In this article, we will list the best California ski resorts. We will base this ranking on the facilities as well as the overall skiing terrain. The resorts on this list can be found throughout the state, but most of them lie within the Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes, and Yosemite areas.
It is Not All About Northern California
There are, however, some great ski resorts in Southern California and in the San Gabriel Mountains and San Bernardino regions. When it comes to skiing, California is one of the best places in North America to visit. It’s not hard to understand why when you consider California’s downhill skiing slopes and exhilarating mountain scenery.
Because there are so many great California ski resorts to choose from, it can be difficult to find out which one is the best resort for you. So, before planning your weekend getaway or winter vacation, review our list of the top 10 ski resorts in California.
Remember, most resorts also require tickets purchased in advance or reservations. So, make sure to check the resort’s website regularly for policy changes, unscheduled closures, etc.
Top 10 Best Ski Resorts in California:
1. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has some of the longest skis runs that you can find on the continent. The 1960 Olympic Winter Games were hosted in Squaw Valley, and since then, the area has been known for its excellent ski conditions and advanced terrain. This part of the country’s weather is known to be quite fair. There are over 300 sunny days each year, and this makes Lake Tahoe one of the best places in California that you could visit for a ski vacation.
Also, you’ll find no shortage of powder snow blankets and expansive slopes, which are around 450 inches or more in the winter season.
Squaw Valley is a Great Value
Advanced and novice skiers alike will find more than enough runs to suit their skills best. Most of the runs are, of course, Intermediate trails taking up 43 percent of total slopes between both resorts. Those are known as blue runs. Then there are the green beginning runs, which make up 25 percent of the available slops. The remaining 32 percent of slopes are black diamond runs. Those are the runs that only experts are able to handle.
Another great thing to see is the Village at Squaw Valley’s high-class restaurants and lodges. The Squaw Valley Lodge is the best place for a luxurious stay.
2. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is located in the Eastern Sierra. This resort has some pretty amazing skiing and snowboarding opportunities available. It is set in the beautiful Sierra National Forest and gets plenty of sunshine and the perfect powdery conditions to make Mammoth among the most desirable ski destinations.
2 Miles Above Sea-level
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is over 11,000 feet above sea level, so that means it’s going to get abundant annual snowfall. So, as you would expect, this area gets an average of 400 inches of snow per year! Because of this, Mammoth Mountain is able to be one of the first ski resorts to open every year.
At these altitudes, a ski resort can operate for a large portion of the year. Here, the season extends until May and can sometimes last all the way to the 4th of July. Another perk about going to Mammoth Mountain is its close proximity to many 5-star lodging restaurant options.
Mammoth Mountain is Huge
Mammoth Mountain is one mammoth ski area. In fact, at 3,500 skiable acres with 25 lifts that provide access to 150 trails, Mammoth Mountain is one of the largest in California.
Mammoth Mountain is one of the Top 10 Ski Resorts in California because, at this resort, over 30 percent of the runs are for advanced and expert skiers. Intermediate visitors, however, will be able to find plenty of suitable runs seeing as 40 percent of the trails here are considered intermediate. Remember, they offer classes, so their beginners have plenty to do here as well.
Mammoth Mountain is loved by freestyle skiers because it has Unbound Terrain Parks. The resort has seven terrain parks that are distributed over 100 acres. These areas have half-pipes for tricks and several dozen jib lines and over 50 different jumps.
3. Heavenly Ski Resort
As you would expect by its name, Heavenly Ski Resort offers some of the most breathtakingly beautiful sceneries that you can find in the industry. It’s only a 3 and a half-hour drive from the heart of San Francisco. The resort features over 34 miles of perfectly groomed trails that include more than 4,800 skiable acres. That makes Heavenly Ski Resort the largest ski resort in the Lake Tahoe region.
Located near the Nevada border the resort has elevations of up to 10,067 feet. For this area, seasonal snowfall averages about 360 inches! Heavenly Ski Resort overlooks Lake Tahoe and is completely surrounded by snow-capped mountains that provide a stunning view that is just as amazing as the skiing experience the resort provides.
