California is mostly famous for its gorgeous beaches, surfing, and Hollywood movie stars. But if you are a die-hard ski lover, go towards the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the eastern part of the state where you will find some of the best ski resorts in California.
With the magnificent Alpine scenery, beautiful powder-covered slopes, and modern facilities, many of these California ski resorts can give tough competition to top ski resorts in Switzerland. Ranging from the Mammoth Mountain in North California to Big Bear Lake in Southern California, there are slopes that suit every skill level.
Plan your California ski vacation with our list of top 10 places for skiing and snowboarding in California.
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#1 Mammoth Mountain
Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort justifies its name with a huge skiable terrain of over 3500 acres. If you are planning to learn skiing and snowboarding, your first choice should be Mammoth Mountain, one of the best California ski resorts for beginners. However, there is plenty of suitable ski runs for intermediate and expert level skiers. The ski resort is just 6 hours driving distance from Los Angeles.
It is a dream destination for many skiers for its long ski season. It opens early(Oct-Nov) among all other ski resorts of California and continues until May and sometimes even until June. It is a relatively expensive ski resort in the Golden State for its high demand due to fantastic slopes and high-quality snow.
There is a total of 151 trails that can be accessed by 28 ski lifts. The surrounding views are very scenic with beautiful trees, rocks, and a long stretch of snow. Lodging option is also available in Mammoth ski resort with cabins, condos, and top-notch restaurants.
#2 Heavenly Ski Resort: Best California Ski Resort
Located at the border of California and Nevada, Heavenly Ski Resort offers breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It is about a three to four-hour drive from San Francisco. Heavenly has 94 km of slopes and 40 km of ski runs where you can enjoy skiing and riding.
4800 acres of fantastic terrain including a good variety of intermediate and challenging slopes and 28 chair lifts make skiing and riding more than enjoyable. Heavenly has a lively party atmosphere at the base with endless entertainment and casinos nearby.
Having one of the biggest ski areas in California, Heavenly has a wide variety of accommodation options that keeps price competitive. In fact, Heavenly ski resort is by far the cheapest ski resort in California.
#3 Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows
Another popular kid-friendly ski resort in Northern California is Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics and since then it has become popular for its great weather, magnificent terrain, and fantastic ski condition.
It is located in the Lake Tahoe region, one of the most beautiful lakes in California. The resort owns over 6,000 acres of huge terrain that offers lots of options for skiers and snowboarders.
On the other hand, Alpine Meadows adjacent to Squaw Valley is quieter as it is often overlooked by the skiers. A shuttle bus can take you to Alpine Meadows within 15 minutes. Together, these two California ski resorts include 270 runs which can be accessed by 42 ski lifts.
The consistent snowfall with notorious steeps and high standard groomed trails are the main highlights of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.
If you are looking for California ski resorts that get the most snow, Kirkwood must be at the top of the list. Located along the Sierra Crest in the Eldorado National Forest south of Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood is an underrated ski resort in California that received abundant snowfall each season.
Kirkwood ski resort is mostly preferred by the advanced level and expert skiers. Especially, the legendary black diamonds are best suited for experienced skiers. Only 12 percent of ski runs are dedicated to beginner level skiers.
At a height of 7,800 to 9,800 feet, Kirkwood is a peaceful ski resort with endless powder, great backcountry, and diverse terrain. This is a relatively less crowded ski resort in California but the cost of eating can be pricier since Vail took over.
#5 Big Bear Mountain Ski Resort
Looking for the best ski resort in California near Los Angeles? Visit Big Bear Mountain Ski Resort in Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains which is about two and a half hours drive from LA. It is a popular ski mountain in California with a 200-acre winter playground for skiers and snowboarders.
Big Bear Mountain Ski Resort includes two ski resorts – Bear Mountain(748 acres of skiable terrain) and Snow Summit(240 acres of skiable terrain).
Bear Mountain Ski Resort is ideal for beginners. It has the largest learning ski area in Southern California. They offer several ski and snowboard lessons for kids and adults. You can enjoy the nice mountain view with lots of pine trees and endless powder.
Whereas, Snow Summit is a popular family-friendly ski resort in California. It offers the most consistent snow conditions in SoCal and has more than 60 percent of intermediate ski runs. There is no shortage of accommodation options and restaurants come with awe-inspiring views over the frosted lake.
