Many ski resorts claim to welcome families, but few resorts go to the lengths that Sierra-at-Tahoe does to roll out the red carpet for parents and kids. The family-friendly atmosphere starts at the ticket counter with the Parent’s Predicament ticket, which lets the adults take turns watching the kids while the other one skis for the price of a single adult lift ticket. If both parents want to ride, they can drop the kids off at the resort’s licensed daycare facility, which is broken out into three experiences–one for kids 18 months to entry into first grade, a new “Cubbie” program for three-year-olds ready for intro into skiing or riding, or standard day care. For families who want to play together, Sierra-at-Tahoe’s Blizzard Mountain play area sports two lift-accessed tubing runs anda snowplay area.
Sierra-at-Tahoe also sports the only Star Wars-themed snowboard lessons. In this collaboration between the resort, LucasFilm and Burton, kids aged three to 12 can learn to snowboard surrounded by Star War- themed activities with storm troopers standing sentry along the kids-only, fenced-in camp. The resort also offers group and private lessons for adults, as well as a beginner ski or snowboard lesson package, which includes a 2.5-hour lesson, equipment rental and a limited-access lift ticket. They also have additional lessons for kids, broken out into ages, three, four to six and seven to 12.
That’s not to say that Sierra-at-Tahoe is just for kids. The 2,000 skiable acres of rideable terrain are serviced by 14 lifts (three express quad lifts, five double chair lifts, one triple chair lift and five surface lifts). Some of the more technical terrain involves copious forested areas and the five gates into Huckleberry Canyon, the resort’s 320-acre backcountry area, where cliff drops, rock chutes and some of the steepest terrain in Tahoe can be found.
The heady number of epic tree riding can be attributed to some good luck in the form of bad lumber. In the 1800s, logging was rampant in Tahoe, but loggers left the red fir trees that populate Sierra-at-Tahoe alone because their water-logged wood made for poor lumber. The result? Old-growth forests with moss-laden trees for skiers to ride through.
Freestyle skiers and snowboarders will enjoy the resort’s six terrain parks, which are annually recognized for their quality by Snowboarder Magazine. Among the park’s features are a superpipe with a dedicated lift and a permanent Skier and Boarder X course.
Less advanced riders aren’t left out, however. Three quarters of the runs fall into the easy to moderate range, making it a friendly ski and snowboard area for beginners and intermediates. In fact, the longest run on the mountain is Sugar n’ Spice, a mellow green run that winds for 2.5 miles down from the top of the mountain.
A favorite among Tahoe locals, Sierra-at-Tahoe is known for it “Mom and Pop” vibe, which is in direct contrast to Heavenly’s flashy face. The chill atmosphere is perhaps best encapsulated in the fact that the mountain focuses more on getting new microbrews on tap than on higher-end improvements. If it ain’t broke…
STAY: You won’t find any ski-in/lodging here, but accommodations can be had in nearby South Lake Tahoe and a handful of mellow hotels throughout the region. Families will appreciate the spacious townhomes at Aston Lakeland Village, located in the middle of South Lake Tahoe about 20 minutes from the resort. Full kitchens and accommodations that comfortably fit up to ten people ensure room for big groups. Amenities include a free shuttle to and from Sierra-at-Tahoe, heated pool and hot tubs and numerous restaurants within walking distance.
DINE: 360 Smokehouse BBQ leverages the resort’s stellar views of the surrounding Tahoe region, with panoramic views of the basin from 8,852 feet–best taken in from the restaurant’s sun deck. Expect tri-tip, pulled pork and smoked brisket sandwiches, plated with jalapeno maple cornbread and kale slaw.