Skiing and snowboarding in Northern California is generally synonymous with two words: Lake Tahoe. From downtown San Francisco, it’s about a three-hour drive to the alpine lake, which straddles both California and Nevada and is home to 15 downhill resorts. North Lake Tahoe boasts a more upscale scene, while the southern area beckons with a rocking vibe, thanks to casinos and clubs around the Nevada border.
In recent years, the Lake Tahoe ski scene has taken quite a hit with the ongoing California drought. Several smaller resorts are forced to close in between storms, and larger ones have felt the pinch, too. Even so, when the weather is cooperating, it’s worth the effort to get in some turns.
Squaw Valley/Alpine Lakes remains a perennial favorite, with 6,000 combined acres of steeps, granite cliffs, and, at Alpine, an “open boundary” policy that beckon some of the best NorCal skiiers. For a super-swanky experience both on and off the slopes, head to Northstar, which exudes the upscale Vail vibe throughout, and the prices to match (adult full-day lift tickets are $120). On a budget? Prices at resorts including Boreal and Homewood are a fraction of what you’ll pay elsewhere. And don’t forget about Mammoth Mountain, a bit farther afield but one of the best places for spring skiing in California.