Carving my way through a treed glade as the diamond-dusted mountains sparkle soothes my soul. For my kids, catching a bit of air in the terrain park makes them forget about homework. My husband just wants to be away from his office and work obligations. A family ski getaway should be filled with moments of wonder and excitement, not frustration and tantrums. To do that, a family needs a ski resort that caters to the needs of families. By providing kids a superior learning environment, Northstar Ski Resort offers the best ski lessons for kids in Lake Tahoe. With a village full of après fun, families create memories instead of meltdowns.
Northstar Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe
Located near California’s Lake Tahoe, Northstar Ski Resort boasts a secluded ski resort that caters to families.
What I loved about Northstar Ski Resort
- The sheltered location reduces wind issues.
- They love families, kids are everywhere.
What I wanted from Northstar Ski Resort
- Better labeling in the Village.
- Less traffic.
Northstar By the Numbers
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 snowboarders for several years, each year taking lessons and starting on the green runs. Though we’re making progress and moving up to the easiest blue trails.
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 9-year-old son loved. This is the place to start your first day on the snow.
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 Skid Trail. Another green run that connects with Lumberjack and Lower Main Street for an even longer green run.
At the end of the day, my kids took the Village Run back to Northstar’s Village. Since everyone makes their way back down the mountain this way, I don’t suggested this for beginners due to 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 years. They’re not as crazy as I originally thought.
When my daredevil son told me he wanted to check out a terrain park, I envisioned something I’d seen on the Olympics. Don’t worry, think of terrain parks like snow playgrounds. Most resorts offer several parks with different terrain features.
At Northstar, my boys stayed on the Warren Miller’s Playground, off Skid Trail after riding the Vista Express Lift. This terrain area boasts features made of snow, like small jumps.
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 seven years of kids in ski school, I can spot an excellent program.
My Must Haves for Ski School
- Trained staff that actually like kids and know how to talk and play with kids. Corny jokes and riddles a plus.
- A separate facility with an indoor transition area that allows for kids to rest or warm up.
- A separate outdoor area that’s fenced off from the rest of the resort yet visible for parents wanting to check-in.
- Separate magic carpet lifts or surface lifts for ski school only.
- Staff that fits kids with skis.
- Helmets for kids regardless of local laws.
An Outstanding Program will have
- A program that keeps the littlest kids off the elevated lifts before 6-years-old.
- A chef-inspired lunched that’s accommodates kids’ special diets, like gluten-free or vegan.
- Engineered runs that makes turning easier.
- Covered lifts
As a Mom, I notice the details. I want the best possible program with the best possible instructors.
Though the kids just want to have fun.
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.
Northstar makes 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 instructors connect with kids of a certain age naturally. Northstar pairs instructors with kids that age, making the instructor-student relationship stronger. I remember that feeling when I was a preschool teacher.
The groomers work overnight to create an environment that helps kids learn faster. By banking the turns and adding fun features like rollers, 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.
At the end of the day, I want to see kids beaming with a smile and announce, I love skiing.
Snowboarding for Preschoolers
Northstar offers one of the few programs in the U.S. with snowboarding as an option for potty-trained 3-year olds. The Burton Academy 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.
Northstar’s Signature Programs
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 Womens 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.
Platinum Access offers guests a one-day pass for a no-wait lift line access. Seasonal options available for season pass holders.
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.
Where to Eat 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 Northstar’s ice skating rink that features a stage with live music. When the Zamboni takes a spin, kids gather around the fire pits for s’mores while adults enjoy a Starbuck’s 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. Build a souvenir at The Bear Village.
I found a spa offering massages and spa services along with yoga in The Village. And don’t forget the movie theater with two screens.
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 Ski Resort hosts star gazing with a star guide that takes guests through a tour of the night sky. Several different tours offered from 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. First-come, first-serve 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.
Where to stay at Northstar Ski Resort
Located mid-mountain I found the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offering an AAA five-diamond resort that caters to families. During my visit, I toured the property and found a contemporary mountain retreat that reminded me of 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 and sip on cider while playing board games with the kids.
The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe offers a mountain concierge that stores ski equipment slopeside. A luxury 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, a marshmologist passes 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 a near perfect ski day.
More Lake Tahoe Fun for Families
Looking for more places to discover in Lake Tahoe. Got a couple of my favorite spots to share.
Then discover a quaint town to spend an afternoon, like Tahoe City.
Prep and Pack for Lake Tahoe
Need help packing for a family ski getaway. I’ve pulled together a list of must haves for the whole family.
Finding the perfect resort for your family requires research. I’ve got a list of the features I look for in a family friendly ski resort.
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, 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.
NorthstarCalifornia Ski Resort hosted my family for one day. Though I have enjoyed Northstar on several occasions before that visit.
Know Before You Go:
- Reservations are required during holiday breaks and long weekends. Ski School sells out.
- 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.