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Planning on taking the family to California for a skiing trip this year? If so, you’re in luck. Despite being famed for its warm weather and sunny days, California is also home to some of the country’s best ski resorts.
The great thing about skiing in California is that with a fairly large amount of mountains in the state, there’s a good variety of skiing here. However, for the best California skiing, head to Tahoe!
However, also known for being training grounds for professionals, you’ll find some slopes that are perfect for advanced teens as well as all the adults in the family! Whether you’re a novice or an expert, there’s a California ski resort for you.
Of course, one of the best things about skiing in California with kids is that you’ll be treated to top-notch kid-friendly activities, world-class dining, and convenience (it’s California after all!) throughout your entire trip. For the ultimate ski trip, plan on ski-in, ski-out accommodations!
Let’s take a look at some of the best Californian Ski resorts where kids cannot only enjoy their holidays to the max but gain some skiing skills to boot!
Location: Olympic Valley, California
Adult Ticket Price: Online: $89-$159 Window: $169
Child Ticket Price: (Ages 13-17) Online | $79-$114 Window | $144
(Ages 4-12): Online: $69-$93 Window: $110
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: (Ages 3-4) | $269 (Ages 5-7) | $259 ( Ages 8-13) | $219
As you can tell from this list so far, Lake Tahoe is where all the ski fanatics flock to California. For Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley Resort), things are no different.
However, what really sets Palisades Tahoe apart as a kid-friendly resort is how catered to beginner and intermediate skiers most of their slopes are. It’s estimated that 25 percent of the runs are for beginners and 43 percent for intermediate-level skiers, while the rest are left for the more advanced skiers. Such a large number of gentle slopes creates an atmosphere of relaxation, safety, and assuredness due to no one zipping past or any worries of being judged – the perfect environment for kids to learn in.
The resort is also ski-in-ski-out, meaning that if you don’t want to go too far with your kids or would rather keep an eye on them from the resort – that’s an option.
Further bolstering Palisades Tahoe’s wonderful kid-friendliness are some of the many available off-resort activities, including tubing and snowmobiling. Always going that one step further for kids, adorable yet exhilarating mini-snowmobiling is on offer to every kid’s delight! And if that’s not enough excitement, bungee trampolining, dog sledding, aerial tram rides, and a museum dedicated to Olympic history are at your door.
NorthStar Ski Resort
Location: Truckee, California
Adult Ticket Price: (Ages 13+) | $133
Child Ticket Price: (Ages 5 – 12) | $69
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: TBA
NorthStar Resort is an upend skiing location that caters to two types of vacationers: luxury travelers and families. Situated close to Lake Tahoe, this resort has undergone several massive transformations since being opened by Vail Resorts in 2010. These transformations have helped to keep the resort modern and sophisticated without ever losing its carefully cultivated family-friendliness.
And what is it about NorthStar ski resort that makes it right for kids? Well, in the enormous slope-side Northside village, there may be a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and activities to choose from, but none as fun as the full-blown movie theatre! Then there’s bungee trampolining for kids to enjoy and even free end-of-day s’mores to munch on. In short, everywhere you go in NorthStar, there’s something for kids to do and a friendly employee happy to lend them a helping hand. Just make sure your kids are dressing in warm clothing so they will want to ski for longer!
And if your kids are looking to hone their skiing skills or simply learn how to ski, there are skiing classes available led by certified and experienced ski coaches. True to its fancy roots, NorthStar ski resort runs an “ultimate 4” training program, limiting the number of pupils to every instructor (for an extra fee!)
Heavenly Ski Resort
Location: South Lake Tahoe, California
Adult Ticket Price: $80 – $115
Child Ticket Price: (Ages 5-12) | $44 – $63
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: TBA
Located just south of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly Ski Resort is by far the largest in California. Containing 3,800 skiable acres with 28 chair lifts, it’s a veritable winter wonderland. Like NorthStar, Heavenly Ski Resort is run by Vail Resorts.
As you can imagine, being situated next to Lake Tahoe makes for some breathtaking views. By taking a quick Gondola ride up to the top of Adventure, you’re rewarded with expansive views of Lake Tahoe with two snowcapped mountains as a majestic backdrop.
If your kids are looking to learn how to ski or snowboard, Heavenly classes start at ages 4 and 5 for the respective activities. The best part about these classes at the ski resort is that not only will your kids be treated to active, engaging, and exciting classes, but parents will also get to enjoy the option of 3 drop-off spots for seamless pick-up/drop-off.
