The ski areas selected for this comparative review are those we have frequented with the exception of Boreal. Despite being the closest resort, we never managed to ski there, during our residence in the Bay Area. Below is a summarized spreadsheet detailing the features and pricing:
|Granlibakken||Tahoe Donner||Boreal||Homewood||Kirkwood||Heavenly||Squaw Valley|
|Hours||Ski/Snowboard Hill – Fri-Sun and holidays only. Snow Play Area – All Season.||9:00 AM to 4:00 PM||9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Night Operations starts 11/28 thru 3/27/2010.||9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.||9:00 AM to 4:00 PM||9:00 AM to 4:00 PM||9:00 AM to 9:00 PM|
|Base Elevation||6310 ft||6750 ft||7200 ft||6240 ft||7800 ft||10067 ft||9050 ft|
|Summit Elevation||6610 ft||7350 ft||7700 ft||7880 ft||9800 ft||6540 ft||6200 ft|
|Vertical Drop||300 ft||600 ft||500 ft||1640 ft||2000 ft||3527 ft||2850 ft|
|Skiable Area||10 acres||120 acres||380 acres||1260 acres||2800 acres||4800 acres||4000 acres|
|Lifts||1 rope pull|
|1 Quad, 1 Double, 2 Conveyor lifts for bunny hills.||1 Quad, 3 Triples, and 4 Magic Carpets.||1 Quad, 2 Triples, 1 Double, and 4 Surface Lifts.||2 Quads, 7 Triples, 1 Double, and 2 Conveyor lifts.||1 Aerial Tram, 1 Gondola, 2 six-person chairs, 7 quads, 5 triples, 4 doubles, 8 conveyor lifts, and 2 magic carpets.||34 lifts of different kinds including a high-camp cable car and a funitel.|
|Runs||Two runs. 50% Green, 50% Blue.||14 runs – 40% Green, 60% Blue.||42 runs – 30% Green, 55% Blue, and 15% Black.||60 runs – 15% Green, 50% Blue, 35% Black.||65 runs – 15% Green, 50% Blue, 20% Black, and 15% Double Blacks.||96 runs – 20% Green, 45% Blue, 35% Black.||170 runs – 25% Green, 45% Blue, 30% Black|
|Pricing||Click for Details.||Click for Details.||Click for Details||Click for Details.||Click for Details||Click for details.||Click for Details|
Granlibakken is the smallest of the ski resorts – the entire ski area can be summarized as a solitary run down a petite hill. The crowd comprises by and large of families with young kids with emphasis on absolute beginners. The helping mentality of the parents is laudable and well appreciated at the rope pull and the bunny hill. This makes for a relaxed air all around. A T-bar lift is the available lift option. Though easy to familiarize with, in our opinion is unsuitable for kids under 5 or under 40 pounds. Once the kids master the basics, it is indeed the time to step up to resorts with better lift options.
Tahoe Donner is a lesser-known resort on the smallish side with just 120 acres of skiable acreage and a total of 12 runs. The positives with this resort are its family orientation, proximity, and good deals on certain dates. However, there are some downsides as mentioned in our review.
Boreal is the closest of these ski resorts from the east Bay Area and Sacramento. The feedback we have on the resort is that though family oriented it tends to get crowded.
Homewood with breathtaking views has a very sizeable mountain and skiable acreage. The location of Squaw Valley in close proximity may explain why Homewood is not listed high among premium resorts in Tahoe. A downside worth mention is the bottleneck in getting to the summit via Ellis chair – the lift takes forever to get there and the line is invariably large. One alternative is to negotiate Tailings (blue run) from Madden Triple Chair drop-off area and then use the high-speed Old Homewood Express chair to reach the summit.
Kirkwood involves a little more drive compared to the other resorts mentioned in this review. The majestic Kirkwood was in our radar since our first year (2003) with kids, but we are yet to assess how accommodating it is for families with young kids – they sometimes have good deals for kids and that can make it a tempting option worth checking out…
Heavenly is the biggest and by far the most crowded. Ticket pricing that tends to be towering along with the additional traffic time made it not too appealing to us. The silver lining for frequent skiers is that the season pass is a good deal – specifically, the restricted pass has just eight blackout days – undoubtedly fine value.
Squaw Valley is the most famous of the ski resorts in Northern California having hosted the 1960 winter Olympics. Wonderful resort but again pricing is steep. Deals for kids are sometimes on offer and that can make it much more affordable for families. Further, the all-day ticket price applies for night-skiing as well and that can make it a deal for some that have the energy to ski for 12 hours.
1. Introducing Kids to Snow Sports (Sledding/Skiing) in the Lake Tahoe Area.
2. Tahoe Donner Skiing – Family Experience/Review.
3. Frugal Living – Skiing Story.
4. Lake Tahoe Ski Areas (Granlibakken, Tahoe Donner, Boreal, Homewood, Kirkwood, Heavenly, Squaw) – A Comparative Review.
Last Updated: 03/2012.