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Best Tahoe Ski Resorts for Beginners – Top 7
BY Kayla Anderson

There are about a dozen ski resorts across the Lake Tahoe region that each have their own personalities and appeal to skiers and riders of all abilities—but there are a handful with great terrain and amenities for beginner skiers. In addition, Lake Tahoe enjoys some of the mildest temperatures of any western mountain region, which makes it a great place to learn how to ski without having to worry about ripping winds and frost-bite inducing temperatures.

Starting in the northeast corner and going clockwise around the lake, here are some of the best ski resorts for beginners:

Diamond Peak Ski Resort, Incline Village

This little local Incline Village ski resort used to be called Ski Incline when it was built in the 1960s, but then changed its name to Diamond Peak when it installed its Crystal Express high-speed quad and expanded its upper mountain terrain in 1987. It was at that time when more black diamonds were introduced to the mountain, but all runs still lead to the base area making it hard to lose anybody. And with its 655 acres of terrain, Diamond Peak is still one of the better places to learn. Usually ski and snowboard lessons start in the base area and then head over to School Yard, accessed by the Schoolhouse lift that runs parallel to the lower parking lot. School Yard offers a moderately graded slope with plenty of room to work on your turns.

After graduating from School Yard, novice skiers and riders then meander over to the 4-pack Lodgepole lift to access a run that has a bit more grade and they can get a glimpse of the mid-mountain Crystal quad that leads to the top of the mountain. Once skiers and riders have their basic turns down and can confidently start accessing intermediate runs, the real treat comes when you can enjoy the iconic Crystal Ridge run that makes one feel like they are skiing or riding into Lake Tahoe.

Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe, Reno

About 15 minutes outside of Incline Village heading toward Reno on the Mt. Rose Highway (also known as NV-431), Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe has a solid 1,200 acres of terrain and a base elevation of 8,260 feet—meaning it tends to get more snow, and preserve it better—than some of the other ski resorts in the area (more snow means a softer cushion to fall on while learning). When looking at the trail map, Mt. Rose can come off as intimidating at first, as the resort shows that 50 percent of the mountain is advanced and expert terrain. However, 200 acres of that are the famed black and double black diamond Chutes and the rest of the mountain is perfect for beginners and intermediate skiers.

It all starts behind the popular Timbers bar on the "Rose" side of the mountain and base lodge area where a covered magic carpet comfortably pushes people up a barely-sloped ski run. After beginners easily learn how to link turns on that slope, they transition over to the Wizard and Galena chairs to access 14 more beginner-only ski runs and an intermediate run that's great for novice snowboarders who are looking for something a touch steeper. In coming years, Mt. Rose is also looking at adding about 20 percent more beginner terrain in its Atoma area across the highway as part of its master plan, which will be an exciting new addition for those looking to get into the sport.

Mt. Rose
Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe's covered magic carpet makes learning in any conditions a comfortable experience. Courtesy Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe.

Heavenly Mountain Resort, South Lake Tahoe

Situated right in the smack dab middle of South Lake Tahoe with sweeping views of the lake (and in the middle of the casinos and all the action), Heavenly is the only ski resort that allows skiers and riders to use the slopes to cross state lines (its former marketing director used to stop at a point on the mountain and announce to the group, "Now we're in gun-toting gambling Nevada!") Heavenly is a big, well-known Vail-owned resort that has a few access points to various parts of the mountain, including the California Lodge on the California side and Stagecoach/Boulder lodges in Nevada. However, the most popular one is getting to the skiable slopes via the gondola located in the heart of Heavenly Village. The biggest beginner area of this 4,800-acre resort is at the top of it, behind (or in front, of depending on how you look at it) Tamarack Lodge. Along with a tubing and adventure park, The Big Easy chairlift accesses wide open slopes ideal for those just starting out, but there are also decent beginner areas near the California and Boulder lodges as well.