The one thing that you do need to be aware of is that it’s kind of trick yo get around at Heavenly. So tricky in fact, that you’ll need to have a trail map stashed in your pocket for when you get lost. We almost never have this problem, but there are 2 sides to Heavenly and it’s very difficult to get between the two. If you accidentally take a wrong run, you could end up on the other side of the mountain and it would easily take you 90 minutes to get back. Our tips is to pick one side of the mountain and get VERY FAMILIAR with the trails there so you don’t accidentally cross over to the other side. Truthfully, the terrain between the two is kid of MEH, so just stick to either the east or the west side of the resort.
For non-skiing kids or babies, there is daycare available from ages 6 weeks to 12 years old. However, if your kid would like to dabble in some skiing but also kick back with some fun activities, there’s always the option of having a “hybrid day.” These days consist of morning skiing followed by afternoon meals and then an evening of games! Perfect for toddlers who might melt down after a full day of skiing.
Location: Norden, California
Adult Ticket Price: $95.00
Child Ticket Price: $55.00
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: (Ages 4-5) | $340 (Ages 6-12) | $240
Getting out of the Lake Tahoe area, Sugar Bowl Resort has the advantage of being closer to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area. And do you know what that means? Less time spent with the whole family jumbled into the car driving in typical winter weather, which is always a win!
So, if your kids aren’t a big fan of long journeys – Sugar Bowl Resort might just be for you. Moreover, there is a family-friendly vibe across Sugar Bowl’s 1650 skiable acres and 103 varied trails. However, what really might convince you to stay at Sugarbowl, is that amazingly – kids under 6 ski free. Not to mention that kids’ skiing classes are readily available.
If there’s one area that Sugar Bowl may be lacking in, it’s après-ski activities. So, this hospitable and comfortable resort may be more for families who want to get the most time out of the slopes possible and focus on their trip.
Oh, and did I mention that Walt Disney founded Sugarbowl Resort? That’s sure to get the kids excited!
Location: Kirkwood, California
Adult Ticket Price: (Ages 13+) | $112
Child Ticket Price: (Ages 5 – 12) | $59
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: TBA
Kirkwood is just one of those skiing resorts that makes you want to keep coming back. Its beautiful towering mountain is home to many varied trails and slopes for all skill sets. Covering these rolling or steep slopes is the finest and “powderiest” snow for miles around. So, naturally, Kirkwood is mainly geared towards the more serious and “straight-forward” side of a ski getaway.
However, at Kirkwood, they know that the earlier you learn to ski, the better. Getting your bearing on the slopes at an early age is important for lifelong comfort when zipping down the side of snowy mountains. This is why Kirkwood values children’s skiing education more than anything. They aim to instruct the new generation of skiers on only the best techniques while instilling in them a love of winter sports.
So, if your kids are little skiing enthusiasts before all else, this might just be the right place for your family.
Location: Mammoth Lakes, California
Adult Ticket Price: (23–64) | $79
Child Ticket Price: (Age 4 and under) | Free (Ages 5–12) | $32
(Ages 13–22) | $65
Full-Day Ski Lesson for Kids: (Ages 3-4) | $235–$310
Back to fun with Mammoth Mountain Resort! At Mammoth Mountain, you’re bound to spot the mascots Woolly, Huck, or Goldie spreading joy wherever they go. You might even run into them cruising past you on a slope! What better way to put kids at ease? And if your kids are taken by the mascots, they can always attend Wolly’s Saturday parade where there’s plenty of face-painting, dance, and party fun to be had!
Ever the present figure, there’s even Wolly’s tube park & snow play area where kids can enjoy some zipping and zooming tube fun. And as if that wasn’t enough, you’ll find plenty of snowshoeing, boarding, and skiing activities for kids to take part in.
After a long day of working up an appetite, you won’t be at a loss for kid-friendly dining options. Mammoth Mountain’s off-hill eateries with kid menus, coloring books, and fun surprises are a great place for you and your little ones to refuel after a long day of fun.
Is California a good place for beginner skiers?
Oh, absolutely! California ski resorts like Mammoth Mountain and Northstar have fantastic beginner terrains. Their ski schools are top-notch, and they offer gentle slopes perfect for those new snow bunnies in the family.
When’s the best time to ski in California?
January to March usually offers the most consistent snowfall. But I’ve had some delightful ski days in December too! Some resorts like Palisades Tahoe specialize in spring skiing and are often still open in May and June! Always keep an eye on the snow reports.
Is it more expensive to ski in California than other states?
Skiing can be pricey, but there are deals out there, especially for families. Booking in advance, considering mid-week trips, or even season passes can save you a bit! While California skiing is expensive, it’s really no more expensive than most other major US ski resorts.