Best Ski Resorts in California

Squaw Valley

We often associate the Golden State with our favorite Hollywood celebrities and incredible weather year-round. However, rarely do we think of California as a state that’s home to some amazing ski resorts. We hope that the following list encourages you to visit California’s best-rated ski resorts and see for yourself all it has to offer. 

The resorts we recommend differ in terms of location. Some can be found near Lake Tahoe, while others are closer to the Los Angeles area. They also differ in terms of difficulty of slopes, but it’s safe to conclude that most of these resorts cater to all levels of skiing expertise. 

What they do share, however, is stunning views of lakes and mountains nearby, great skiing conditions, and plenty of accommodation options to choose from. Here is our list of the best ski resorts located in California.

Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort

Located in eastern California with over 3,500 acres of skiable terrain, this resort is one of the largest in the country. You can expect to see amazing views from Mammoth Mountain from the top of the mountain and from the various rides available. It’s a great option for both beginners, advanced, and expert skiers. Apart from skiing, you can also choose snowboarding.

Pros

  • Well-groomed terrain
  • Lots of ski lifts and runs
  • Great skiing and snowboarding conditions
  • Many activities available year-round

Cons

  • Sometimes there is a lack of snow

Famous for: Spectacular scenery, year-round activities, amazing conditions.

Town

As you might have guessed, the closest town area to Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort is Mammoth Lakes. There are plenty of things to do here, so you’re bound to find sights and activities you enjoy. If you like spending time outdoors, make sure you visit Convict Lake, the Mammoth Mountain, and Rainbow Falls. There are plenty of trails along the lake that have gorgeous scenery of the nearby mountains. Wild Willy’s Hot Springs also seems to be a popular destination for tourists, so if the weather is nice, make sure to visit this place.

Ski Terrain

With over 3,500 acres of skiable area, you will surely find runs that are suitable for your current levels of expertise. There are a total of 150 runs, all of which vary in terms of difficulty. The longest run is 3 miles long, and the top elevation is 11,053 feet. In this ski area, you will find a couple of terrain parks. The snowfall is 400 inches and the resort makes artificial snow when there is a lack of it. Unfortunately, there is no night skiing at this resort.

Crowd Density and Ski Lifts

Even though it’s popular among skiers, there are rarely any crowds present here. This might be due to the size of the resort – the bigger it is, the less crowded it feels. As a result, there are rarely any lines in front of the lifts.

When it comes to the ski lifts available on the property, there are a total of 28: three gondolas, 23 chairs (two of which are high-speed six-packs, nine of which are high-speed quads, one quad, six triple and four double) and two platter lifts. As per usual, you can purchase the ski lift tickets from their official website. The prices vary depending on your age, but just to give you a rough idea, the beginner adult tickets cost $79, and beginner children’s tickets cost $32.

Accommodation

Some of the most popular lodging options include Mammoth Mountain Inn ($323 per night), Tamarack Lodge and Resort ($233 per night), Juniper Springs Resort ($630 per night), and The Village Lodge ($510 per night). All the accommodation options offer various facilities and stunning views, so whichever you choose you won’t be disappointed.

Verdict

Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort is one of the largest ski resorts in the country. With 150 runs available, it’s a great option for any skier out there. The views are spectacular and the skiing conditions are excellent.

Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort

True to its name, Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort has some of the most stunning scenery in California. Overlooking Lake Tahoe, you can expect some gorgeous views of the lake and surrounding mountains. This resort is one of the largest in the area, with around 4,800 acres of skiable area! It offers plenty of challenging activities year-round, so even if you’re not the biggest fan of skiing, there will be something for you to try out. Ski enthusiasts will be happy to know that there is plenty of snow in the area, and the skiing conditions are outstanding.

Pros

  • Helpful and friendly staff
  • Breathtaking views
  • Plenty of things to fill your time with

Cons

  • The resort can get a bit crowded

Famous for: views overlooking Lake Tahoe, plenty of skiable area.

Town

Located only a five-minute drive away, South Lake Tahoe has so much natural beauty that is bound to leave anyone mesmerized. There are plenty of trails along the lake which are perfect for when the weather is nice and warm. Apart from natural scenery, there are a lot of historical sites in this town, such as the Tallac Historic Site and Vikingsholm.

Ski Terrain

Heavenly Ski Resort contains 97 runs in total, most of which are suitable for intermediate and advanced skiers. Around 20% of the runs are appropriate for beginners, so if you have a beginner in your group, there is no need to worry. The longest run is 5.5 miles long, and the snowfall is 360 inches. Additionally, there are a couple of terrain parks in the area. Sadly, you don’t have the option of night skiing at the resort.

