Cover: Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull
Originally known as The Timber Farm near Truckee, California on the north side of Lake Tahoe, skiing first began at Northstar Resort in 1972. Acquired by Vail Resorts in 2010, Northstar California has fabulous skiing, luxury accommodations, the beautiful Village at Northstar at the foot of the mountain, and plenty of things to do for the non-skiers in the group – making it truly a great destination resort.
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Skiing and snow boarding
With 100 trails and 3,170 skiable acres, Northstar has something for all abilities with 13% beginner terrain, 60% intermediate and 27% advanced.
At an elevation of 8,610 feet (2,624 meters) at the summit of Mt. Pluto, Northstar has a vertical drop of 2,280 ft (695 meters) to the Village at the base of the mountain (elevation 6,330 ft/1,929 meters). The longest run on the mountain is Logger’s Loop, which is 1.4 miles long.
While Northstar’s average snowfall is 350 inches (9 meters), 50% of Northstar’s trails are covered with snowmaking capabilities, the most in North Lake Tahoe and a good safeguard for a skiing vacation in non-El Nino years.
Northstar is very easy to navigate and well laid-out. Following a short gondola ride from the Village to mid-mountain, there are three lifts providing access to different sections of the mountain, with a total of 20 lifts overall.
At the summit, the East Ridge (blue) is to the left when exiting the chair lift, offering amazing views of Lake Tahoe and leading to multiple short, fun black runs off the left and a variety of blues at the end of the trail.
A hard right from the lift takes you to West Ridge (blue) which heads to a mix of longer blue and black tree-lined trails, with some nice mogul runs as well.
Straight ahead and slightly to the right off the summit leads to the backside of the mountain, which are all black runs that are serviced by the Backside Express lift.
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: On mountain dining
In addition to a variety of restaurants and bars in the Village, dining and drinking options can be found at multiple places on the mountain.
The Lodge at Big Springs is located mid-mountain at the top of the gondola with a full bar and serving a variety of lunch options including grilled items, salads, pizza, and baked potatoes (the California baked potato is a personal favorite of ours). Next door is Chilly Peppers Cantina serving burritos, tacos, and other hearty Mexican dishes. Both restaurants are adjacent to a large deck just steps from the Vista Express, Arrow Express, and Tahoe Zephyr Express lifts, a very popular place on the mountain, especially on sunny days.
The Zephyr Lodge is located at the top of the Tahoe Zephyr Express and is the spot for seasonal, local-inspired dishes, crafted cocktails and phenomenal panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
At the top of Mt. Pluto, the Summit Deck & Grille serves breakfast and lunch and has a large selection of craft beers.
Euro Snack stands can be found at various locations on the mountain and in the Villages offering Belgian waffles, French hot dogs, and hot and cold beverages.
Northstar Ski School & Burton Snowboard Academy
Northstar’s Ski + Snowboard School offers lessons for skiers of all levels, from day one beginners to advanced using the Northstar Teaching System to ensure teaching styles and methods are consistent from one instructor to another.
Northstar partnered with Burton Snowboards to develop the Burton Snowboard Academy, a first-of-its-kind snowboard program for all levels designed around a terrain-based teaching methodology. The program is a “full-immersion snowboard experience” and includes access to the Burton Snowboard Academy Village and Mid-Mountain Lounge.
The Village at Northstar
Located at the base of the mountain, The Village at Northstar is a collection of restaurants, wine bars, cafes, shops and activities including a skating rink and outdoor couches with fire pits.
Surrounded by luxury lodging accommodations, spa, yoga and massage services are available as well as movies at the Village Cinemas.
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Other activities
In addition to skiing and snowboards, Northstar offers…
Tubing, located mid-mountain just above the gondola, with a tow lift for tubes and riders to the top of a 200 ft hill. Be sure and book early – space is limited and frequently sells out.
The Cross Country, Telemark + Snowshoe Center with classic and skate skiing, snowshoeing, and telemark skiing on 22 miles (35 kilometers) of groomed, scenic trails.
Summer Village activities that include roller skating, miniature golf, a bungee trampoline and rock wall climbing.
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where to stay
Multiple accommodation options are available in the Northstar Village area including Northstar Lodge, Great Bear Lodge, Iron Horse, Catamount, Big Horn, One Village Place, Northstar Lodge Hyatt Club Residences and the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe.
Additionally, Northstar is located approximately 6 miles from the town of Truckee, California with a variety of hotel options.
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Getting there and parking
Northstar California’s resort address is 5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, CA 96161.
Northstar is located 44 miles or about 53 minutes from the Reno Tahoe airport in Reno, 194 miles from Francisco and 111 miles from Sacramento.
From Highway 80, take the CA-89/CA-267 exit toward Sierraville/Lake Tahoe. Turn right onto CA-Hwy 267. Continue for 5.5 miles, then turn on Northstar Drive.
Free parking is available in two lots with shuttle bus access to the Village. The parking is quite a distance from the Village – you definitely want to wait for the shuttle.
Northstar Ski Resort at Tahoe: Know before you go
Hit the gym before the slopes. Time in the gym before you head to the hill will greatly improve the enjoyment of your ski vacation. Check out the ski conditioning program a personal trainer put together for us for ideas.
Dress in layers. Conditions change quickly on the mountain and what starts out as a warm, bluebird day on the mountain, can quickly change to cold and snowy conditions. We ski with a small backpack for different gloves, hand warmers, and other items.
Rent gear. Having done it more than a few times, we can attest that hauling loads of ski gear through an airport is not a fun task. Check into renting gear instead of bringing gear with you. Renting can also provide a good chance to try out new skis or boards.
Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Weather and road conditions change quickly in the Sierra and chains are required frequently on Highway 80 and Highway 267. Check out the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Northstar or better, higher transportation, so you can relax and enjoy the trip.
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