Looking for a ski vacation in sunny California? They’re more abundant than you might think. True to the adventurous West Coast spirit, these top 5 ski resorts have all the powdery snow and black diamond half pipes anyone could ask for. Our top 5 also include tamer slopes for skiers just starting out, plus ice skating and tubing if you’re just along for the experience. Welcome to California, the perfect venture for both thrill and relaxation.
1. Northstar California Resort
Even though Northstar is expensive, most would agree that the trip is worth the money. The resort is known for its excellent tree skiing - when so many other California resorts close trails due to wind-blown snow and rain, North Star’s tree covered paths protect from harsh elements to offer the skier a smooth, always groomed mountain experience. Various sporting activities include a cross country ski program and an ice skating rink. Northstar is also great for families, with a well reputed children’s ski program and lodging at the Ritz Carlton or The Village, two luxury hotels with easy lift access. The resort’s terrain parks include challenging courses such as the Halfpipes, which includes two 18 foot pipes and one mini pipe. With a ski area of 3,170 acres, this is one resort not to be missed!
2. Squaw Valley - Alpine Meadows
Squaw Valley is a ski bum’s haven. This resort is known for its tough and demanding terrain, with 59% of its trails rated as advanced and only 8% beginner. With 6,000 acres of snow to explore, you can count on uncrowded, fresh trails to test out new jumps and turns. Squaw Valley also has plenty of side country to explore, and the park is divided into fourteen different sections for varying skill levels and sports enthusiasts. One zone is snowventure, a zone oriented toward children and novices, with small slopes, surface carpets and a snowtubing course. Another, more challenging zone is Headwall, where vacationers can ski jump the iconic Palisade cliffs, while getting a great view of Squaw Valley.
3. Heavenly Ski Resort
The fifth largest ski resort in North America, Heavenly resort gives its visitors so many lift, terrain and lodging options it’s difficult to choose. Since Heavenly Mountain resides on the border between California and Nevada, there are 5 different ski bases vacationers can choose from, including Nevada Base and Heavenly Village, which is on the shore of Lake Tahoe, CA. Heavenly is mostly intermediate trails, at 62% , but does offer the double black diamond moghuls, The Face and Gunbarrel. During spring’s Gunbarrel 25, participants are challenged to ski 25 laps of the intense moghul, or time themselves for a spot on the Gunbarrel plaque.
4. Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Kirkwood resort is known for its high snowfall, an average of about 600 inches annually. The resort is perfect if you’re looking for a more intimate and dedicated atmosphere. Arriving at Kirkwood, you’ll find 86 uncrowded trails and 38% advanced runs. Unique to Kirkwood is its signature program, Expedition: Kirkwood, which allows hardcore and expert skiers to tailor their own trail experience, complete with backcountry exploration, chute and steep tours, and even women’s only ski lessons. Some of Kirkwood’s other adventurous terrain includes Thimble Peak, Kirkwood’s tallest mountain, with excellent pitches and tumultuous terrain. Don’t worry - if you’re bringing along children, the resort also has a teamwork-driven, family ski school called JETs, which lasts the whole winter season.
5. Mammoth Mountain
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is called mammoth for a reason. Once a fully active volcano, the mountain is now a luxury ski resort. Crowds can get rowdy and expenses are large, but the great entertainment at this resort is worth the cost. Most of the visitors to Mammoth Mountain are from Los Angeles and San Diego, so a party filled atmosphere is to be expected. Mammoth Mountain also has the highest mountain elevation in California at 11.053 ft. Aside from skiing, the resort offers scenic gondola rides and naturalist tours, where you can learn all about the geology and environmental science behind Mammoth Lakes. The community around the ski area is laid back and welcoming, in a town that is much more budget friendly than the resort itself.