Crowd Density and Ski Lifts

Since this resort is one of the most popular ones in the country, you can expect to encounter crowds of people. That being said, there are many lifts in this ski area, so you will rarely have to wait in long lines in front of the lifts.

There are 30 lifts in total: one high-speed gondola, one aerial tram, two high-speed six-passenger chairs, seven high-speed quads, one fixed-grip quad, six triplets, two doubles, six surface lifts, and four magic carpets. The prices for ski tickets differ depending on when you’re visiting the resort, but the average price for an adult ticket is $130.

Accommodation

There are plenty of accommodation options in the area, most of which offer stunning views of Lake Tahoe. The most popular lodging options include the Lakeland Village Resort, the Zalanta Resort, the Gondola Vista, and The Landing Resort and Spa. You can choose between more luxurious suites like those in Gondola Vista ($1000 per night), or more affordable accommodation like The Landing Resort and Spa ($200 per night).

Verdict

Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort really does live up to its name. With stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains, skiers of all abilities can enjoy the breathtaking scenery while practicing their skills on the runs.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Located in Olympic Valley, California, this ski resort is famous for being the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Just like Heavenly Mountain, it’s also a part of the Lake Tahoe ski area. One thing to keep in mind if you’re planning a visit to Squaw Valley is the fact that more than half of the runs available are tailored for expert skiers. Runs suitable for beginners constitute around 15% of all the runs, so it might not be the best place to visit if you’re just starting out with skiing. The slopes are well-groomed and there is a big snowfall, so the skiing conditions are close to perfect.

Pros

  • Excellent conditions for skiing
  • Fast lifts
  • Great for expert skiers
  • Incredible views of Lake Tahoe

Cons

  • Large crowds and lines during popular dates

Famous for: host of the Winter Olympics, challenging terrain, great views up top.

Town

Truckee is located eleven miles away from Squaw Valley. This small town is an amazing place for history lovers because of the variety of historical sights. Some places you can’t miss include the Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum, and the Historic Downtown Truckee. If you like wine, the Truckee River Winery is a must-see. If you feel like taking a walk, the Truckee River Legacy Trail is a great place to start.

Ski Terrain

There are more than 177 runs available at Squaw Valley! Around half of these are designed for expert skiers. The longest run is 3.2 miles long, and there are three terrain parks in the area. The snowfall is 450 inches, but they also make artificial snow. There is no night skiing available at Squaw Valley, but the gorgeous scenery during the day makes up for it.

Crowd Density and Ski Lifts

You may encounter large crowds of people if you’re visiting the resort during popular dates, but since the resort is so large, it never feels overly crowded. There are plenty of lifts to go around, so you most likely won’t have to wait in long lines, except if you’re visiting during popular dates/ hours.

There are 30 lifts in total, and the lift capacity is 58,000 per hour. For cheaper prices, make sure you purchase the ski lift tickets from their official website prior to visiting the resort.

Accommodation

The Village at Squaw Valley is one of the most requested lodging options in the area. You can get a one-bedroom suite for $300 a night, and for around $350, you could enjoy a mountain view.

Verdict

Squaw Valley is a popular resort that hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. It’s an amazing choice for ski enthusiasts who enjoy fast lifts and groomed runs. Due to the fact that the terrain is quite challenging, it’s best to visit Squaw Valley Ski Resort if you have previous experience with skiing. The food is tasty and there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from.

Northstar Ski Resort

Also known as Northstar California, this ski resort has everything you’ll need to develop your skiing skills. From groomed terrain to more than 3,000 acres of skiable area, it’s truly a skier’s paradise! Northstar is located in Placer County, California, on the northwest side of Lake Tahoe. It’s a popular option for families and people who want to indulge in a more luxurious skiing getaway. Overall, it’s a great place to practice your skills or get started with skiing.

Pros

  • Lots of activities to choose from
  • Amazing choice of restaurants
  • Beautiful scenery

Cons

  • Sometimes there is a lack of parking space

Famous for: high-end ski resort, beginner-friendly, gorgeous views.

Town

Just like Squaw Valley, the town that’s closest to Northstar Ski Resort is Truckee. As you know by now, there are plenty of things to do in Truckee. One of the most popular attractions in the area is the Truckee Railroad Museum, located in downtown Truckee, and it’s a perfect place to learn about the history of the town. Another popular tourist destination is the Old Truckee Jail Museum, and it’s exactly what it sounds like – a museum that explores the history of the jailhouse that’s been open since the 19th century. History lovers can’t miss these two spots.

