12 Best California Ski Resorts

Discover the best ski resorts in California from Northern California to Southern California and the Eastern Sierras with our skiing roundup.

California is home to some of the best ski resorts in the country. Its skiing scene is dominated by Lake Tahoe’s reputation for deep powder, sunny bluebird days, and great nightlife. Thankfully, the fun doesn’t stop there. California is a huge state with multiple mountain ranges, and that means there are plenty of options when it comes to finding the perfect ski vacation.

If you’re trying to figure out where to ski in California, this post will guide you through some of the best resorts scattered across the state. From Big Bear and Baldy in southern California to Palisades in Northern California and Mammoth in the Eastern Sierras, this is the perfect state to visit whether you’re looking for a weekend vacation or a long powder road trip. From mega resorts to small mom-and-pop ski hills, the Golden State is just waiting for you to carve, rip, and shred.

Here are 12 of the best California ski resorts for you to consider for a ski vacation this winter.


California Ski Resorts – Mapped


Northern California Ski Resorts

Palisades Tahoe

  • Location: Lake Tahoe area
  • Difficulty: All Abilities, Great Advanced Terrain
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $170 (Included on Ikon Pass & Mountain Collective Pass)
  • Size: 6,000 acres, 270 runs, 42 lifts

Formerly known as Squaw Valley, Palisades Tahoe is one of the premier Northern California ski resorts and was the site of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games. It’s the largest ski resort in the state, and a ticket also includes access to the nearby Alpine Meadows ski resort.

Tahoe is known for its sunny days, legendary powder, and unparalleled advanced runs. But don’t let that scare you if you’re a beginner: 25% of the runs are for beginners and 43% are intermediate runs, so there’s terrain for all skill levels. If you want access to the best snow in the state, this is the resort to visit!

Palisades // Discover the best ski resorts in Tahoe in Northern California
Photo: Palisades Tahoe

Heavenly Ski Resort

  • Location: Lake Tahoe area
  • Difficulty: Intermediate, Great Advanced Terrain
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $150 (Included on Epic Pass)
  • Size: 4,800 acres, 97 runs, 28 chairlifts

Heavenly is one of the most popular ski resorts in Lake Tahoe thanks to its variety of terrain, lively après atmosphere, and relatively low cost for lift tickets and lodging. The average snowfall is a whopping 360 inches a year with plenty of bluebird days. Plus, there are wide-open slopes, quiet tree runs, and even 1,600-foot chutes for expert skiers.

Oh, and did I forget to mention it’s the fifth-largest ski resort in North America? Be sure to keep an open line of communication with your ski partners at this resort, because it can take a long time to get back together once you’ve split up. But maybe you’re stoked for some ski lines all to yourself anyway!

Heavenly Ski Resort // Discover the best ski resorts in California from Northern California to Southern California and the Eastern Sierras with our skiing roundup.

Sugar Bowl Resort

  • Location: Lake Tahoe area
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $125
  • Size: 1,650 acres, 100 trails, 12 lifts

If you want a historic, European-style skiing experience with incredible restaurants and no shortage of snowfall, Sugar Bowl is the resort for you. It technically became the very first ski resort in California in 1939 when it got its first chairlift, and it caters to skiers that want intermediate and advanced terrain.

While it’s one of the smaller ski areas in the Lake Tahoe region, it has fewer crowds and a high bang for your buck — especially since it’s been independent for over 80 years. If you like the old-school atmosphere of independent resorts, Sugar Bowl won’t disappoint.

Sugar Bowl Resort // Discover the best ski resorts in California from Northern California to Southern California and the Eastern Sierras with our skiing roundup.
Photo: Sugarbowl

Northstar California Resort

  • Location: Lake Tahoe area
  • Difficulty: Beginner & Intermediate
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $179 (Included on the Epic Pass)
  • Size: 3,170 acres, 100 runs, 20 chairlifts

Northstar has plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain, which also makes it the most family-friendly ski resort in the Tahoe region. Like other Tahoe resorts, there’s plenty of snow and sunshine to go around.

Not only is this resort beginner-friendly, but it also has a vibrant, European-style village at the base of the slopes and some high-end luxury accommodations if you’re looking for a romantic or higher-end skiing experience. Hey, sometimes ski culture is about relaxing, shopping, and grabbing a great bite to eat, right?

Northstar Ski Resort // Discover the best ski resorts in California from Northern California to Southern California and the Eastern Sierras with our skiing roundup.

Kirkwood

  • Location: Lake Tahoe area
  • Difficulty: Advanced
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $104-125 (Included on the Epic Pass)
  • Size: 2,300 acres, 86 runs, 15 lifts

An understated and quiet ski resort, Kirkwood is a legendary Northern California ski resort for advanced and expert skiers in the know. More than half of the resort’s runs are advanced or expert! It has more powder than any other Lake Tahoe resort, access to plenty of backcountry runs, and a less crowded feel thanks to being more remote than other ski resorts in the area. Beginners beware: this resort probably isn’t for you.

