Family Skiing Near Lake Tahoe: A Trip Review

Three adults and a young boy stand on skis in full winter gear at the top of a ski hill near Lake Tahoe.

Family skiing in Lake Tahoe is my annual tradition! Famous as both a winter and summer destination, this freshwater lake in the Sierra Mountains attracts families from far and wide each year. In fact, this will be my fourth-time family skiing in Lake Tahoe! Not only is the area extremely scenic all-year-round, but it also hosts a variety of activities both adults and children can enjoy. Skiing is the most popular winter sport here, of course, alongside dog sledding, tubing, or simply riding the gondola. Once you’re ready to settle down, though, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and attractions nearby to keep you entertained into the evening hours. Either way, traveling to Lake Tahoe with kids is a whole adventure within itself, so I’d like to offer some advice for parents who plan to visit. Here is my family skiing in Lake Tahoe trip review!

Getting There & Packing

A view of Lake Tahoe through huge evergreen trees with mountains in the distance.

How you arrive in Lake Tahoe on your family vacation depends on where you’re traveling from. Driving is a popular option for nearby families, but you can also opt to fly into the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO). My family usually visits friends who live in San Jose first. We fly into NYC to SFO, spend a night in the Bay Area, and then drive to Tahoe. I find this to be the most convenient way to break-up our long trip. If there aren’t any snowstorms, the drive takes around four hours. A couple of times, however, we’ve gotten stuck in storms on the highway, so our journey took over 5 hours. Keep inclement weather in mind when planning your vacation!

In terms of packing, I have my own boots/skis, while my son rents them for the season. I pack his skis in with mine and check the Ski Bag and corresponding Boot Bag as ONE item. Before departing, be sure you know what you want to pack compared to what you want to rent. This way, you can decide what matters more for your trip (the expense of renting or the challenge of packing and hauling your gear).

Lodging

A man and his young son enjoy a hottub surrounded by snow.

Lake Tahoe’s family-friendly accommodations guarantee a memorable family ski vacation. During our first visit, we graciously stayed at a family friend’s beautiful home. Craving this comfortable experience for subsequent years, we used Tahoe Getaways for our next visit. Tahoe Getaways provides a plethora of homes in varying sizes and budgets. Plus, they offer a 10% discount for returning clients. My family still prefers to rent a house, as most provide spectacular views, a hot tub option, and the ability to cook our own meals. This is a great money-saving tip for traveling on a budget, especially for breakfast and dinner! Finally, we usually travel in large groups and a house is an easier destination to host relaxing gatherings. Lake Tahoe still has some great family-friendly hotel options, as well. Consider booking a stay at the popular Heavenly Ski Resort to access the lake’s best attractions right outside your room!

Family-Friendly Restaurants

A young boy in full ski gear sticks his tongue out while riding in a wagon.

Lake Tahoe boasts a ton of family-friendly restaurants to enjoy during your ski vacation! Whether you’re in the mood for something casual or want a formal dining setting, you’ll definitely find something here. My family has an annual tradition of visiting Sunnyside Lodge for dinner the first night we arrive. Providing amazing views of the landscape, Sunnyside is right on the lake and serves tasty American food (think crispy chicken, mac & cheese, and rice bowls for the kids). It’s also notoriously hard to snag a reservation, though, so I suggest checking Open Table ahead of time. Fat Cat Bar & Grill is another great place for parents to enjoy a date night, as it showcases live music and craft cocktails. Our family dinner at Azul Latin Kitchen, located in South Lake Tahoe, was also delightful. Finally, if you’re willing to travel a little, check out Drunken Monkey Sushi in Truckee!

Ski School

Two skiers in brigh snowsuits can be seen in the distance while skiing at Lake Tahoe.

Our first two years at Lake Tahoe, my son (at 4 & 5 years old) attended Squaw Valley’s ski school. I found the prices to be a bit expensive ($269 for full-day, plus lift ticket). With that said, the instruction was top notch. Also, as a ski school participant, you can get a car pass to park close to the entrance, which helps avoid long walks from the car to the ski base. Starting 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. Squaw Valley is a bit more advanced, but there’s a wonderful beginner section at the top of the gondola. 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!)  

Adding Heavenly Ski Resort to Your Itinerary

A boy wearing a green ski jacket skiing on a slope

Last year, we added Heavenly Ski Resort to our ski itinerary for our annual visit to Lake Tahoe. It is approximately a 1-hour drive around Lake Tahoe, as it is located on the Southeast side of the lake (we usually stay on the Northwest side). You need to take a tram to the base of the mountain from the main town. Since it is such a massive area, there are busses that can take you from one parking lot to another (if you end up at the wrong location). Due to its size, it is almost impossible to ski the entire mountain in one day. Additionally, it spans both California and Nevada, so you get the added cool factor of skiing from one state to another! I found the runs geared more toward intermediate-advanced terrain. For advanced skiers, it is definitely worth adding!

Then, there is a quaint village area with wonderful restaurants and shops to explore after skiing – or for the non-skiers in your group. Of course on the Nevada side, there are casinos for those willing to test their luck. Plus, Heavenly Ski Resort an easy trip from the Northstar/Squaw Valley region. Finally, I found Heavenly Ski Resort to be a wonderful mountain with extraordinary views! I highly recommend adding it to your visit to Lake Tahoe!

Weather Conditions & Timing

A winter sceen with a snow-covered road and snow-covered evergreen trees.

Planning your visit to Lake Tahoe is all about strategic timing. My family books our week-long ski trip for the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day (mid-March). I hear that many schools in California are off the week after that, so this has always been a good option good for us. In terms of weather, we’ve had good luck during our weeks there in the past. But on select days, we haven’t been able to ski due to conditions at the mountain. Not to worry, though, because Lake Tahoe has so many other activities for families to do. For one of these days, we took a trip up to Truckee, which has a quaint downtown scene with restaurants and shops. On another occasion, we visited the Donner Memorial State Park, which commemorates the people from the East who immigrated to California in the mid-1800s.

Happy Family Skiing!

A young boy skis down a hill with Lake Tahoe in the distance.

That concludes my review of family skiing in Lake Tahoe! I wholeheartedly recommend a trip to this stunning lake location for all families who are seeking a bit of adventure. Of course, no matter when you choose to visit Lake Tahoe, rest assured you’ll never want to leave here. I hope to continue going for years to come!

If you’re searching for more ski destinations in the United States, check out the article below:

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the activities on this list may also be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.

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