Ski Terrain

In Northstar Ski Resort, there are a total of 100 runs. Almost 60% of those are designed for intermediates, but that’s not to say that there are no runs appropriate for beginners. Those who are just starting out can take skiing lessons at the ski school present at the resort. The top elevation is 8,610 feet and the longest run is 1.4 miles long. There are seven terrain parks in this ski area and the snowfall averages around 350 inches. In case there is a light snowfall, the resort utilizes their snowmaking machines in order to improve the skiing conditions.

Crowd Density and Ski Lifts

At Northstar Ski Resort you can expect to get away from large crowds and long lines. Visitors claim that there aren’t large crowds of people present, even during peak season or the weekends.

There are twenty lifts in total, and you can purchase the ski lift tickets from their website. The online tickets are cheaper and they retail around $137 for an adult ticket.

Accommodation

You’ll be happy to know that there are multiple accommodation options if you’re planning on staying at Northstar Ski Resort. For instance, the Northstar Mountain condos is a cozy option located in Village Drive that costs around $250 per night. Ski Trails Condominiums is a more expensive option that costs $450 per night. If you’re on the lookout for fancier options, make sure you check out some of the private homes offered in Village Drive that average $830 per night.

Verdict

Northstar Ski Resort is one of the most family-friendly resorts in the area. The terrain is diverse, which means that anyone will have a good time on the slopes. There are plenty of accommodation options suitable for any budget.

Badger Pass Ski Area

Located in Yosemite National Park, this ski resort is one of the oldest ones in California. It’s close to a couple of big cities, such as San Francisco. The resort is family-friendly and it provides a cozy atmosphere. Since the runs differ in terms of difficulty, anyone is welcome here, regardless of whether they’ve had a lot of experience on the slopes. Even though the resort is smaller than some of the other ones on this list, there are still plenty of things to do while you’re there.

Pros

  • Great for beginners and kids
  • Affordable prices
  • No lines or crowds

Cons

  • There aren’t many runs available

Famous for: family-friendly, cozy atmosphere, winter wonderland.

Town

Mariposa County is the nearest major city to Badger Pass Ski Area. It’s a picturesque city with lots of historical sights to explore. One of the biggest attractions is the Mariposa Museum and History Center which is a great option for those who are interested in history. Other frequently visited sights include the Butterfly Creek Winery and Vineyards, the Horsetail Falls, the Lower Chilnualna Falls Trail, and the Mariposa County Visitors Centre.

Ski Terrain

There are a total of 10 runs available on this ski area, half of which are made for intermediate skiers. Only 15% of the runs are black diamonds, so if you have a lot of experience on the slopes, it might not be as challenging for you. The top elevation is 8,000 feet and the longest run is 0.4 miles. There is one terrain park in the area and the snowfall averages around 300 inches. The resort is great for cross country skiing and for families with different levels of experience on the slopes.

Crowd Density and Ski Lifts

There are no crowds in Badger Pass Ski Area, which is one of the reasons why it’s a popular destination among families who are looking to avoid large crowds. This means that you can expect the ski lifts to be line-free as well.

In Badger Pass, there are a total of five lifts: one triple chair, three double chairs, and one surface lift. The lift capacity is 6,800 skiers per hour. Tickets can be purchased on their official website and they cost around $54 for adults and $30 for children for a half-day lift ticket.

Accommodation

There are many accommodation options in the area. The most booked lodging is the Yosemite West Scenic Wonders Vacation Rentals, which includes lovely suites and scenic vistas. Another popular option is the Inside Yosemite Park Winter Wonderland, which costs around $700 per night. You can get plenty of deals if you decide to book online – Cozy Bear South offers a two-day stay for just $710.

Verdict

Badger Pass Ski Area is the perfect place to unwind for families and larger gatherings of people. Even though there aren’t many runs available, you can still have a great time due to the diverse terrain offered.

Mount Baldy Ski Area

One of the reasons why Mount Baldy is a popular ski resort is the fact that it’s the closest ski resort to Los Angeles, only 45 miles away from the city. It’s located on Mount San Antonia in San Bernardino County. It’s not as big as the other resorts on the list, but it’s gorgeous nonetheless. The resort offers ski lessons and many beginner-friendly slopes, so anyone can come and have a great time here. Other than skiing, you can also try snowboarding.

Pros

  • Friendly and accommodating employees
  • Affordable prices
  • Delicious food
  • Variety of activities like zip-lining

Cons

  • Strong winds
  • Long lift lines

Famous for: being close to Los Angeles, amazing staff, variety of slopes.

