Photo: Diamond Peak /Ryland West

A Full Breakdown of Lake Tahoe's 13 Ski Resorts

Ski and Snow
by Katie Botwin Dec 21, 2022

For most, the area split between California and Nevada collectively known as Lake Tahoe is known for, well, Lake Tahoe. But this region isn’t just a one-season paradise. The mountains surrounding the Lake Tahoe basin are home to a handful of ski resorts offering an incredible range of terrain and experiences for snow-lovers. So many, in fact, it might be hard to choose where would be best for you to hit the slopes.

To help point you in the right direction, check out this breakdown of the 13 major ski resorts around Lake Tahoe and how to choose which is the best fit for shredding safely all winter long.

North Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts

North Lake Tahoe should probably be called “northern Lake Tahoe” as it’s a collective term for all the small towns on the north shore of the lake –unlike the southern shore of the lake, which has a town officially called “South Lake Tahoe.”

Palisades Tahoe

lake tahoe ski resorts - kt22 chair at Palisades

Photo: Suzie Dundas

  • Closest town: Truckee, CA
  • Skiable acres: 6,000
  • Known for: The famous KT-22 lift, large base village, upper mountain learning area, extremely long season

The most well-known resort in the area, Palisades Tahoe was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics and boasts the classic base village many visitors look for in a Lake Tahoe ski resort. It’s been known by several nicknames over the years in homage to the pros and amateurs who love to show off on the famous slopes, Palisades is home to not just a slew of Olympians, but the notorious KT-22 lift (which many, including the late pro skier Shane McConkey, title “the greatest lift in America.”)

Experts aren’t the only ones who will love Palisades, though. The upper mountain has beginner terrain, meaning that after a tram ride, new skiers get the opportunity to experience learning how to ski with breathtaking, high mountain views. Palisades is less about defined groomers and more about big bowls and ridgelines so you can sort of choose your own route down. Of course, it grooms plenty of terrain for skiers who aren’t comfortable off-piste.

On any average snow year, Palisades Tahoe will always be open into June on weekends, though in recent years, it’s gone into July. Granted, it’s not epic skiing when it’s slushy and 65, but skiing in a T-shirt and slapping high-fives with folks who come down behind you is a pretty fun way to spend a June morning.

Alpine Meadows

  • Closest town: Tahoe City, CA
  • Skiable acres: 2,400
  • Known for: Relaxed and fun vibe, hike-to terrain, Ice Bar

With the opening of a new base-to-base gondola in December of 2022, Alpine Meadows is now physically connected to Palisades Tahoe Ski Resort. With no base area to speak of, save for a cafeteria and a ski shop/old-school ski bar, Alpine Meadows retains an old, soulful-ski feel and has a more relaxed atmosphere than Palisades. Alpine Meadows is home to all levels of terrain, including hike-to and side-country skiing, and on pow days, fresh snow can still be found later in the day. Even better, the backside of Alpine is home to Ice Bar, the perfect spot to hang out with friends and have a drink with some epic views. Alpine Meadows also has a high-speed, top-to-bottom chair (Summit Chair), perfect for doing some hot laps if you’re limited on time.

Diamond Peak

Lesson at Diamond Peak ski resort

Photo: Diamond Peak /Chris Bartkowski

  • Closest town: Incline Village, NV
  • Skiable acres: 665
  • Known for: Great progression areas, epic view of Lake Tahoe, ‘Last Tracks’

Diamond Peak is known for its sweeping views of Lake Tahoe, making it a favorite for visitors and locals alike. A dedicated learning area for kids and the fact that they offer some of the most affordable lessons in the area make Diamond Peak an especially great choice for families and beginners. And it’s known for good progression terrain: easy blues and easy blacks to help skiers and riders just starting to get to the next level. That said, it does have some steep terrain if you take a left off the top life.

One of the best draws is Diamond Peak’s “Last Tracks” event, where skiers and riders ski to the renowned (and lakeview) Snowflake Lodge Deck at for a wine or craft beer tasting and appetizers, then make a last run down some freshly groomed corduroy at sunset. You’ll need to buy your ticket in advance.

Northstar California

  • Closest town: Truckee, CA
  • Skiable acres: 3,170
  • Known for: Family-oriented, great groomers, a bit bougie, s’mores at 4 PM

Northstar is a large, family-friendly resort that offers some of the best-groomed slopes in Tahoe, along with a picturesque base area. Home to events year-round, Northstar is a great vacation spot for families looking to stay at their Lake Tahoe ski resort of choice as Northstar has ample hotels, restaurants, spas, an ice-skating rink in the village, and complimentary s’mores at 4 PM.

