Skiing in Tahoe for beginners
December 7, 2007 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Where's the best place for skiing in the Reno/Tahoe area for a bunch of beginners? Is it crazy to go (for a day) during the week of Christmas?

My family will be in Reno this year for Christmas. Some of us want to go skiing, others want to come along and do tubing. The skiers are beginners (green / very easy blue) and those who would tube are not a particularly active bunch. Cost is not much of an issue.

So the questions then are
1) What's a good resort to go to that can best fulfill the above criteria?
2) Will the slopes be so crowded as to make this not a good idea? We'd be looking at 23rd-27th as a possible day and are flexible about it, so if there are known days which would be better that'd be good to know.
posted by 0xFCAF to Travel & Transportation around Lake Tahoe, United States (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You probably want Squaw Valley, much as a I hate to say it.

It's expensive and for those of us who like to get out of the car and hit the slopes asap it's annoying. It's so big that you have to take a lift to the lifts.

However, the thing that makes it annoying for me makes it perfect for you. They have a snow park (which is a good key phrase for finding places for intertubing). They have an ice rink. They have a gondola you can ride up and down just for the view. They have restaurants and shopping. They have lessons for everyone and slopes for all levels of skiers.

I don't know how crowded they'd be. I'm guessing pretty crowded, but if there's any resort that can handle crowded it's Squaw. If you can afford to stay at the hotel there, it's great for kids. If they're over about 10 you can let them wander around all they want, even after dark (which is about 4:30 pm). There are things for kids to do there.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:10 AM on December 7, 2007

Best answer: Oh. I just noticed it's just for one day. Squaw's still good. I'd guess Christmas day would be the least crowded but I'm not sure. Just get there when it opens and you'll miss alot of the crowd. The annoying, time consuming part is renting and returning equipment. If you rent equipment ahead of time from a place that's on your way in or out of Squaw you'll save yourself a major headache.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:13 AM on December 7, 2007

I'd avoid Squaw Valley if I were you. There isn't a whole lot of Green terrain there which is a shame because the big ample village at Squaw would give the tubers something to do after sliding (IMHO, you can only tube for about 60-90 minutes or so before it comes the same thing all over again. I enjoyed Northstar-at-Tahoe as my third full day of skiing. They have some longer green runs that have some more interesting vistas than "just a huge open space serviced by a small chairlift" that you find at most bunnyslopes. Also the blues on the left side of the mountain were fairly gentle to this new-at-the-time skier.

I really can't speak to the crowds over Christmas (we were there during a three day holiday in January....and while there were tons of people around, the big mountains seemed to absorb them well). Where ever you end up, I do recommend reading the resort descriptions at They do a good job of presenting most resorts' layout in respect to a Beginner's, Intermediate's and Expert's abilities.

One last tip for beating the crowds is to go early especially if you are renting gear. If you can get on the mountain as it is opening up you will beat the big rush of people who had the good intentions of getting to the slopes early. Getting there early might suck if you have to travel from Reno but it will be better than having to stand in a long line first thing in the morning.
posted by mmascolino at 10:15 AM on December 7, 2007

Of the resorts that do both, I would vote for Sierra at Tahoe. It's a bit off the beaten path, so I think there's achance it might be a bit less crowded than Squaw or Northstar. Boreal is just awful, because it's the first resort from the Bay Area and is absolutely packed with suburban teenagers. I think if you're just having a beginner snowboard/ski day with no tubing, Donner Ski Ranch is perfect. It's small, homey, and fairly cheap. Plus the nearly the entire area is accessable for beginner/intermediate riders, and they have a real wood burning fireplace in their cheesy little lounge. Snow is also fairly decent there as they're up higher than most. It's a great little resort if you don't need fancy amenities.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:16 AM on December 7, 2007

I agree that Squaw is crappy for green runs- they're mostly long flat bowls, which is especially bad for beginner snowboarders.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:18 AM on December 7, 2007

Ugh, Donner is higher than most of the other resorts on that strip, except for Sugar Bowl. There are certainly higher places in Tahoe.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:19 AM on December 7, 2007

