New season is around the corner, and mountains are calling

It is that time again in the year, skiing/snowboarding time! Tahoe ski resorts’ opening days are around the corner. Epic resorts like Heavenly is set to open on this Thursday, Kirkwood and Northstar on Friday. I have not checked IKON resorts, but they likely open around the same time or even earlier. Other resorts outside these two major passes are also opening. I have heard Mammoth mountain has been open for business for weeks for 2019/20 season.

I have some uncertainties around where I will be for the next year or so, most likely east coast. But the excitement is real, I cant stop checking status of resorts and virtually planning I might go to this resort on this coming day. Besides, ski buddies are also calling and asking me to join their gang. To prepare for the new season, there are a lot to consider for an epic experience. It is worth putting together a summary of what past experiences are like for each resort, and what new updates each resort has to offer for the new season. Besides, other logistics like housing options, transportatio, weather, traffic, etc are unneglectable, especially when you are planning for a large group of people.

TL;DR

California

  • Northstar (Epic, Good overall, suitable for all types of groups)
  • Heavenly (Epic, Good overall, more touring places - right by south lake Tahoe city)
  • Kirkwood (Epic, Good overall, more for hardcore skier/snowboarders)
  • Boreal (?, ?, Woodward Tahoe - the rare trampline place is nearby)
  • Squaw valley (IKON, Good overall - actually better than its Tahoe peers, once an olympic games host place - the slopes are more expansive)

Utah

  • Park City Mountain Resort

Colorado

  • Vail (Epic, Very good, The famout resort - very expansive slopes - where Epic pass originated)
  • Keystone (Epic?, very good, features night skiiing)
  • Breckenridge (Epic, good overall, been there once - no much impression)
  • Winter Park ski resort (IKON, very good, very expansive slopes - facilities are good - suitable for all groups of people)
  • There are many other good similar-sized resorts and smaller resorts available - it is the mountainous colorado !
    • loveland ski area
    • ? (I recall there is a place called like aparahoe basil - need to double check)

East Coast

  • I have not personally skied there - but I have learnt that there are many less than good ski resorts ~3 hours drive from new york city, and there are way better good quality resorts by Vermont, which is ~ 5 hours drive from new york city.

Details & Reviews

California

  • Northstar

https://www.northstarcalifornia.com/

Under epic pass, northstar is located in Truckee, CA, right above lake Tahoe.

northstar loation

The overall facilities are good. There is a fancy hotel right next the slopes, which is very convenient for couples, families, and company events. My previous company once organized a company-wide ski trip to northstar, my experience was very positive - rooms are on the high end quality, staff were friendly. There is a cute open bar on the second level above the ground floor, good drinks. However, all my drinks were paied by the company, I didn’t pay attention to the prices, but in general that place is costly in popular times. Some frequent skiers/snowboarders choose to stay in Carson city, which is ~1 hour drive away. There are many good hotels options there and Carsinos are all around in town if you are into that kind of thing.

Check out this video (I think this is the run on the slope on the left side, where features aere usually setup, the lift is called “Vista” - need to be double checked)

PROS

  • There are slopes for all levels of skiers/`snowboarders.
  • There is a high ranked features park.
  • facilities are new and of good qualities. There is even an ice skating rink and a movie theater in the village!
  • There are affordable hotels options within an hour of drive.
  • Staff are friendly.
  • Various lodges on top of mountains offer food.
  • There is an app called Epic Mix offered where you can see your skiiing/snowboarding stats (how many lifts rides, vertical meters of all your rides).

CONS

  • It can get very crowded in popular days.
  • Crazy ticket price in peak days. I once saw a single day lift ticket cost ~ 170$ or so.
  • There are not exciting advanced slopes for advanced skiers/snowboarders.
  • Costs can be very high for anything close to the resort.
  • There is no city / village for touring nearby the resort, it is basically just the resort - Not suitable for people with interests in end-of-day activities.

Check out some more photos of the resort

This is the ice skating rink I mentioned in PROS ice skating rink

This is on the highest top of the mountains - where you can take a lift called “comstock” to get there. The group of the people are actually going to the right side with a lot of blue runs. northstar top

Northstar was rated “2013 West Region Best Family Resort: Northstar California Resort” northstar people skiing on groomed slopes

  • Heavenly

https://www.skiheavenly.com/

Also under epic pass, heavenly ski resort is located right by the south Lake Tahoe city.

south_lake_tahoe_heavenly_location

There are base facilities in south lake Tahoe city, but the main resort facilities base, lifts, ski slopes and all that are actually upper on mountains. So, you need to ride a gondala all the way up to actually arrive at a place where you can take lifts and ski/snowboard!

On the map, the gondola ride looks like following. It need to be double checked, but my impression is that the gondola ride to the top takes more than 10 mins one way.

heavenly gondola map demo

The gondola looks like

heavenly gondola real

In the photo, “1” points to south lake Tahoe city, and “2” points to the lake Tahoe.

PROS

  • There are slopes for all levels of skiers/`snowboarders.
  • Facilities are new and of good qualities like northstar.
  • It is right by South Lake Tahoe city !! There are many good restaurants in the city, where you can dine out with friends or families. For younger peopke, there are many night life places in the city on the main street.
  • There are many ski/snowboard equipment stores in the city (on the main street), where you can buy new demo skis or just rent out whatever you like. There are also a few second-hand stores that offers equipments of decent quality at a more affordable prices. Choices are yours.
  • There are more hotels options in the city ranging from 50$ / night to houndreds of dollars a night.
  • It is under Epic, so the Epic Mix app also works here.

CONS

  • It can get crowded in holiday seasons.
  • Same as Northstar, crazy ticket price in peak days.
  • My impression is that the slopes are good in general, but does not stand out like kirkwood.
  • Hotels are in high demand, and usually need to be booked in advance.

Here is an video of heavenly

Since the main resort are actually some altitudes above the ground level (The city and lake level, not necessarily the normal sea level), on many slopes, you can get beautify view like this only in heavenly. one skier

I believe this is the platform half way on the gondola ride to top, where you can go and check out the beautiful mountains, south lake tahoe city and of course the lake Tahoe. gondola viewing platform

  • Kirkwood

https://www.northstarcalifornia.com/

Kirkwood is also under Epic pass, but it is honesltly the least developed resort. But it has many natural advanced slopes. So it is still attractive to many advanced skiers/snowboarders.

It is located by CA-88 East, on the way to south lake Tahoe.

kirkwood location

Here is a video of kirkwood

PROS

  • Slopes are more natural, and more suitable for intermediate and above skiers/snowboarders.
  • It is closer for people from bay area.
  • It is close to South Lake Tahoe city. Usually around 50 mins drive can get you to south lake Tahoe city.
  • It is under Epic, so the Epic Mix app also works here.

CONS

  • Facilities are ok and and less developed compared to places like Northstar and Heavenly.
  • There is often bad traffic on the road on good skiing days. In addition, the CA-88 often gets closed due to heavy snow. You end up having to detour, usually that means you have to drive all the way up and take I-80 back to bay area.
  • Not many affordable housing options for frequent skiers/snowboarders.

TODO(10000tb) add reviews for the rest of ski resorts mentioned in TL;DR section

Opinions are mine, choices are yours. Those are my 2 cents. As you ski/snowboard more in these places, you probably develop your own preferences. Regardlessly, hope this post help!

Gear up, and I will see you on the slopes

References:

  1. Mammoth mountain resorts
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