Northstar is known locally as being for wealthier visitors, especially as the Ritz-Carlton adding a bit of bougie flair to the area. The resort’s grooming is well-known by everyone for being quite good, from older skiers to park rippers, and Northstar is currently home to one of the only half pipes in the Tahoe area. To Northstar’s credit, it does have some excellent expert and tree runs off the backside, plus two sections of sometimes-open backcountry terrain for some side-piste action.

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe

Lake tahoe ski resorts - mount rose from below with snow

Photo: Dominic Gentilcore PhD/Shutterstock

  • Closest town: Incline Village, NV
  • Skiable acres: 1,200
  • Known for: Close to Reno, mom-and-pop vibes, early season-opening, highest base elevation

With a base at 8,260 feet, Mt. Rose is the highest-elevation Lake Tahoe ski resort. That means colder temps and more snow early season, allowing Mt. Rose usually to open a bit earlier than other nearby resorts. It’s been open on Halloween multiple years.

A mere 28-minute drive from Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Mt. Rose is easily accessible to Reno residents with the mom-and-pop resort feeling many love. The Mt. Rose Chutes offer some of the longest vertical terrain in a North American resort, with a vertical drop of more than 1,000 feet over a steep 40-to-45 degrees; the chutes are certainly for experienced skiers only. Overall, Mt. Rose is a great option for locals in Reno or visiting tourists looking for a fun, mom-and-pop ski resort experience close to the city. It’s also close to Diamond Peak, if you want to visit two Lake Tahoe ski resorts in one trip.

Sugar Bowl Resort

  • Closest town: Norden, CA (or Truckee)
  • Skiable acres: 1,650
  • Known for: Historical hotel at the base, wide range of terrain, lingering pow, historic gondola

For many, Sugar Bowl is a magical unicorn. With terrain for beginners and advanced riders alike, it’s one mountain where skiers and riders of every level will be stoked after a day on the hill. The base may not have a ski village, but the special Tahoe terrain many come looking for is abundant. Mellow greens and plenty of groomed blues make on-piste riding a hoot. And since the challenging and technical riding gets tracked out slower (Sugar Bowl isn’t as accessible as other Tahoe resorts), and you can’t see the entire resort in one look, it’s usually possible to still find untouched pow a few days after storms.

The resort isn’t the only compelling reason to visit Sugar Bowl, though. A newly renovated hotel at the base means you can wake up slopeside, and you’ll get there via the historic Sugar Bowl Gondola – the West Coast’s first ski gondola, dating to 1939 (don’t worry: it’s had some updates). And for more icing on the cake, Sugar Rush Tubing and the Royal Gorge Cross-country Ski Area are just a few minutes away, in case you have folks in your group looking for non-ski winter recreation.

Boreal Mountain

  • Closest town: Norden, CA (or Truckee)
  • Skiable acres: 380
  • Known for: Easy access, home to Woodward Tahoe, big tubbing area, park skiing/riding

Just off Interstate 80 (seriously, you can see it from the road) and only 10-15 minutes from Truckee, Boreal Mountain is extremely accessible and well-known for being home to Woodward. Woodward is essentially a park and camp, so if you’re looking to hit jumps or rails, this is where you want to learn. They also have trampolines, foam pits, and an indoor skate park.

Boreal is great for skiing and playing around on the slopes, but it’s also home to the well-known Tahoe Tubing hill. It also has cheaper lift tickets, some good midweek deals, and is about 30 minutes closer to Sacramento than every other resort in town (save for Sugar Bowl, which probably only adds another 15 minutes or so). It’s small, but if you just want an affordable Lake Tahoe ski resort for playing around for a day, it’s a good choice.

Tahoe Donner

  • Closest town: Truckee, CA
  • Skiable acres: 120
  • Known for: being the best place to learn to ski or ride

Tahoe Donner takes the phrase “the place to begin” to heart. As the smallest of the Lake Tahoe ski resorts, Tahoe Donner is the ultimate family-friendly location for parents looking to take their kids skiing or adults looking to learn. With uncrowded runs and gentle beginner terrain, Tahoe Donner specializes in teaching kids and adults who have never touched a ski. Viewed as sort of a “locals secret” (or at least second home-owners secret), Tahoe Donner is an ideal place for families who aren’t hardcore skiers to enjoy time on the slopes together as a family.

Donner Ski Ranch

  • Closest town: Norden, CA (or Truckee)
  • Skiable acres: 500
  • Known for: Historic feeling, inexpensive, family owned

(Yes, another resort named after the infamous Donner Party. There’s a lot in Truckee named after them).

