5 California Ski Resorts for Beginning Skiers

As a beginner skier or someone looking for a family-friendly ski resort in California, it can be overwhelming to choose the right place to hit the slopes. But fear not, I’ve got you covered with a list of five ski resorts in California that are perfect for beginners and families.

1. Bear Mountain – San Bernardino Mountains

Bear Mountain is known for its wide, groomed runs that are perfect for beginners. The resort also offers lessons for all ages and has a dedicated family-friendly area.

The resort offers:

  • Dedicated Beginner Areas: Bear Mountain has a variety of gentle slopes specifically designed for beginners, ensuring a safe and enjoyable learning experience.
  • Family-Friendly Programs: Their ski and snowboard school offers excellent instruction for all ages, making it easy for everyone to get started.
  • Snow Play Areas: When the kids need a break from skiing, they can enjoy snow tubing and other family-friendly activities.

Why You’ll Love It: The relaxed atmosphere and friendly instructors make Bear Mountain an ideal spot for young families looking to start their skiing adventures.

2. Northstar California – Lake Tahoe

Located near Lake Tahoe, Northstar California is renowned for its family-friendly environment:

  • Gentle Runs: Northstar features numerous beginner trails that are wide and well-groomed, perfect for gaining confidence on the slopes.
  • Children’s Programs: Their award-winning children’s ski school offers top-notch instruction, ensuring your little ones are in good hands.
  • Village Activities: The vibrant village at the base of the slopes offers ice skating, dining, and shopping, providing entertainment for the whole family.

Why You’ll Love It: The combination of excellent beginner terrain and a lively village makes Northstar a great choice for families.

3. Sierra-at-Tahoe – Near South Lake Tahoe

Located in the Eldorado National Forest, Sierra-at-Tahoe is another top-notch option for beginners:

  • Beginner Terrain: Sierra-at-Tahoe offers dedicated learning areas and gentle slopes perfect for novice skiers. Their “Easy Street” area is designed specifically for beginners.
  • Ski and Snowboard School: With professional and friendly instructors, Sierra-at-Tahoe’s ski school provides excellent lessons for beginners of all ages.
  • Family-Friendly Vibe: The resort’s welcoming atmosphere and variety of activities, including tubing and snow play areas, make it a great spot for families.

Why You’ll Love It: The laid-back, friendly environment combined with top-tier beginner facilities makes Sierra-at-Tahoe an ideal destination for families new to skiing. Hands down, this is my favorite location for beginning skiers and families!

4. China Peak – Lakeshore

Situated in the Sierra National Forest, China Peak is a hidden gem for beginner skiers:

  • Beginner Terrain: China Peak features dedicated beginner areas and gentle slopes that are perfect for newcomers to the sport. Their main green (beginner run), is a little steeper than most greens, so you may need to hit the bunny hill a few more times to feel confident.
  • Ski School: The resort’s ski and snowboard school provides comprehensive lessons tailored to beginners of all ages, ensuring everyone feels comfortable on the slopes.
  • Family-Friendly Environment: With a laid-back atmosphere and a variety of activities, China Peak is an excellent choice for a relaxed family skiing experience.

Why You’ll Love It: The picturesque setting and welcoming vibe make China Peak a great destination for families seeking a serene skiing adventure. From the top of the mountain, you’ll be able to see Huntington Lake in the distance.

PRO TIP

Many ski resorts offer discounts for groups. We were able to attend a field trip at China Peak with a group of students (ages 5-18). The students received a lesson, rentals, and a lift ticket at a fraction of the cost. We highly recommend grabbing your friends and planning a day at the slopes to save big!

5. Badger Pass – Yosemite National Park

As California’s original ski resort, Badger Pass offers a unique and charming experience for beginners:

  • Gentle Slopes: Badger Pass features a variety of easy runs that are perfect for learning and improving your skiing skills.
  • Ski and Snowboard School: The resort’s ski school is well-regarded for its friendly and patient instructors who excel at teaching young children and beginners.
  • Family-Friendly Activities: Beyond skiing, families can enjoy snowshoeing and tubing, or simply take in the breathtaking winter scenery of Yosemite.

Why You’ll Love It: The historic charm and stunning natural beauty of Yosemite make Badger Pass a memorable and enchanting destination for a family ski trip. Badger Pass is also known for their highly skilled ski instructors and affordable lesson packages, making it a great place to learn!

Final Tips for a Family Ski Trip

  1. Plan Ahead: Book your accommodations and ski lessons in advance to ensure availability.
  2. Dress Warmly: Layering is key to staying warm and comfortable on the slopes.
  3. Remember the Sunscreen: When it’s cold outside, it’s easy to forget that the sun is shining. The reflection of the snow makes it easy to burn. That’s why we always pack our sunscreen!