Massive Slopes With Expansive Views
This resort is completely surrounded by pine forests and has extensive, open ski slopes that feature 97 runs that are accessible by 28 chairlifts. A lot of the trails here are really long runs, some that extend up to 3,500 vertical feet.
This world-class resort is known for having runs that skiers of all abilities can enjoy. There is a good selection of intermediate slopes and the resort features classes for people who are wanting to learn how to ski.
Expert skiers are known to visit this resort’s double-black diamond runs that have 1,600-foot chutes.
4. Northstar California
Northstar California has the most family-friendly ski resort amenities in Lake Tahoe. It has a kids’ activities section, a wide offering of well-groomed trails, and a ski school. Making things even more fun are the lovely views of the pristine pine forests.
The ski resort sprawls over 3,170 acres and has a total of 100 runs that can be accessed by 20 chairlifts. 60 percent of the runs here are considered intermediate, while just 13 percent are beginner runs. You will find that 27 percent of the runs are for advanced skiers only. The longest run at Northstar California is 1.4 miles long!
Northstar Uses Technology to Maintain Perfect Slopes
Like most of California, Northstar gets plenty of sunny weather and seasonal snowfall. Sometimes, however, snowfall can be light. Fret not, however, because the operators of the ski report employ the use of snow-making to keep conditions just right.
Northstar has an alpine-style village located at the base of its slopes. The village is an area used for dining, shopping, and lodging. The Village at Northstar has a vast array of restaurants and hotels.
5. Kirkwood Ski Resort
At Kirkwood, you get a more remote feel. This makes sense, as this ski resort is farther away from Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe than the other resorts in the region. Located in the Sierra Crest peak, Kirkwood offers picturesque views in over 2,300-acres of peaceful, unspoiled alpine scenery.
Kirkwood is For Advanced Skiers
Just 12 percent of the runs here are rated for a beginner’s level. The longest run at Kirkwood is 2.5 miles long.
6. Sugar Bowl Resort
Sugar Bowl Resort is a quaint and cozy-sized small-scale facility. It is a historic ski resort that is loved for its charming, old-school ambiance and powdery slopes that are simply marvelous. Sugar Bowl has the most snowfall out of any other resort on this list with a whopping 500 inches of snow per year!
Also, this resort is the closest one to San Francisco. It’s just a 3 drive away. Also, there is parking right there near the slopes, another benefit of going to a small resort.
If you plan on staying at Sugar Bowl’s old-fashioned European-style lodge overnight, then expect to feel pampered. The lodge has a fine-dining restaurant that serves gourmet cuisine and features ski-in, ski-out accommodations along with.
Conveniently Located Slopes
Here, the ski slopes are only steps away from the lodge, which is built into the side of the mountain. One of the really nice things about this resort’s 1,650-acre ski area is that it is, by design, sheltered from the wind. That will, as you would expect, make for a really nice skiing experience. The runs here span four mountain peaks of Donner Summit, so there are impeccable views everywhere you look!
This resort has 100 trails that can be conveniently accessed by 12 lifts. Like most other places, Sugar Bowl provides slopes for all skill levels. 45 percent of the slops here are considered intermediate. 38 percent of them are advanced, while just 17 percent are for beginners. Sugar Bowl calls these runs ‘bunny hills.’ The resort offers group lessons and private lessons are also available.
7. Badger Pass Ski Area
This is California’s oldest ski resort and is surrounded by some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring scenery that you could imagine. in the Central Sierra mountain range. Badger Pass Ski Area is located near the world-famous Yosemite National Park.
This resort is around 4 hours away from beautiful San Francisco. Badger Pass is much more affordable and a lot less crowded than many of the Tahoe ski resorts on this list. One of the great things about this resort is its children’s facilities. Families that bring kids will find that this resort allows them to easily manage that, stress-free.
Badger Pass Ski Area features downhill ski slopes, but it also has terrain that is designed for use in cross-country snow tubing, skiing, and snowshoeing.