I would recommend's a bit out of the way (south of Lake Tahoe on 88) but it is exactly what you are looking for....easy runs, innertubing, and can handle crowds decently. There is also x-ctry skiing and all the usual ski resort stuff. It's far from Reno (2hrs?) but the drive over to there is gorgeous. I would avoid Squaw, I think. Northstar has a lot of trees which is nice but maybe not good for beginners - and it doesn't have the great views that many of the other resorts have.
posted by rlef98 at 10:41 AM on December 7, 2007

from reno, the best place to ski is north lake tahoe. I basically learned to ski at squaw and loved it. but, you could go smaller, since you have no good skiiers in your party. northstar has tubing and good skiing and would be quieter. squaw is more if you want the cable car, and to be up high. i guess i agree i would go northstar.
As for those dates, that i am an expert on. The slopes tend to be quiet before christmas, and especially christmas day. Christmas day is dead, although later in the day some people come out. Then, after christmas, the crowds really pick up. I think each day is busier than the last as more and more people come to tahoe. So if you can, i would ski before christmas or christmas day, especially if you get beautiful weather.
posted by alkupe at 11:01 AM on December 7, 2007

Krikwood's tubing is only offered weekends and holidays- so plan accordingly if you go there.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:03 AM on December 7, 2007

kirkwood is great but mad far from reno. definitely not worth the drive.
posted by alkupe at 11:08 AM on December 7, 2007

I would recommend Northstar. They are more geared to families and beginners than most of the other resorts folks have mentioned in this thread (certainly more so than Squaw).

oneirodynia's description of Donner Ski Ranch as a perfect place for a beginner's ski / snowboard day is completely opposite from my experience. I've been skiing for a long time, but a few years ago I thought I'd give snowboarding a try. My first and only day of snowboarding was at Donner Ski Ranch, and although the "learn to snowboard" package I bought was not expensive, the lesson I took was terrible and (IMO) they put us on slopes that were too steep for first-timers. Perhaps I am biased by the fact that I left DSR that day with a broken leg, but if you're actually interested in learning how to ski or ride I would look elsewhere.
posted by harkin banks at 11:24 AM on December 7, 2007

Northstar is one of the easiest to get to, since presumably you'd come down 80 and be on the north side of the lake. I like Sierra Ski Ranch myself, but then I'm coming up 50.
posted by Burritos Inc. at 12:34 PM on December 7, 2007

aggh Sierra Ski Ranch = Sierra at Tahoe
posted by Burritos Inc. at 12:39 PM on December 7, 2007

I like Squaw but I think it's too big. I lurrve Northstar. Good size, friendly staff. Lots of easy runs.
posted by radioamy at 12:39 PM on December 7, 2007

the lesson I took was terrible and (IMO) they put us on slopes that were too steep for first-timers.

Hmm... I've never had a lesson there (though to be honest, the only good snowboard lessons I ever had were the three day packages at Whistler/ Blackcomb), but I really liked that resort as a beginning snowboarder. I rode my fist black diamond there (prolly a blue at most bigger places), and there were lots of easy green runs when I was just starting out. Sorry your day was crappy- but it sounds more like the instructors than the place itself. Good to know- I won't recommend a lesson there.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:00 PM on December 7, 2007

I do like Sierra at Tahoe a lot, though isn't that on the southside? That makes it pretty far from Reno, I guessing. I've never come from that direction, though, so maybe they're all farther than I thought.

I learned at Homewood, which I still love. It's small and homey. But no tubing that I can remember.

Squaw came to mind when you said "my family" because there are non- skiing things to do there.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:07 PM on December 7, 2007

Response by poster: I ended up going with just my uncle to Boreal and Mt Rose. I rented at Boreal and it was an unbelievably huge pain in the ass (we got there around 10:30). It must have taken nearly two hours and the employees had no clue what was going on. For the second trip I rented equipment from Mogul Mouse (name/sp?) the night before and it was a far better experience - better gear, better prices, much faster.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:35 PM on January 7, 2008

« Older How to get my cat to clean himself?   |   ISO Whiter Teeth Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.