Northstar: A Great Family Ski Resort

Northstar Ski ResortI took the Grom’s skiing this weekend to Northstar ski resort near Lake Tahoe. It is part of the Vail Associates family and depending on which pass you buy, you can ski & ride at Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Vail, Beaver Creek, Heavenly, Kirkwood and the newest members Afton Alps and Mount Brighton.

My kids and their friends find Northstar terrain challenging and exciting, plus add in the great Northstar terrain parks, which have won numerous awards over the years. Included for the big air crowd is the Shaun White worthy 22 foot half-pipe, which is located right above the main lift confluence and dining lodge.

Although the region hasn’t had snow since last week’s storm cycle dropped5 –  6 feet of snow on the region, we found the snow quality good and coverage nearing 100%. What made the skiing even better was the fact that 3 out of 4 of us were skiing on a new pair of skis :)  With the wider skis being all the rage, and our new ones fit that criteria, all of us were super stoked to be on any mountain that had snow cover. Although, I think the next time it does dump, we would all find each pair of skis even more enjoyable as that is when the wider skis really begin to perform.

What makes Northstar a nice family resort is the full skiing and snowboarding experience they provide. A quick gondola ride up to the main lodge, is also the meeting place for ski school and the beginner area. From here, you can either ski down a long leisurely green run or take one of three lifts up to more challenging terrain.The Boys

Even those who do not ski or snowboard can visit the skiers and snowboarders for lunch by taking the gondola to the main lodge. Additionally, non-skiers can also take the Zephyr chairlift up to over 8,000 feet and visit the Zephyr Lodge for grand views over the valley looking towards Squaw Valley Ski Area and adjacent meadows.

The runs on the front side of the mountain are primarily blue and great for family skiing. During or right after a storm, the front facing runs provides a variety of terrain for everyone in the family to enjoy the powder. The steeps aren’t too steep and the trees aren’t too tight. This is where my children learned to tree ski, since next to most trails are widely spaced trees that give the intermediate skier or rider the feeling of being off-piste, but without the hazards normally associated with it.

The Backside of the mountain is mostly black diamond and where you will find the better skiers and snowboarders picking their lines. It has the steepest runs and a consistent pitch. Here you will find The Rapids, which is right under the Backside chairlift and is the longest bump run at Northstar. It is 1,300 vertical feet of mogul heaven if that is what you crave.

Here you will find trees as well, between the marked runs and you will find them appreciably tighter and the slope steeper than those on the front. These woods are where you can find powder stashes all day when the snow is really coming down and blowing in. There are also 2 areas of side-country access that are controlled by the Ski Patrol, but provide a backcountry-like experience with glade skiing and varied un-groomed terrain.

Northstar Village Skate RinkFor apre’ ski, the Village at the base of Northstar is hard to beat. I can remember pushing my youngest one around in her stroller as big snowflakes were falling, latte in my hand and hitting each of the shops, while the rest of the family and friends were up on the mountain making tracks in the fresh powder. It was fun for those on the mountain and fun for us in the village as well.

For the kids or even bigger kids, there is a skating rink to make some laps on. Surrounding the rink are big fire pits to enjoy at hot chocolate, latte, or drink. On weekends during ski season, there is usually a band playing, so there is definitely a good skiing / snowboarding vibe going on here. So next time you visit Lake Tahoe, you need to visit Northstar as well.

by Lane Lawrence