8. Big Bear Mountain Resort
You can find Big Bear Mountain Resort in the San Bernardino Mountains. This is one of the rare ski resorts in California that is not located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
The San Bernardino Mountains have an altitude of over 8,000 feet. That elevation is high enough to get excellent snowfall while still being very close to the Pacific Ocean. In fact, it’s just a 2-hour drive to Los Angeles from here.
Two For The Price of One
Big Bear Mountain Resort features 2 main ski areas. One entry ticket is valid at both places! Fir you have Bear Mountain, which has 748 acres of skiable terrain. You also get access to Snow Summit, which has 240 skiable acres.
Big Bear Mountain is well known for having some of the most advanced facilities in the industry. The resort has 15 trails that can be accessed by 8 lifts. The majority of the runs here, which add up to about 55 percent, are considered to be intermediate runs. 15 percent of them are made for beginners. This resort is also well-known for its excellent snowboarding terrain parks, of which there are 14 in total.
Snow Summit is known to be a family-friendly place. So, it has more intermediate trails, which take up over 60 percent of its 27 trails. All in all, the resort has six terrain parks that are rated among the best in the world. Both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain give skiing lessons that are taught by experienced, certified professionals. Also, this resort in Southern California is dedicated specifically to ski and snowboarding classes.
9. Mt. Baldy Resort
This ski resort features open bowls, traditional runs, chutes, and three runs. It lays claim to the largest and steepest resort in Southern California and has 26 runs spanning 3 mountain ranges. The peak here is at an elevation of 8,600 ft (2,600 m). Mt Baldy spans 800 acres and features a 2,100 ft (640 m) vertical drop.
This resort offers a multi-directional ski area, where the main ski area faces south or southwest while other portions are north-facing. Mt Baldy is among the closest ski resort relative to the city of Los Angeles. It’s only around 50 miles away, which is just an hour’s drive away. Mt Baldy, more than any other level, has mostly advanced-level black-diamond and double-black-diamond runs.
There are not many intermediate and beginner trails, here. There is, however, a Learning Center that gives skiing lessons to adults and children alike.
Mt Baldy Resort Now Re-Open
This ski resort is now recently re-opened after closing for a short time. According to a police report, a 70-year-old man got stuck under a Snowcat groomer at Baldy Mountain Resort. Many skiers and snowboarders that are recently visited the mountain said that the death was devastating and shocked everyone.
Safety and policy guidelines have since been restricted at the resort to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.
10. Mt. Shasta Ski Park
Situated on a snow-capped volcanic peak over 7,500 feet above sea level, Mount Shasta is really is an amazing sight to see. The Mt. Shasta Ski Park is installed at the very foot of this legendary mountain peak, located in between the McCloud and Mount Shasta.
Most of the lodges and dining facilities are located in Mount Shasta, but there are some small towns nearby that have decent selections, namely Dunsmuir and McCloud.
This resort spans over 425 acres of fully skiable terrain and includes 32 downhill ski slopes. Most of the slopes are intermediate, making up for 55 percent of the total. 20 percent is beginner runs and the remaining 25 percent are for advanced skiers. The longest run to will find at Mt. Shasta Ski Park is 1.75 miles.
Mt. Shasta Ski Park Offers a Versatile Skiing Experience
This place has something for everyone. Even cross-country skiers will enjoy the many scenic trails that this resort provides. For snowboarders, there is Silvertip Terrain Park for intermediate-level and beginner riders. But for those who are not faint of heart, there is the much more advanced Revolution Terrain Park.
For well-trained skiers, one of the most most fun activities at Mt. Shasta Ski Park is its off-trail backcountry skiing area. This is the type of journey that hiring a guide is recommended for. Skiers are able to book overnight accommodations in the off-trail area using one of the Backcountry Cabins. These cabins have rustic accommodations and the included amenities take a minimalist approach. In these cabins, visitors get things like bunk beds and wood-burning stoves.