function OptanonWrapper() { window.dataLayer.push( { event: 'OneTrustGroupsUpdated'} )}Perfect 10: Why You’ll Love California Ski Resorts
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Perfect 10: Why You’ll Love California Ski Resorts

Perfect 10: Why You’ll Love California Ski Resorts

Find the mountain (and mountain town) to suit your style

Sure you love to ski or ride, but maybe you also like to enjoy time with your kids or grandkids, or get a massage, or kick back with friends too. To help you find the snowy Golden State destination that best fits your needs, we turned to Greg Whitehouse, owner of California Ski Company, a highly respected source for ski gear based in the San Francisco Bay Area. “We get mountain reports several times a day to know what’s going on at the resorts,” he says. “It’s our job to know where’s the best snow, where’s the best après-ski, or whatever people want, and share it with our customers.” Follow Greg’s tips—and a few of ours—to find the California resort that best fits into your snow-filled vacation plans.

 1. Amazing Views

Go ahead and gawk. With wraparound views of lakes, mountains, and winter wonderlands, the Golden State’s alpine resorts offer not just great places to ski and board, but legit reasons to pull over and be amazed. “I’ve lived and skied all over the country, and there’s really nothing like the magnificence of the Sierra and other California mountains,” says avid skier Greg Murtha, head of Xplorit Interactive Multimedia Technologies and past president of the Far West Ski Association. “From the jagged peaks of the Minarets from the top of Mammoth Mountain, to the spectacular views of Lake Tahoe from Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows), Homewood, and Heavenly, California has some of the most beautiful views in the world.”

2. Gorgeous Groomers

Snowmaking and grooming have literally changed the face of skiing in California, particularly at larger resorts that have invested heavily in equipment and experts in all things snow. Northstar California’s impeccable grooming turns the mountain into an intermediate playground with countless options for exploring without repeating your tracks or finding yourself in ungroomed territory that’s above your skill set. Heavenly also has exceptional groomers, such as Ridge Run, which not only lets you cruise with ease but also offers amazing views of Lake Tahoe. “Ridge Run is the ultimate groomer at Heavenly. The snow is great up there and the lake views are so amazing you feel like you’re going to ski right into the water,” says Barrett Burghard, senior manager of snow surfaces at the resort. In the San Bernardino range of Southern California, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit have extensive snowmaking systems and daily grooming.

3. Family-Friendly Resorts

While just about any California alpine resort can bill itself great for families—and they are—smaller, more intimate mountains can yield wonderful quality time for all, especially if you’ve got little ones. True, smaller mountains like Lake Tahoe’s Dodge Ridge, Sugar Bowl, Homewood, and Bear Valley (roughly two and a half hours east of Sacramento) might not have the deep-and-steep runs, but they have an intimacy that suits families well. Often, they are less crowded, with less schlepping between the parking lot and the slopes. Some smaller resorts have charming ways to play off the slopes too, such as Badger Pass Ski Area in Yosemite National Park, where a skating rink in Yosemite Valley’s Curry Village can be downright magical.

4. Beautiful Base Villages

Whether you’re relaxing after a full day on the slopes or enjoying mountain time even without skis or boards, base villages make tempting destinations, with boutiques, eateries, deluxe ski-in/ski-out lodgings, and outdoor spaces with niceties like fire pits and live music. Not surprisingly, California’s biggest resorts have especially appealing base compounds. At The Village at Palisades Tahoe (formerly The Village at Squaw Valley), browse in quality shops like Patagonia and Oakley, or choose among eating options ranging from quick grab-and-go (Euro Crepe) to sit-down fancy (PlumpJack Cafe). At the Village at Northstar, beeline for the bustling ice-skating rink, where flush-cheeked folks fresh from the slopes relax in comfy banquettes. “Parents can sit back and relax while their kids play,” says Northstar California’s Cassandra Walker, “plus the complimentary s’mores at 3:30 p.m. every day are definitely an added bonus.” Get off the gondola at Heavenly and step right into the sprawling base Shops at Heavenly Village, with an ice rink, movie theater, lodging, and restaurants. (Check out Azul Latin Kitchen, with street tacos, margarita combinations made with just-squeezed juices, and good local entertainment.) At The Village at Mammoth, there’s a lively outdoor area where you can play giant Jenga and checkers. 

5. Kickback Mountain Towns

Yes, we love the runs, the views, the winter-wonderland scenery, but we also love the mountain towns that snug up against many of California’s mountain resorts. That means plenty of places to dine, shop, relax, and spend the night. On the north side of Lake Tahoe, Truckee has the feel of an Old West town, and the main drag is lined with galleries and shops. For a fancy night out, make a reservation at excellent Restaurant Trokay, perched above town and serving seasonal foods that are almost too pretty to eat. Just south, right on the edge of the lake, is Tahoe City, where you can shop along the lakefront main street then watch the sunset from a picture window at Jake’s On the Lake. In the eastern Sierra, Mammoth Lakes feels every bit the mountain town, where golden retrievers thump their tails and relax along the town’s sidewalks. "It’s the kind of ski town you'll see more people with powder skis than fur jackets," says Michael Vanderhurst, Director of Sales and International Marketing in Mammoth Lakes Tourism. Duck into Bleu Handcrafted Foods for fresh cheeses, just-baked breads, and wine tasting, or snuggle up in a window seat at Mammoth Tavern (local Lara Kaylor recommends the kale salad, the roasted bone marrow, and the Tavern burger).

In the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles, the town of Big Bear Lake makes a great destination after a day on the slopes at Bear Mountain or Snow Summit. Big Bear Village has a bit of Old World charm, with