Tahoe Alpine Skiing

By Peter Oliver
  |  Gorp.com
GORP Scoop
What do you do to make a mountain that lacks sustained, steep pitches interesting for experts? Answer: You build terrain parks. For skiers and snowboarders who like trick-riding on man-made quarter-pipes and table-tops, Northstar has perhaps the best collection of terrain parks in the Tahoe area.

The most satisfying thing to me about Northstar is that it is what it is and doesn't pretend to be anything else. What it is is a self-contained, family-oriented resort heavily skewed toward intermediate and lower-intermediate skiing. Northstar is content to throw its eggs in the family basket and to let the Squaws and Alpines of the north shore compete for the testosterone-junkie crowd.

Ski-in-ski-out condos are a tough find elsewhere around Tahoe, but they are Northstar's bread and butter. The compact base village has just enough services and restaurants to make a week at Northstar possible without ever having to get in your car. Don't expect glitz and glamour, but for the comfort and convenience of taking the whole family on a ski vacation, Northstar is hard to beat.

On the Mountain
Look at the trail map, and it might seem that there is relatively little beginner terrain. But trust me—most of the intermediate runs at Northstar ski more like novice runs, and most of the advanced runs ski like intermediate runs. I've heard north-shore locals deride Northstar, calling it "Flatstar" because of its absence of steeps. But hey—if steeps are your thing, you should be skiing Alpine or Squaw.

On snowy, windy days, Northstar can also be a great place for skiers of any ability to retreat. When avalanche danger or lack of visibility make skiing at more exposed areas a dicey proposition, the skiing at Northstar just keeps on keeping on. Experts might find the gentle pitch ho-hum, but it's better than flying blind through an avalanche-prone whiteout.

The light and airy Lodge at Big Springs, at the top of the gondola, is the place to go for lunch. On a sunny day, catch major rays on the sun deck out front. For aprhs-ski action, the Alpine Bar is the place to go in the village, although the livelier aprhs scene is a few miles down the road in Truckee.

Ski School
Interested in learning a new snow sport? Northstar is the land of so-called "snowtoys"—snowbikes, snowscoots, and something called snowfoxes. Frankly, snowbiking looks treacherous to me, but maybe that's because I haven't tried it yet. Oh yes—Northstar also offers skiing and snowboarding instruction, too.

For Families
Northstar for families is essentially a redundancy. This is certainly the best resort in the Tahoe area for families with young children. If for some reason the kids don't take to skiing or snowboarding, Northstar is also big on tubing—sliding down specially groomed runs on inner tubes.

Mountain Contact: Northstar-at-Tahoe


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