Sierra-at-Tahoe, Twin Bridges

Sixteen miles south of South Lake Tahoe tucked into the pines, Sierra-at-Tahoe exudes a laidback, friendly vibe that appeals to freestyle skiers and snowboarders (some of the Olympic greats such as Jamie Anderson, Hannah Teter, and others frequent this resort). While the pros like to challenge themselves on its variety of boxes, rails, and jumps, 75 percent of its terrain caters to beginners and intermediate snow lovers. Sierra-at-Tahoe has low level winter adventure zones for families and even terrain parks for novice shredders, but its best feature for beginners is the 2.5-mile Sugar N' Spice trail run that starts at the top of Huckleberry Mountain and winds down through the resort ending at the base lodge.

Diamond Peak Can go off
Diamond Peak has world class vistas and great beginner terrain. Photo credit: Chris Bartkowski, courtesy of Diamond Peak Ski Resort.

Old Alpine Meadows half of Palisades Tahoe, Between Tahoe City and Truckee

Alpine Meadows, which was subsumed by what was Squaw Valley about a decade ago, is just a few miles south of it on CA-89. This part of now Palisades Tahoe is not as intimidating as the Squaw piece. It's more accessible and has good intermediate terrain that leans more towards a snowboard crowd. A quarter of the 2,400 acres on this side of the resort is beginner terrain, with 40 percent lending way to intermediate shredders. Skiers and snowboarders can loosen up their legs on the beginner trails over on the Meadow and Subway chairs off to the right of the skier resort and there's even an extra small terrain park available. After mastering the flatter areas under Scott Peak, shredders can then jump on the Hot Wheels chairlift that takes people up to a higher part of the mountain to be able to enjoy a nice long ride down the intermediate Weasel Run to the bottom.

Sierra At Tahoe
Sierra at Tahoe has great swaths of gentle slopes for those learning to ski. Courtesy: Sierra at Tahoe

Northstar California, Truckee

Also owned by Vail, Northstar used to be known for its various terrain parks, halfpipes, and features but has shifted its focus towards becoming more of a family-friendly resort. It's known for its long runs and gradual, intermediate terrain. It's also a sprawling mountain, with 60 percent of its 3,170 acres being perfect for skiers and riders at an intermediate level. Northstar also features a gondola at the base of the mountain located in the village, which takes skiers and riders to the Lodge at Big Springs and a mid-mountain meeting point where beginners can access a few green runs. The favorite is the Village Run that guides people back down to the base area if they would rather ski than take the gondola down.

Donner Ski Ranch, Truckee

Located near Sugar Bowl off Interstate 80, Donner Ski Ranch is small but mighty (and historic) ski resort making it a favorite amongst beginners. It's the perfect introductory hill, with 16 out of its 52 runs marked with green circles. Donner Ski Ranch has a front and backside accessible through six chairlifts and a magic carpet. As one of the oldest ski resorts in Tahoe, this is a place that families, beginners, and people who just want to relax and have a good time congregate at to enjoy at an affordable price. Plus, what's great about Donner Ski Ranch is that since it's a smaller ski hill it doesn't draw in the crowds that some of the bigger resorts do. There's also plenty to do when not practicing your turns, such as trying out the tubing hill or grabbing a housemade slice of pie and a cocktail at the Old 40 Bar & Grill.

Don't Forget About January's Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month

Tahoe ski resorts are always looking for ways to introduce new people to the sport of skiing and snowboarding, therefore many of them (including the ones in this list) participate in the annual Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month. In the heart of the snow season, resorts like Diamond Peak and Donner Ski Ranch will offer incredible deals during a limited amount of time that heavily lean towards beginner skiers and snowboarders. During this week, you can usually find a ski lesson and equipment rental package for around $50.

Best Ski Resorts For Beginners and First-Timers:

   Resort True
Longest Run
Base & Top Elev.
Diamond Peak
300" 1,840 ft 13,200 ft 6700'
655 more
Mt Rose
344" 1,800 ft 12,000 ft 8260'
1,200 more
321" 3,500 ft 29,040 ft 6540'
4,800 more
389" 2,212 ft 13,200 ft 6640'
2,000 more
Alpine Meadows
363" 1,802 ft 13,200 ft 6835'
2,400 more
316" 2,280 ft 7,845 ft 6330'
3,170 more
Donner Ski Ranch
385" 750 ft 7,920 ft 7031'
505 more

Top Photo Courtesy of Diamond Peak Ski Resort