When you love skiing, nothing is quite as important as encouraging your kids to love skiing. And when planning a family ski vacation, you’ll want to know the best ski resorts in Lake Tahoe for beginners.
Skiing is not an inherently easy sport for the uninitiated. Ski boots are cumbersome and awkward, carrying skis and poles is challenging, ski lifts can seem scary, and then there’s the cold.
So it makes sense to introduce beginner skiers to the mountain on a path of least resistance: a sunny, bluebird day without snow pelting their faces or wind freezing them on the lifts. And it’s super important to get them on the right trails where everyone can have fun, make progress, and look forward to skiing again.
Every ski area offers a bunny slope for first-timers. But then what? Some ski areas just offer more and better terrain for improving skiers.
Squaw Valley for beginners
The High Camp and Gold Coast areas at Squaw Valley are my favorite spots in Lake Tahoe for beginner skiers. There’s a ton of nearly flat terrain at High Camp, plus you’re at the top of the mountain! Many bunny slopes overlook a parking lot or a busy base lodge, but beginners at Squaw get to ride the funitel to the top and enjoy quiet bliss while looking out over Lake Tahoe.
My daughter skied Shooting Star once or twice before graduating to Mules Ear to Mountain Run (greens) and then felt comfortable enough to try the Gold Coast blue trails Emigrant and Mystery.
Sierra-at-Tahoe for beginners
At Sierra-at-Tahoe, Star Wars fans can ski through the Wampa Cave Adventure Zone off the Sugar N’ Spice trail (green). The Pony Express and Teepee Town kids’ zones offer rollers, mini jumps and banked turns that keep children entertained, while signage and animated characters educate them on local history and animal species.
Sierra’s Adventure Zones provide the perfect place for kids to stop for a rest, but still stay engaged and having fun on the slopes. As younglings improve their skills, the nearby Rock Garden lift accesses two green trails that offer a little more length and pitch than the learning area.
Heavenly for beginners
Heavenly features three different learn to ski and ride schools. Set at the Boulder Lodge in Nevada, the California Lodge in California, and at the Tamarack Lodge centered in California between the others, all three areas offer ski school bunny slopes with magic carpet lifts next to chair lifts that access easy green beginner trails.
But once skiers and snowboarders who start out at Boulder are ready for a longer green trail, they’re stuck. The Nevada side of Heavenly doesn’t have any green trails.
The Tamarack Lodge, easily accessed via the Heavenly Gondola, serves as the unofficial hub for improving skiers. It offers a mix of green trails that progress from nearly flat to easy – plus tubing and the Ridge Rider Mountain Rollercoaster for everyone in the family.
Most importantly, the Tamarack area also offers a series of very easy, short, blue intermediate trails that advancing beginning skiers can tackle without fear or intimidation.
For those ready to move beyond the green trails at Tamarack in Heavenly, the Dipper Express lift area is the place to be. My family spent an entire day on the blue Orion and Big Dipper trails, which offer just enough challenge for advancing beginners.
My black-diamond skier son enjoyed taking his younger sister on short detours through the sparse tree areas lining the slopes. There are also some black trails in the area that more advanced family members can ski and still meet up with everyone at the lift.
Kirkwood for beginners
While advanced skiers flock to Kirkwood, I can tell you that it’s a also an option beginners. It’s especially good if your family has mixed level skiers. Kirkwood offers lots of wide-open spaces where improving beginners can practice and all levels can ski in the same area without getting too separated.
Timber Creek base area hosts the Kirkwood Ski and Ride School. Magic carpet lifts access the ski school hill and the aptly named Bunny chair lift access several longer, more interesting green trails.
The beginner trail, Graduation, leads improving skiers to the TC Express lift that accesses a number of short, blue intermediate trails plus a beginner terrain park with entry level ramps, rails and jumps. We loved the Free ‘n’ Easy and Hole ‘n’ Wall trails ‘n’ had a fine day at Kirkwood.
Beginners at Kirkwood aren’t limited to the Timber Creek area. Those ready for even more fun can try the Snowkirk lift at the main base lodge area, which accesses several longer beginner runs with a little more pitch.
Armed with these recommendations and a classic Lake Tahoe bluebird day, your beginner skiers will leave with warm, fuzzy feelings about the sport and be begging to get back out again.