A family ski getaway should be filled with shared moments of wonder and excitement. To do that, a family needs help, especially with young children. A ski resort that caters to the needs of families is key. By providing a superior learning environment for the kids and a village full of fun for après, kids create memories instead of meltdowns. I found all that on a winter getaway at Northstar Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe, California.
Learn with the Best at Northstar Ski Resort Lake Tahoe
Located near Lake Tahoe that straddles Nevada and California, Northstar Ski Resort offers families a secluded resort that caters to their needs. With a premier ski school and a village packed full of fun, families can create memories and hopefully a lifelong skier or snowboarder.
What I Loved about Northstar Ski Resort
- They love families; kids are everywhere.
- The sheltered location reduces wind issues.
What I Wanted from Northstar Ski Resort
- Better labeling in the Village
- Less traffic
Lift Tickets at Northstar Ski Resort
|Ages||Window||Advance Purchase–1 to 7 days||Advance Purchase–7+ days|
|19 to 64||$149||$140||$111|
|13 to 18||$124||$115||$91|
|5 to 12||$89||$83||$65|
The Mountain Statistics
|Base Elevation: 6,330ft.||Summit Elevation: 8,610ft.|
|Vertical Drop: 2,280 ft.||Skiable Acres: 3,170|
|Type of Terrain||Percentage of Runs|
|Total Named Runs:||100|
2 gondolas,1 high speed 6-pack, 7 high-speed quads, 1 fixed-grip quad, 2 triples, 2 surface lifts and 5 Magic Carpet lifts
Our Day Skiing and Riding at Northstar
My kids, 9, 12 and 14-years-old, have skied and snowboarded for several years, each year taking lessons and starting on the green runs. They’re making progress and moving up to the easiest blue runs.
My youngest and I rode the Big Easy lift, the easiest lift for younger kids. This area offered banked turns and a spine that my son loved. On your first day on the snow, start here with your younger kids.
My kids moved up from the Big Easy lift to the Arrow Express lift. This lift offers a longer green run for kids and families. It’s also a designated slow zone and Northstar positions ski patrol along this route to control speed during peak periods, like holidays.
After a few runs down the Lumberjack trail and the Lower Main Street, my kids tried the Vista Express Lift to tackle the Skid Trail. Another green run connects with Lumberjack and Lower Main Street for even longer green run.
At the end of the day, my kids took the Village Run back to Northstar’s Village and loved it. The Village Run is the only route besides taking the Big Springs Express Gondola back to the Village. Even though this run is labeled green, I don’t recommend it for beginners at the end of the busy day due to skier congestion.
Northstar Terrain Parks
I’ve got two boys, 9 and 12-years-old, so I’ve learned about terrain parks over the last few seasons. They’re not as crazy as I originally thought.
I will admit, when my daredevil son told me he wanted to check out a terrain park a couple of years ago, I envisioned something I’d seen on the Olympics. Don’t worry; think of terrain parks like snow playgrounds.
At Northstar, my boys stayed on the Warren Miller’s Playground, off Skid Trail after riding the Vista Express Lift. This terrain area has features made of snow, like small jumps, and doesn’t features boxes or rails.
As a mom, be sure and check out the terrain park signs to see if your kids are in the right playground. Most resorts install several terrain parks with differing levels of difficulty. Take it easy, start small and keep an eye out for the more advanced teens.
Northstar Ski School
After dropping my kids off at ski school for the last seven years, I can spot an excellent program. Northstar’s ski school sits in a separate fenced-off location that offers an area for parents to watch the fun.
But I believe the kids more than a review or a website. I saw several kids gush to their parents about their day, like the little girl who greeted her parents with a beaming smile and announced, I loved skiing.
That’s what it’s all about – getting kids on the snow and loving it. Northstar gets that. They aim to groom lifelong skiers and riders with a super fun day on the slopes. S’mores included.
They make it look easy but it takes skill and talent behind the scenes. From the instructors to the groomers and even the chefs that prepare lunch, the ski school team works together for the best possible experience for your kids.
The groomers work overnight to create an environment that helps kids learn faster. By banking the turns and adding fun features like rollers and spines, Northstar’s beginner runs give kids confidence and a high-five moment of fun.
Even the chefs at Northstar elevate lunch for the kids, with freshly cooked options like chicken or fish. Along with healthier lunches, Northstar also serves a daily soup, vegetarian and gluten-free items.
Snowboarding for the Littlest Riders
Northstar offers one of the few programs with snowboarding as an option for potty-trained three-year olds. The Burton Academy (unique to Northstar) gets the littlest kids on a board and loving it in a riglet park.
In the Ripperoo’s Riglet Park, named after the riglet reel that attaches to the front of the snowboard, instructors pull kids through tiny terrain features. Kids get the feeling of snowboarding sooner and progress faster.
