: 380
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 30%
Blue 55%
Black 15%
Total Named Runs: 32
Lifts: 1 high-speed quad, 1 quad, 3 triples, 1 double and 4 surface lifts.

Granlibakken-Tahoe

725 Granlibakken Road, half a mile from Tahoe City.

Woman cross country skiing at Granlibakken Tahoe, one of the best Lake Tahoe resorts for families
Granlibakken Tahoe offers snowshoeing and a sled hill. Photo credit: Pixabay

Granlibakken-Tahoe offers an intimate ski resort and sledding hill, perfect for families that need a small and inexpensive resort. It features two ski lifts and a sledding hill so families can have one kid on the bunny hill and another one sledding at the same time; I have done this several times.

Granlibakken-Tahoe has a rental shop on the property. In addition to downhill skiing and snowboarding, Granlibakken offers snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails.

Granlibakken-Tahoe offers everything from lodge rooms to three-bedroom town homes. Nestled on 74 acres surrounded by fir trees, it’s not uncommon to see wildlife walking through the property.

Heavenly Mountain Resort

3860 Saddle Road, South Lake Tahoe

Heavenly Ski Resort, one of the best Lake Tahoe resorts for families
Heavenly’s views of Lake Tahoe are some of the best. Photo credit: Vail Resorts/Heavenly

If you’re staying at South Lake Tahoe (I usually stay on the north side), the go-to is Heavenly Mountain Resort. It’s so big, you can ski in both California and Nevada.

This resort is a draw for older kids and teens since the size of the resort was intimidating when my kids were just starting out. Heavenly is also a HUGE spring break destination. 

This Lake Tahoe resort offers private and group ski and snowboard lessons for adults and kids ages 3 to 14 in full day and half day options. Heavenly offers limited indoor dining along with outdoor dining.

Find four base locations, including the Heavenly Village, near the Heavenly Gondola and the Marriott Grand Residence with an ice rink and the cinema. Find lots of lodging around the resort, some offer outdoor pools.

Heavenly Mountain Resort Stats

Base Elevation: 6,255 ft. Summit Elevation: 10,067 ft.
Vertical Drop: 3,500 ft. Skiable Acres: 4,630
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 20%
Blue 45%
Black 35%
Total Named Runs: 97
Lifts: 30 total: 1 high-speed gondola,1 aerial tram, 2 high-speed 6-packs, 7 high-speed quads, 6 triples, 2 doubles, 6 surface lifts and 4 Magic Carpet lifts

Kirkwood Mountain Resort

1501 Kirkwood Meadows Dr., Kirkwood, California (south of Lake Tahoe)

The gorgeous night sky over Kirkwood Mountain Resort, one of the best Lake Tahoe Resorts for families.
Located near Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood Mountain Resort  credit: Vail Resorts/Kirkwood

Kirkwood Mountain Resort offers 2,000 skiable acres along with 2,000 feet of vertical drop. With a large percentage of advanced runs, it’s a beacon for thrill seekers. It might be best for more advanced skiing families with older teens and college kids home for break. 

It offers private and group ski and snowboard lessons for adults and kids ages 3 to 14 in full day and half day options. Kirkwood offers outdoor dining and lodging is available.

Base Elevation: 7,800 ft. Summit Elevation: 9,800 ft.
Vertical Drop: 2,000 ft. Skiable Acres: 2,330
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 12%
Blue 30%
Black 58%
Total Named Runs: 65
Lifts: 15 total: 1 fixed-grip quad, 2 high-speed quads, 6 triples, 1 double, 3 surface lifts and 2 Magic Carpet lifts

Tips for Vail Managed Resorts

Vail Management (Northstar, Heavenly, Kirkwood) will not require mountain reservations for the 2021-2022 season. It will require masks for indoor venues, including dining, though masks are not required outdoors or on ski lifts.

Proof of vaccination is required to dine indoors and a dining reservation might be required.

Sugar Bowl Ski Resort

629 Sugar Bowl Road in Norden, California, west of Truckee

In the late 1930s, Walt Disney invested money in the area to build a resort. In 1939, the first lift in California opened to skiers and the resort was featured in the 1941 Disney cartoon, The Art of Skiing. Sugar Bowl is the last remaining independent ski resort in the Lake Tahoe region. 

Sugar Bowl Ski Resort offers lessons and rentals. It also offers dining and a lodge on-site. Lodging is also available at a hotel and vacation rentals. 

Base Elevation: 6,883 ft. Summit Elevation: 8,383 ft.
Vertical Drop: 1,500 ft. Skiable Acres: 1,650
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 17%
Blue 45%
Black 38%
Total Named Runs: 103
Lifts: 13 total: 1 gondola, 5 high-speed quads, 3 fixed-grip quads, 1 fixed-grip triple, 2 surface lifts

Homewood Mountain Resort

5145 West Lake Blvd. in Homewood, south of Tahoe City

On the western shore of Lake Tahoe, Homewood is known for the best views while skiing or boarding. It offers rentals, lessons, on-site dining and lodging nearby. 

Base Elevation: 6,230 ft. Summit Elevation: 7,881 ft.
Vertical Drop: 1,651 ft. Skiable Acres: 1,260
Type of Terrain Percentage of Runs
Green 15%
Blue 50%
Black 35%
Total Named Runs: 60
Lifts: 8 total: 1 high-speed quad, 3 triples, 2 platters, 2 surface lifts

Beyond the Lake Tahoe Resorts

Since most resorts are located on the western side of Lake Tahoe (California), find a couple of resort towns for more dining, lodging and activities.

Tahoe City is on the western side of Lake Tahoe at the intersection of Highway 89 and Highway 28. In this quaint town, find dining, parks and activities, like snowshoeing, shopping and sledding. It’s also one of my favorite places to take a walk and enjoy the beautiful Lake Tahoe.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Tahoe City offers several dining options along with year-round activities like biking, miniature golf, kayaking, a golf course and pet-friendly trails.

Truckee is along Interstate 80 that runs from San Francisco to Reno, and beyond. This resort town offers lots of lodging, dining and activities, including Donner Memorial State Park. Truckee also offers vehicle services, like winter chains, if the roads get snowy.

Spring Skiing in Lake Tahoe

While spring break might be beach season some places, Lake Tahoe resorts still have plenty of snow. It’s a great time of year to catch a discount too, both for lift tickets and lodging. Keep a few things in mind when spring skiing at Lake Tahoe:

  • Smear on an extra layer of sunscreen and lip balm and remember to reapply.
  • You’ll still want to wear ski pants and gloves while skiing and boarding during the warmer spring weather.
  • Protect everyone’s eyes with sunglasses or goggles.
  • Toast the mountain after every run with water.
  • All kids and adults should wear a ski helmet (these are our favorites).

 

Catherine Parker Avatar
Catherine Parker has a passion for travel with only one state left in her quest of seeing all 50. As a former flight attendant, she’s landed in nearly every major North American airport at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting national parks, historic sites and cultural icons. She’s a freelance writer and journalist based out of Central Texas, dividing her time between writing and restoring a 95-year-old house. She shares her life with her three kids, her husband, yardful of cats, a dog and three backyard chickens.
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