Town

Los Angeles is located only 45 miles away from Mount Baldy! If you’ve never been to this famous city, or if you’re not from the area, then taking a day trip to L.A. is a must! As you can imagine, there are plenty of things to do and see in Los Angeles. If you’re a fan of Hollywood, then Universal Studios and the Hollywood Sign should be on the top of your list. Those who like outdoor activities will enjoy the Runyon Canyon Park and the Venice Canals Walkway. Museum lovers should definitely take a look at the Getty Center, the Petersen Automotive Museum, and the Battleship USS Iowa Museum. For any Disney fans out there, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is a must-see!

Ski Terrain

There are 26 runs in total spread over 800 acres of skiable area. Most of the runs are appropriate for intermediate and advanced skiers only. If you’re a beginner, there is no need to worry, since there are a few slopes designed for beginners. The longest run is 2.5 miles and the snowfall is 170 inches. When natural snow doesn’t suffice, the resort takes advantage of the snowmaking machines available. The top elevation is 8,600 feet.

Crowd Density and Ski Lifts

Despite the fact that there are rarely any crowds at Mount Baldy, you might encounter some lines in front of the ski lifts due to the smaller size of the resort. If you believe this will be a problem for you, then it’s best to pick another resort to visit from the list.

There are four lifts on the property. You can purchase rental and lift tickets from their website. The price for an all-day adult ticket is around $76, whereas youth/seniors can get one for $60.

Accommodation

When it comes to lodging options at Mount Baldy, there are several to choose from. Some of the most popular options include The Wapiti Creek Lodge ($199 a night), The Glades ($300 a night), Snowbound ($200 a night), and 100 Stumps Cabin ($300 a night).

Verdict

Mount Baldy Ski Resort is a great option if you like to be close to Los Angeles for a little change of scenery. It’s a small resort, but it has everything you will need for a wonderful skiing trip. You may encounter lines in front of the lifts, so keep that in mind if you’re planning a visit.

Donner Ski Ranch Resort

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Donner Ski Ranch is one of the oldest ski areas in California. It’s located on Donner Summit in Nevada County. Most of the terrain is catered to advanced and expert skiers, but there are some runs suitable for beginners as well. In this ski area, you also have the option of snowboarding. It’s a great place for families to visit, especially if you’re on a budget. Even though the resort is small in size, it offers plenty of activities to fill your time with.

Pros

  • Amazing for beginners and kids
  • Easy to navigate
  • Budget-friendly

Cons

  • The restaurants can get a bit crowded
  • The food options are limited

Famous for: one of the oldest resorts in the country, family-friendly.

Town

Norden is the closest town to Donner Ski Ranch. Even though it’s a small town, there are still plenty of things to fill your time with if you decide to take a small trip to Norden. The Donner Summit Historical Museum is a favorite among visitors. Other than the museum, you can visit the Soda Springs, especially if you encounter sunny weather. There are plenty of dining options to choose from, so getting good food shouldn’t be a problem.

Ski Terrain

With 435 acres of skiable area, you have plenty of terrain to explore during your stay. There are 52 runs in total in Donner Ski Ranch. Half of these are meant for intermediate skiers, 25% are for beginners, and the other 25% are designed for advanced skiers. The snowfall is 412 inches and the top elevation is 7,781. Night skiing isn’t available, unfortunately.

Crowd Density and Ski Lifts

Even though there aren’t that many crowds at Donner Ski Ranch, the restaurants can get a bit crowded due to their size. That being said, visitors report no lines in front of the ski lifts, which is always good news.

Speaking of ski lifts, there are eight in total: five doubles, one triple, and two moving carpets. As per usual, you can purchase tickets from their website. On regular days, the price for an all-day ticket for adults is $79, whereas the ticket for children costs $59 for a full day. Apart from tickets for lifts, you can purchase private lessons, which retail for $100 for an hour-long lesson.

Accommodation

There are a variety of lodging options at Donner Ski Ranch. What they all have in common is their rustic and cozy atmosphere, which is a real treat during the holidays. Some of the most popular lodging options include Rustic Cottages, Tahoe Vista Lodge and Cabins, the Donner Lake Inn, Best Western, Donner Lake Village, and the Hampton Inn and Suites.

Verdict

Despite being small in size, Donner Ski Ranch is a real treat. The resort offers plenty of activities and accommodation options, and there are rarely any crowds in this ski area. The prices are extremely affordable and the resort is easy to navigate. Overall, it’s a great family-friendly resort that is worth a visit.

You can check out more on our USA Ski Resorts page.

Article by:
Abby Ward
Senior Content Writer at Bluehouse
Last Updated August 2020