Fluffy snow, blue skies, mild temperatures and lake views are what spring skiing is all about at Northstar California Resort in Tahoe, California. Slather on the sunscreen and shed the heavy outwear – this is California skiing at its best.
But lightweight ski gear is just part of the joy of spring skiing in this family-friendly resort, located in Truckee, California. The resort’s European-style village is equipped with spacious, slope-side condos, an ice skating/roller skating rink, shops and diverse dining options. Live music and complimentary daily s’mores served at 3:30 p.m. are more enticing reasons for staying in Northstar. The spring ski season is expected to last until about April 20.
Our recent visit coincided with the welcome home celebration for David Wise, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist in men’s ski half-pipe. The 23-year-old husband and father grew up on the slopes of Northstar, his training ground for the Olympics. But you don’t have to be an expert skier to find comfortable terrain.
The Mountain at Northstar
Twenty lifts service 97 trails with plenty of green, blue and black runs to suit every ski or snowboard level. And 62 percent of the runs are intermediate – perfect for family skiing. To ski on soft snow, follow the sun. Although, by 2 or 3 p.m. the lower slopes get slushy. Best hours to ski: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Mid-mountain and summit restaurants offer a diverse menu, from basics like burgers and chili to wedge salads and barbecue. From the Summit Grille, you get views of Lake Tahoe. The resort’s EpicMix ski pass (your lift ticket) tracks each skier’s vertical feet skied, lifts used and lessons taken (photos too). This handy online and mobile app ski report card shows ski experiences at all Vail resorts. So the next time I take a lesson, my instructor will know my ski level.
More snow activities include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Ski Lessons and S’Mores
Although my family has been skiing for years, I still like taking lessons, especially if I’m not familiar with a resort. In my Ultimate 4 small group lesson, there were two instructors and one other skier. The four of us focused on carving and maintaining control on black runs. The next day I took a private lesson and really noticed my technique improve. My instructor (Mary Ellen Pearlman) helped me conquer my fear of skiing on ice by showing me some cool subtle moves that got me down firm slopes on the shaded side of the mountain.
Several condominium buildings, a variety of shops (clothing, toys and ice cream), a market and several restaurants mean you never have to leave the village unless you want to. And apparently most people don’t. The cozy village was packed with families listening to live music (every day until 5 p.m.) and lounging on chairs surrounding a rink (ice skating in winter, roller skating in spring). S’mores are served on platters beginning at 3:30 p.m.
Dining at Northstar
Culinary options include Japanese, Italian, Mexican and American. Rubicon serves a tantalizing variety of pizza and pasta. At Tavern 6330, I enjoyed my rib-eye steak with bleu cheese butter. TC’s Pub, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is a casual eatery and a great place to fuel up for a day on the slopes.
Family Friendly Lodging Options Available
We stayed in the Catamount Lodge, situated directly across from the main gondola and in the heart of the village. Ski lockers and complimentary wagons eliminate lugging around gear. Our modern condo had two flat screen TVs, a large gas fireplace, a spacious bath and full kitchen with stainless steel appliances. A roomy balcony overlooked the gondola and lower slope.
The mid-mountain Ritz Carlton is a laid-back luxury resort, away from the village hub. A ski valet, spa facility and serene surroundings make this a good choice for families who prefer privacy. I rode a gondola from the village to the Ritz for a fabulous signature spa treatment to soothe tight muscles after days of skiing.
Spring Ski Deals
Fewer crowds and ski deals are another reason to check out resorts open through April. For reservations and information about Northstar, call 800-466-6784 or click here.