Enjoy this family-friendly ski resort that does all but carry your skis for you.
Northstar California Resort’s 100 runs offer skiers and snowboarders alike a chance to float down the graceful curves of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s worth stopping, though, to take in the stunning view of Lake Tahoe from the top of Mt. Pluto. And the lifts are entertaining too; Vista Express offers a bird’s-eye view of the terrain park below, where daredevil snowboarders and skiers ride rails, catch air in the half-pipe, and launch themselves off nail-biter jumps into aerial acrobatics. The lift staff personally assists each child on the chair to make sure they’re safe and secure.
What to do besides skiing?
Northstar Village, at the foot of the slopes, is built around a central ice skating rink. More than a dozen restaurants and shops ring the rink, where you’ll also find a bungee trampoline and a cozy movie theater. Pop off your skis before the lifts close, grab your kids, and claim a spot rinkside around a fire pit by 3:30 p.m. – the magic moment when the staff serves s’mores. Soon after that, a live band warms up the vibrant après ski scene.
Where to eat?
The Lodge at Big Springs at the top of the Big Springs Express Gondola has predictable resort pricing but also has pretty generous portions. The Epic Mountain Burger ($14.25) came with two, juicy quarter pounder patties, which I split with my son. And the $9 basket of fries was more than our family of four could finish.
For those not keen on paying mountain-top prices, you can bring your own lunch, store it in a locker at the Lodge at Big Springs, and eat at the slopeside picnic tables.
Where to stay?
For optimal ski-in/ski-out convenience, stay mid-mountain at Constellation Residences. As an added bonus, you’ll get complimentary use of neighboring Ritz Carlton’s outdoor pool and fitness center.
KidTripster Tip: When you arrive in the village, grab one of the free wagons and toss your skis, poles, and children inside. Pulling the wagon is a remarkably simple, fun, and brilliant alternative to dragging kids and gear across the village on foot ( in snow boots, no less!) to the gondola.
In light traffic, Northstar is a roughly 3-hour straight shot on I-80 northeast from San Francisco and about 30 minutes west from Reno. Watch out for the very real weekend and holiday crowds which notoriously clog I-80 all the way from the Bay Area and can add hours to the drive.
Francesca Segrè lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two young globe-trotting adventurers, ages 6 and 8.