#6 Sugar Bowl: Best Ski Resort in California
You will see most of California ski resorts are in the Lake Tahoe region, although Lake Tahoe in summer is more popular. Sugar Bowl is one of them that receives 500 inches of snowfall on average. Sugar Bowl is closest to Sacramento and the Bay Area. It is an old ski resort in Northern California that has kept its classic ski atmosphere while providing modern facilities.
Most of the ski runs are intermediate level, while 17 percents are beginner runs and 38 percent are advanced runs. The resort has around 98 trails and 12 lifts to transport the guests. Skiers can enjoy the scenic views of four great mountains – Mt. Disney, Mt. Judah, Mt. Lincoln, and Crow’s Nest Peak while skiing and snowboarding in Sugar Bowl ski resort. You can also learn skiing at Sugar Bowl ski resort. The instructors are well trained and down to earth.
#7 Northstar California Ski Resort
Located near the north shore of Lake Tahoe, Northstar California is one of the best ski resorts in California for families. Your little ones will surely enjoy the kid’s ski school program. The resort has a very well developed infrastructure and amenities. It is owned by the Vail Resort, a premier mountain resort company.
Northstar California is an upscale ski resort in California. So you can expect high-end luxury accommodations, shopping, and dining. Nowadays, the resort has become more popular among people looking for romantic California getaways.
The setting of Northstar California is nothing short of spectacular. The terrain covers 3,170 acres that encompass great tree skiing and 100 well-groomed trails that can be accessed by 20 chairlifts.
Families with beginning and intermediate skiers will find plenty of terrain at Northstar California, where there are slopes and pistes for beginners, and about 60 percent of the skiable terrain is intermediate and 27 percent are advanced. A major highlight of Northstar ski resort is its European-style village at the base of the slopes.
#8 Mountain High
Mountain High is a fast-growing Southern California ski resort near Los Angeles. The terrain spreads over 290 acres and has 16 lifts that lead to 59 trails. It splits into three different ski resorts – West Resort, East Resort, and North Resort. You can access any of these three with the same entry ticket. Each base area at Mountain High resort is filled with restaurants, shops, ski and snowboard rentals, and a ski school.
West Resort is more likely technical terrain which is perfectly designed for contests and freestyle skiers and riders. East Resort is popular for its mogul runs, glade skiing, and breathtaking viewpoints of the Mojave Desert.
North Resort is perfect for families and beginners with 70 acres of beginner-level terrain. It also features the North Pole Tubing Park, the largest tubing park in Southern California.
#9 Sierra at Tahoe
Still, you are in a search for what is the best ski resort in California? Sierra at Tahoe is the closest ski resort to San Francisco and the Bay Area. The resort has a skiable terrain of 2,000 acres with 14 chairlifts and 2,212 feet of vertical.
Sierra at Tahoe has 46 ski runs with the longest ski runs of 2.5 miles. The resort has something for all skill levels – 25% for beginners, 50% for intermediate, and 25% for advanced skiers. Blizzard Mountain provides tubing hills, sledding, and snow play areas. Guests can also enjoy three miles of snowshoe trails.
Sierra ski resort provides an authentic California ski experience with 470 inches of average annual snowfall, impressive slopes, incredible skiing, and 320 acres of backcountry terrain out the Huckleberry Gates.
The resort boasts a wide range of cozy restaurants, shops, bars, and more at the base of the resort. Plentiful lodging options are available on the south shore of Lake Tahoe.
#10 Mt. Baldy Ski Resort
About an hour drive from Los Angeles, Mt. Baldy is popular among expert skiers for its advanced-level black-diamond and double-black-diamond runs. It features 26 pistes connected by 4 ski lifts. Although Mt. Baldy ski resort does have runs for beginners(15%) and intermediate(31%) skiers – they won’t be bored here – about 54 percent of the terrain is for advanced and expert skiers.
The ski resort receives about 170 inches of fresh snow each season. Plentiful sunshine, diverse terrain, and perfect powdery conditions make Mt. Baldy a desirable ski destination in California. However, the resort has a Learning Center and a dedicated Flow Zone area with skilled staff that provides ski lessons to children and adults.
Needless to say, snow skiing in California can be a really fun and thrilling experience. If you are looking for the top 10 ski resorts in California, you can pick up from this list and enjoy your ski vacation in California. Make sure to bring or rent some good quality kid’s ski goggles and other protective ski gear if you are visiting any of these ski resorts with your kids.
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