Whether you’re hitting the slopes for the first time or helping your little ones find their skiing legs, these California ski resorts offer the perfect blend of beginner-friendly terrain and family-oriented amenities. So pack your bags, bundle up, and get ready for an unforgettable winter adventure!

Happy skiing, and enjoy the snow!

7 Things to Do With Kids in South Lake Tahoe During the Winter

You’re planning a family vacation this winter, but you’re wondering, “What is there to do in Tahoe with kids?”

South Lake Tahoe (and all of Lake Tahoe) is one of those places that has a piece of my heart.  If you’re a nature lover, Tahoe is for you.  If you need a little city in your life, Tahoe is for you.

South Lake Tahoe is for skiers, shoppers, snowshoers, and sun-seekers.  

Winter trips to South Lake Tahoe and Shaver Lake are some of our favorite trips!  To help make your trip one of the most memorable ones, ever, try some of these ideas.

Build Your Own Sled Run

More than anything, kids just want to play in the snow and drink hot cocoa.  And, playing in the snow is FREE!

If you’re renting a cabin, they will likely have some shovels in the garage and you can build your own tube or sled run on a nearby hill.  If you’re staying in a condo or hotel, bring your own shovel.  

Sled runs can be made without shovels and are certainly more entertaining.  Just watch out for the trees!

If you prefer something a little more sane and pre-fabricated, or you don’t have sleds, toboggans, or tubes, visit one of the free sledding areas.  

Sawmill Pond

This sledding area is geared toward young children.  There’s a slight incline you can tube down but nothing too exciting.  Sawmill Pond is best described as simple and sweet.

Kahle Park

Slightly more adventurous than Sawmill Pond, this park is a great place to make snowballs, snowmen, and snow angels.  There’s plenty of room to spread out and a couple of slightly steeper slopes.

Spooner Summit Slide Park

Not recommended for young children, this park is perfect for older children, teens, and adults looking for a little more thrilling experience.  If you want to fly down a snow-covered slope (and not scoot), check out this park!  

Resort Tube/Sled Hills

Many of the local ski resorts have groomed sled runs.  Of course, these runs cost money aren’t customizable.  But, if you don’t mind spending a little cash, and having facilities nearby are a priority, take your pick of one of the many options available at the neighboring ski resorts.

Allan making a sled run.

Happiness is a kid playing in the snow.

Go Ice Skating

We don’t have an ice skating rink where we live, so if we have the opportunity to skate on ice, we take it!  

Heavenly Village Outdoor Ice Skating Rink

Located in the center of everything, this charming ice skating rink sits at the base of Heavenly Mountain.  It looks like something straight out of a Christmas Hallmark movie.  You can check their fees, hours of operation, and age limits on the Heavenly Village website.

South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena

This indoor arena is also open for public skate hours (though not currently due to COVID-19).  Young skaters are welcome and, depending on your child’s age, they may even skate for free!

Take an Aerial Tram Ride

You’ll get no better view of Lake Tahoe than from high in the sky in a gondola!  The scenic 2.4-mile ride starts at Heavenly Village and makes for a great family adventure.

At the top, there is an observation deck, warm drinks, and food for purchase.  This experience can be a little pricey for families, so you may want to budget a little extra.  

Go Skiing or Snowboarding

Lake Tahoe has some of the best ski resorts in California!  There are 15 ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area, alone.

Sierra at Tahoe is one of our favorites.  I feel like it’s perfect for families for a few reasons.  One, because it’s smaller, the lift tickets aren’t quite as pricey as larger ski resorts.  Also, because it’s smaller, it makes it easier to keep track of family members, but not so small you’re bumping elbows.  Finally, even though it’s considered a smaller resort it has something for everyone with a variety of green, blue, and black diamond trails. 

Warm layers make for happy snow memories

Ride the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster

Riding the mountain coaster at Heavenly isn’t something we’ve done as a family, yet, but it’s definitely on my list of things to do!  This alpine roller coaster winds its way down the mountain and looks like a fun adventure for those who like a little extra thrill in their lives.

Take a Hike at Emerald Bay

There’s something about hiking in the snow that is incredibly peaceful, likely because the snow muffles sound.  We don’t have snowshoes, so we hike on trafficked trails in snow boots.

The Vikingsholm Trail located at Emerald Bay is a 1.7-mile roundtrip hike offering beautiful views.  The Vikingsholm museum is closed in the winter, but you can still walk around the exterior and enjoy the beauty of nature.

The trail can be icy in spots at times, so make sure you’re wearing quality snow boots to help prevent slipping.  Like you would for any hiking adventure, stick with the best hiking practices by dressing in layers, staying on the trail, and bringing snacks, and water.