Donner Ski Ranch is last but certainly not least on the list of northern Lake Tahoe ski resorts. Generally considered one of the most nostalgic and unique ski experiences in Tahoe, Donner Ski Ranch opened in 1937 and is truly a slice of ski history.

One of the last family-owned ski resorts in the area, Donner Ski Ranch is extremely inexpensive compared to most resorts (weekday tickets start at just $59). Affordable lessons and a fun, heartwarming vibe paired with a historical perspective make Donner Ski Ranch a favorite of many locals, many of whom likely learned to ski there. And locals and visitors alike are usually mingling at the fun dive bar and restaurant at the base, making it an ideal resort for families or beginner groups looking to learn in a low-key, low-stress environment.

South Lake Tahoe ski resorts

Many of the resorts below are in the southern Lake Tahoe area, not necessarily the town of South Lake Tahoe – but the moniker “South Lake Tahoe ” is often used to describe the entire area, regardless.

Heavenly Mountain Resort

Heavenly Lake Tahoe ski resort - view of lake from trails

Photo: Larry Zhou/Shutterstock

  • Closest town: South Lake Tahoe, CA
  • Skiable acres: 4,800
  • Known for: Skiing between state lines, late-night party vibes, highest elevation lift in Tahoe

If you’re looking for a perfect place to head on a bachelor/bachelorette trip and explore a resort for a few days, Heavenly is for you. In South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly has the highest lift (and thus highest skiable terrain) in Tahoe, serviced by the Sky Express lift at 10,040 feet above sea level.
Heavenly is spread between Nevada and California, meaning, yes, you can ski from one state to another. And you’ll have beautiful views when doing so, with Tahoe on one side and desert on the other.

With easy access and a considerable variety of walkable accommodations, Heavenly’s location in South Lake Tahoe makes it a good choice for social trips. South Lake Tahoe has plenty of restaurants and bars, but its neighbor Stateline, Nevada, offers casinos (and more lax drinking rules) for those looking to try their luck into the night. Since it tends to attract the “casino and partying” crowd a bit more, it’s easy to find hidden pow stashes in the trees after a storm, earning it an award for the most undervalued tree skiing of any Lake Tahoe ski resorts.


  • Closest town: Twin Bridges, CA (or South Lake Tahoe)
  • Skiable acres: 2,000
  • Known for: Recently reopened after forest fires, stoke is always high, friendly, everyone-belongs atmosphere

The lesser-known Sierra-at-Tahoe is special to many Tahoe residents because of the recent wildfire that ravaged the resort, along with the immense amount of work that went into reopening the slopes. Not only does Sierra-at-Tahoe boasts runs for every ability and genuinely friendly vibes, but Olympic gold and silver medalist snowboarder Hannah Teter says Sierra-at-Tahoe has the “best powder in Tahoe.”

If you’re looking to hoot and holler along with strangers on a pow day and want a Lake Tahoe ski resort where employees know folks by name, Sierra at Tahoe is the place to be. Just keep in mind that it’s a bit of a drive – it’s only 17 miles from South Lake Tahoe, but winter weather and occasional chain control can make the drive take longer than you’d expect.

Homewood Mountain Resort

skier getting air at homewood, one of the lake tahoe ski resorts

Photo: Suzie Dundas

  • Closest town: Homewood, CA
  • Skiable acres: 1,260
  • Known for: Change ‘a-comin, great views, tree skiing

Homewood Mountain Resort announced plans to become a “lifetime membership club” in the next few years. It hasn’t gone into detail on what that means, but it’s likely it’ll be semi-private, kind of like the luxurious Yellowstone Club, with passes available to a select group of permanent residents. So if you want to ski it, you should go now. The small parking lot means you need to get there early, but it also means there aren’t usually too many skiers on the hill – which, by the way, has views that make it look like you’re going to ski directly into the lake (which you could, if you send it through the parking lot). It also has excellent intermediate tree skiing off the back.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort

  • Closest town: Kirkwood, CA
  • Skiable acres: 2,300
  • Known for: Great advanced terrain, a bit further from the Tahoe area, deep pow

Kirkwood is a local’s favorite. About a 45-minute drive from South Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood is more removed from the other lake Tahoe ski resorts, equating to fewer folks hitting the slopes. The second-highest resort in the Tahoe area, Kirkwood is known for some of the best snowfall in the area and the extreme terrain (they even host a Freeride World Qualifier event).
Kirkwood does have its own beginner area, but it’s best known for its off-piste gullies, snake runs, chutes, and cliffs. Almost 60 percent of Kirkwood’s terrain is rated advanced, so don’t be surprised when you look at the trail map and it’s mostly covered in blue and black runs.

Discover Matador