By Kasumi Ito
This will be my fourth year family skiing in Lake Tahoe. We usually go with family friends who live in San Jose, California. So for us, we fly into SFO from NYC, spend a night in the Bay Area, and then drive to Tahoe. If there aren’t any snow storms, the drive takes around 4 hours. A couple of times, we have gotten stuck in storms on the highway either going or coming back, so our journey took over 5 hours.
I have my own boots and skis and my son rents for the entire season. So I usually pack his skis in with mine (same with the boots) and Delta checks the Ski Bag and corresponding Boot Bag as ONE item (which I learned last year, as I used to put my boots in the duffel of another checked bag!).
The first year, we graciously stayed at a family friend’s beautiful home, but for subsequent years, we used www.tahoegetaways.com. They have a plethora of homes in many sizes and in most budget ranges, and they offer a 10% discount for returning clients.
We like to rent a home because most have spectacular views of Lake Tahoe, many offer a hot tub option, there is the ability to cook (a money saving tip especially for breakfast and dinner), and we usually go with a group of people, of which homes offer a more comfortable way of having a relaxing gathering.
We have a tradition every year to visit Sunnyside Lodge for dinner the night we arrive. Sunnyside is right on the lake (so great views) and the restaurant is extremely tasty. You should book online or with OpenTable because they do run out of reservations.
For the first two years, my son (at 4 & 5 yrs. old) went to ski school at Squaw Valley. I found the ski school prices to be a bit expensive (currently $269 for full day plus lift ticket). However, I felt that the instruction was top notch. Also, as a ski school participant, you can get a car pass to park close to the ski school entrance, which helps avoid the long walk from the car to the ski base. By last year, when he was 6, he skied with me, so he just took a regular lift ticket.
Last year, we went to both Squaw Valley and Northstar. I feel that Squaw Valley is a bit more advanced, however, they do have a wonderful beginners section at the top of the gondola so there is skiing for all levels. Northstar also has challenging terrain, but it is just a tad easier and more family-friendly due to the conveniences they offer (carts to carry skis, ski drop-off ability).
We usually go family skiing in Lake Tahoe the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day (mid-March) for a week. I hear that many schools in California are off the week AFTER that, so timing has always been good for us.
We have had good luck during our weeks there in the past in terms of weather. But a couple of days, we have not been able to ski due to conditions at the mountain. For one of these days, we took a trip up to Truckee, which has a quaint downtown scene with restaurant and shops. On another occasion, we visited the Donner Memorial State Park, which commemorates the people from the East who emigrated to California in the mid-1800s.
I wholeheartedly recommend family skiing in Lake Tahoe and hope to continue going for years to come!