Hike to Vikingsholm in the snow

Emerald Bay in the winter

Make snow slushies

It’s a bit of a family tradition to create snow slushies on our winter vacations.  Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that bring the most joy.

Bring along some cups, spoons, and some snow cone syrup, soda, or juice.  Find some fresh, powdery snow to fill up your cup (dirty, old, icy snow just won’t do) then pour over your favorite drink or syrup.

Tahoe is perfect for families!

Snow slushie!

ENJOY YOUR WINTER VACATION AT SOUTH LAKE TAHOE

We’ve created some amazing memories from our family trips to Lake Tahoe and wish the same for you and your family.  Have you been to Lake Tahoe in the winter?  If so, what is your favorite thing to do with your family?

If you’re planning a trip to Lake Tahoe, drop a note below and tell us about it!

Plan a Winter Getaway to Shaver Lake in California

Shaver Lake is one of our favorite winter getaway destinations.  Since we live on the Central Coast of California where it snows every few decades, our kids get pretty excited about spending some time in the snow.  Shaver Lake is only a three-hour drive, making it perfect for a quick weekend away.

WHEN TO VISIT SHAVER LAKE IN THE WINTER

The elevation of Shaver Lake is 5,627 feet, making snow in the winter a good possibility, but not a guarantee. Generally, even if Shaver does get a snowstorm in October or November, chances are good that it will be followed by a rainstorm, melting the snow.

For this reason, mid-January through the beginning of March is the best time to go if you want to have snow on the ground.  Our family typically schedules our Shaver trips for February.   We like to avoid the busiest weekend (Presidents’ Weekend) and have spent several Super Bowl weekends enjoying the winter wonderland.

If you want to visit an area that generally has several feet of snow throughout the winter, you may want to consider visiting another one of our favorite places, South Lake Tahoe!

Snow trips with cousins are the best

WHERE TO STAY IN SHAVER LAKE IN THE WINTER

We love to camp, but not in the winter.  The town of Shaver Lake is small, and while there is a small hotel, we opt to reserve a larger home through VRBO.  Making memories is always better with cousins, so we get a large house that will accommodate a couple of families.

We love having a fire crackling (or gas fire is fine) with snow falling outside, a game room to keep the kids entertained at night, a washer and dryer (for all the wet things), and a kitchen to fix our own meals.

If a hotel with an indoor swimming pool is a must, and you don’t mind a 60-minute drive, Fresno is at the base of the mountains and has a variety of hotel accommodations to choose from based on your preferences.

WINTER ACTIVITIES IN SHAVER LAKE

Although it’s a small town, there is still plenty to do in the village and surrounding area.

Go Sledding or Tubing

The community of Shaver Lake has plenty of small hills perfect for snow sledding!  We build tube runs right outside the back door of our vacation rental and the kids spend countless hours sliding down.  Old tire tubes and plastic toboggans are still our favorites.

If there isn’t enough snow at your rental house, or you don’t want to build your own tube run, jump in the car and drive north on Highway 168 to one of the designated sno-parks.  Parking passes are required for the sno-parks, and can be obtained from these vendors located in Shaver Lake.

If we’re visiting a sno-park, we like to make a day of it and pack an Instant Pot of soup, crackers, and plenty of water.  There’s just something about eating soup in the snow!

Go For a Hike

In winters when the snow is scarce, we can hike one of the many trails in the area.  Last time, we hiked the 3.3 mile Shaver Lake Trail.  If you like snowshoeing, Shaver Lake area also has a trail system that’s great for snowshoeing.

Get Coffee in Town

While getting coffee might not be high on the priority list for the younger people in your party, Allan and I love leaving the kids with cousins while we walk from the VRBO to the Shaver Lake Village to Shaver Coffee & Deli for a cup of joe.  

Spend a Day on the Slopes

China Peak Mountain Resort is only a 30-minute drive from Shaver Lake, making it the perfect day-trip for snowboarders and skiers.  The resort offers lessons for those who are just learning.  It’s not a large resort, so it’s easy for everyone to do their own thing and still cross paths on the slopes all day long.

Go Snowmobiling

If you like a little extra thrill in your life, go snowmobiling in Shaver.  You can rent snowmobiles from Shaver Lake Power Center and explore the trails at the Tamarack Sno-Park.

Claire with her snow saucer, getting ready to slide

Plan Your Next Trip to Shaver

If you need a quick trip to just get away and enjoy a little winter fun, Shaver Lake is a great destination choice, providing plenty of fun for families!

Have you been to Shaver Lake?  Did you go in the winter?  What did you think?  Tell us about it in the comments!