North Lake Tahoe has held a special place in my heart ever since moving to the Bay Area in 2001. Not only was it the catalyst that helped me form some amazing California friendships, but it is now second home for my sons – who both delight in the many seasonal activities that this wonderful part of the world has to offer.
However, as thrilling as it is to paddleboard on Donner Lake, raft the Truckee River or hike around Euer Valley, it is the winter months that really draw me in. And now, with my second generation of skiers in tow, I can’t wait to hit the slopes once again – especially as this season looks to be a real doozy, with plenty of snow already on the ground.
So what is on offer for families looking for a winter wonderland getaway?
Kids Planet, Soda Springs:
In my eyes, Kids Planet is hands down the best place for little ones learning to ski or board. It is not only affordable at $25 per child, but accompanying adults are free. Price includes ski and snowboard equipment, a fun sled ride over to the play area, access to two bunny slopes (with moving carpets), as well as inner tube sledding and an inner tube ride. And if you are looking for some expert help for your child, instructors are also on hand for a small fee. It took our eldest son just three lessons at Kids Planet (at age 3) before we could take him down the main front face with us!
Tahoe Donner Downhill:
Located in the Tahoe Donner community, just off the I-80, this ski area is free for children under age 6, and only $21 for a day pass for kids aged 7-12! More importantly it strives to be the best place for family fun and learning in the Tahoe region and offers lessons for children as young as 3 years old. While relatively small, the 4 lifts and 14 novice and intermediate runs (spread across 120 acres) are lots of fun for the beginner.
Squaw has the type of big mountain skiing that I grew up with in Europe and, as such, is easily my favorite “hill” to ski in North Lake Tahoe. However it would be very remiss of me to not also mention the amazing ski and board options that they have for kids of all ages. Whether you want a private or group lesson, a winning ski team program (that has produced Olympic greats like Jonny Moseley), or a great terrain park, you can’t go wrong with Squaw Valley.
Another economical option for children is Boreal. Kids 5-12 cost just $16 and teenagers are $40. However what is really cool about Boreal are the terrain parks for the older, more technically advanced kids.
Kidzone Museum, Truckee:
If you are looking for an indoor place where your little ones can play, then why not take them to Kidzone. With all of the activities inside (from a jungle gym, to block building, a climbing wall, art studio, huge train table, science lab and Starfish Exhibit) there is plenty to keep them occupied. Best of all, it will only set you back $7 for children over age 1 and $5 per adult.
Located just below Boreal’s main chairlift the new Woodward Tahoe bunker looks so cool it deserves a mention (even though I have only peeked inside). This is the place to take your older kids, itching to learn some tricks.
All Fired Up, Squaw Valley:
I know, I know, make your own pottery places are springing up everywhere. But All Fired Up is an awesome option if you are looking to kill some time when the weather is gnarly. And it is a great creative outlet for kids too.
Tubing and Snowplay, Tahoe Donner:
One of the best organized places for tubing and sledding is the snowplay area at Trout Creek Recreation Center in Tahoe Donner. Here you can get on a tube with your child and slide your way down a pre-made course, or simply grab a hot chocolate and let them go at it by themselves.
Dog Sledding, Resort of Squaw Creek:
Available at the Resort of Squaw Creek, I can highly recommend a dog sled ride for your family. It is a truly unique experience and the majestic views of the surrounding mountains, from the valley floor, is hard to beat. My son was 2 when he took his first ride and he loved every minute – so much so that I now have to listen to his pleas every year to go again…and again.
Cable Car and Ice Skating, Squaw Valley:
Accommodation in North Lake Tahoe is plentiful. Whether you are looking to rent a cabin in Tahoe Donner, or lavish yourself in luxury, there are lots of options. Some of my personal favorites include the reasonably priced Truckee Donner Lodge, the fantastic amenities at the Resort of Squaw Creek, and the boutique style of PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn – all of which are ideally situated for quick access to North Lake Tahoe’s various ski areas.
Featured Image: Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe (Shutterstock.com)