Back when my 12-year-old son started on the snowboard, he had to wait until he was 7 to take a group lesson. A lot has changed for the youngest kids in the last few years, with Northstar and Burton leading the pack with the littlest riders.
Signature Programs at Northstar
The Ultimate 4 Program at Northstar offers small group instruction for four people ages 4 and up. Grouped with similarly skilled skiers and riders, students get individualized instruction in a fun, more social environment.
Moms looking to move up the mountain, Northstar offers Women’s Ultimate Four, an afternoon lesson offering quality instruction from a female coach. It’s a casual environment for moms that missed a few seasons and want to improve their skiing.
Private family lessons are available and accommodate up to six people for the same price.
For families with special needs children, Achieve Tahoe offers private lessons for kids with physical, sensory or intellectual challenges with adaptive ski and snowboard equipment and trained instructors.
Platinum Access offers guests a one-day pass for a no-wait lift line access. Seasonal options available for season pass holders.
Dining at Northstar Ski Resort
During my visit to Northstar, we ate at The Lodge at Big Springs located at mid-mountain, right off the Big Springs Express Gondola. With a pizza station, burgers, soups, salads and baked potatoes, I found something for everyone in my family. Kids meals are available.
For skiers farther up the mountain, The Zephyr Lodge is located close to the Tahoe Zephyr Express lift. At Northstar’s summit, The Summit Smokehouse offers views of Lake Tahoe.
The Village at Northstar offers families lots of options, like pizza, sushi, tacos and food trailers. Paired with activities for the family, après-ski continues after sunset.
Family Fun at The Village at Northstar
The family fun starts at The Village at Northstar that’s centered around the ice skating rink that features a stage for live music. When the zamboni takes a spin, kids gather around a couple of firepits for s’mores while adults enjoy a Starbucks coffee or a cocktail from the Cabana Bar.
For the active kids, I found a bungee trampoline. Not all kids want to play outdoors, so the The Village Candle Shop offers arts and crafts, like candle making, pottery painting and mosaics. The Bear Village offers a make-a-bear for kids too.
The Village at Northstar houses a movie theater with two screens. I also found a spa offering massages and spa services along with yoga.
For families with little kids (ages 2 to 6) that don’t ski, Minor’s Camp Child Care offers licensed daycare services at Northstar. Kids will enjoy arts and crafts and outdoor play in the snow while mom and dad enjoy a day on the slopes.
Winter Fun off the Slopes
Northstar hosts star gazing with a star guide that takes guests through a tour of the night sky. Several different tours are offered from afternoon family tours to snowshoeing night star tours.
At the Cross-Country, Telemark and Snowshoe Center, I found fat tire bike rentals and rental equipment for cross-country skiing, Telemark skiing and snowshoeing.
Kids love tubing and Northstar offers tubing just off the Big Springs Express Gondola. Purchase a first-come, first-serve tubing ticket for one-hour of tubing fun and a separate lift ticket is not required. Kids have to use their own tube and be 42” tall.
Lodging at Northstar Ski Resort
Located mid-mountain at Northstar, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers a AAA five-diamond resort that caters to families. During my visit to Northstar, I toured the property and found a contemporary mountain lodge that reminded me of an iconic national park lodge.
The central fireplace anchors the gathering space, outfitted with small groupings of sofas that allow for intimate conversations. Families enjoy live music while playing board games with the kids.
The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe offers a mountain concierge that stores ski equipment slopeside. A luxe feature for families skiing with several kids. Hauling gear is never fun, especially with small kids.
My kids love to stay active, even on a getaway. The Ritz-Carlton offers seasonal activities geared towards families. The complimentary s’mores are a winter must-do. Every afternoon at 4:30, a marshmologist hands out house-made marshmallows to toast at the firepit.
During my visit, this mom had to sample a couple of marshmallows and it was so worth it. Next to the firepit, I found Ritz-Carlton’s Après-Ski Champagne Experience for an afternoon treat. Champagne makes everything better, even when the day has been perfect.
How to get to Northstar Ski Resort
Northstar Ski Resort is located at 5001 Northstar Drive, Truckee, California. It’s 7 miles south of Truckee, California, along California Highway 267. Tahoe City, California, a quaint mountain town on the western shores of Lake Tahoe is 17 miles away.
If flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO) to visit Lake Tahoe, Northstar is 41 miles from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport via Interstate 80.
Tips from a TravelingMom:
- Reservations are required during holiday breaks and long weekends. Ski School sells out, especially Ultimate 4 lessons.
- Kids under 12 are required to wear a helmet during ski school.
- Arrive early to ski school to allow for a smooth transition.
- Pack lip balm, googles, and an extra set of gloves for kids in ski school.
- Pack a bag of marshmallows and a couple of roasting sticks. I found several fire pits, perfect for an après-ski treat.
- Before heading out check out road conditions at NVroads.com for tire chain requirements. I use Nevada’s website for the Lake Tahoe region since it’s easier to use on a mobile device than California’s website.