Where can a new skier go on a day trip near San Francisco?
January 31, 2013 12:43 PM   Subscribe

I just went skiing for the first time in Colorado with some friends and loved it. Now that I'm back in the Bay Area, where can I go skiing that's beginner friendly and close enough to make it a day trip?

I realize it's a lot of driving, but I know a few people do it. I also know about the ski buses, but I'd rather drive myself. I suppose I could be convinced to stay overnight, but I don't know if I want to do that right away. I'd rather get my feet wet, so to speak.

Since I'm new (to skiing and the area), it's hard for me to tell which places are good for beginners and which are easiest to get to. It'd also be great if it wasn't so crowded. Does anyone have any recommendations?

I might take some private lessons, but not right away and not every time I go. Are some resorts better than others with their ski schools?

(This question was pretty helpful, but the asker rules out Tahoe specifically.)
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sierra at Tahoe at least used to be the cheap & friendly (both slope difficulty-wise and people-wise) Tahoe option that we would go to as students in the bay area. Can't vouch for their schools, however, as I haven't taken lessons there.
posted by McSwaggers at 12:47 PM on January 31, 2013

Best answer: Boreal, Sugar Bowl and Donner are all on the "right" side of the Pass for you, dramatically reducing the driving hassle on snow days. They all have good beginner runs. Check Craigslist for cheap passes!
posted by fshgrl at 1:03 PM on January 31, 2013

Best answer: Just about every place doubled in price since last year, including Sugarbowl (went from $47 to $85 for weekdays) and Sierra. They're still cheaper than Colorado, though. I used to go to Sugarbowl regularly- 3 hours away from Berkeley, so up and back in a day is easy. I ski blue and there are TONS of blue slopes. There are quite a few greens but some of them are nearly flat, so you have to slog along them, instead of ski them. There's even one that I go on because it's so pretty, but I take my skis off and just walk it.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:03 PM on January 31, 2013

Best answer: can't help you with resorts, but I can help you with costs: check liftopia.com sometimes even smaller resorts are listed on there- and basically any beginner package is better than paying full price.
posted by larthegreat at 1:18 PM on January 31, 2013

Best answer: Sugarbowl is pretty much the closest and is beginner-friendly. Just make sure you are not too exhausted to drive home!
posted by radioamy at 1:29 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Loved Northstar in Tahoe. It's pretty, and the Bunny Slope has a gondola lift.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:59 PM on January 31, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers everyone, especially the liftopia tip. Got a cheap lift ticket for this weekend. I'm going to start at Sierra and go from there. If anyone else has any answers, please keep them coming.
posted by aloysius on the mixing boards at 5:35 PM on January 31, 2013

Best answer: If you're just starting out, Donner Ski Ranch is small, cheap, quiet, and very old school. They have a real fire in their tiny little lodge, and lift tickets are 30 bucks. No big slopes, rarely long lines, it's a great place to graduate from beginner to intermediate. I also quite like Sugar Bowl, which is across the street. Busier, steeper, much larger, and more expensive. Some very nice intermediate runs when you get to that point.

Boreal is horrible- it's the first resort from the Bay Area and attracts all sorts of idiots, and the snow is generally awful because it's warmer and at a lower elevation.

My favorite is Kirkwood, and from certain places, like the South Bay, it can be faster to get there than the other Tahoe resorts. Usually some of the best snow, and lots of it. Being somewhat off the beaten track cuts down a bit on the yahoo vibe. I pretty much learned to snowboard here, and was thrilled when I was good enough to ride the intermediate runs on the back side. They usually have some nice fat groomers and the green runs aren't totally flat. Very laid back staff (or at least it used to be, haven't been in a few years).
posted by oneirodynia at 11:25 PM on January 31, 2013

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