Kirkwood // One of the best Northern California ski resorts

Badger Pass Ski Area

  • Location: Yosemite National Park, California
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $55
  • Size: 90 acres, 10 runs, 5 lifts

Have you ever wanted to ski in a National Park? This is the ski area for you! Badger Pass is located right inside Yosemite National Park — one of only three ski areas that operate inside a U.S. National Park. Of the 10 ski runs, 35% are beginner, 50% are intermediate, and 15% are advanced. While the terrain doesn’t quite compete with other skiing-focused resorts on this list, its uniqueness, low price, and lack of crowds make it a fun ski stop.

Badger Pass Ski Area is located in Yosemite National Park

Mt. Shasta Ski Park

  • Location: Mount Shasta, California
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $79
  • Size: 425 acres, 32 runs, 3 lifts

Mt. Shasta is a great Northern California ski resort that’s 6 miles from Mount Shasta in the southern end of the Cascade Mountains. About three-quarters of the trails are for beginner and intermediate levels, and the resort also lights 14 trails and 2 lifts for night skiing.

Just looking for some advanced terrain to enjoy? No problem. Mt. Shasta has some great backcountry access, and you can even stay out in a backcountry hut for an unforgettable off-piste experience!


Eastern Sierra Ski Resorts

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area

  • Location: Mammoth Lakes, California
  • Difficulty: All Abilities
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $143 (Included on Ikon Pass & Mountain Collective Pass)
  • Size: 3,500 acres, 150 runs, 25 lifts

Thanks to its high elevation, Mammoth Mountain is one of the first ski areas to open each year and has one of the longest seasons in the U.S. This classic California ski resort has roughly equal terrain between beginner, intermediate, and advanced runs. Plus, it’s a family-friendly ski resort with a pretty killer restaurant scene, too. There’s a reason you see Mammoth stickers on cars and ski gear across the country — it’s a must-visit if you’re in the area!

Visiting Mammoth in the summer? Be sure to check out our roundup of the best Mammoth Lakes hikes.

Mammoth Mountain // One of the best Eastern Sierra ski resorts in California

June Mountain

  • Location: Lake Tahoe area
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $129
  • Size: 1,500 acres, 35 trails, 7 lifts

Chances are high that you’ll have a few runs all to yourself in this uncrowded ski area. June Mountain is the sister resort of Mammoth Mountain, and it’s the ultimate ski resort for beginners. 80% of the trails slopes are for beginner and intermediate skiers — which makes it a great place to grow your confidence linking turns, exploring trail after trail, and having a great view of Mono Lake to boot.


Southern California Ski Resorts

Big Bear Mountain Resort

  • Location: Big Bear Lake, California
  • Difficulty: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $160 (Included on Ikon Pass)
  • Size: 988 acres, 56 runs, 18 lifts

Skiing … near Los Angeles? You’ve got it! Big Bear is one of the best Southern California ski resorts and it’s only 2.5 hours from LA. Tucked in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear is actually made up of two ski resorts: Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.

More than half of the terrain in the resort is intermediate ski runs, which makes it a great location if you’ve had some experience in the mountains and are looking to master the blue runs. Just make sure your legs can handle it!

Mt. Baldy Ski Resort

  • Location: San Gabriel Mountains
  • Difficulty: Intermediate & Advanced
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $35
  • Size: 800 acres, 26 runs, 4 lifts

Mt. Baldy is one of the best ski resorts in Southern California and is a favorite for expert skiers — over half of the mountain is covered in black and double-black runs. Only an hour north of Los Angeles, it’s known as the “largest and steepest resort in Southern California” with open bowls, chutes, and tree runs to prove it.

If you’re a beginner, don’t fret — while the resort is known for its advanced runs, there are still plenty of beginner trails you can enjoy. For an unheard-of low price, skiing at Baldy should be high on your list when you’re in Southern California. Pretty good, huh?

Mt. Baldy // Discover the best ski resorts in California from Northern California to Southern California and the Eastern Sierras with our skiing roundup.

Mountain High

  • Location: San Gabriel Mountains
  • Difficulty: All Abilities
  • Average adult weekday ticket price: $104
  • Size: 290 acres, 59 trails, 16 lifts

What makes Mountain High special is that its terrain is split into completely different areas that are all accessible with the same ticket. Looking for beginner runs that are family-friendly? Head to North Resort. Want to ski through the trees and practice your moguls? East Resort is where you want to go. Looking for technical terrain to flex your skills? Ski over to North Resort.

Mountain High is 90 minutes from Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains, and it’s one of the faster-growing resorts in the state for a good reason.


What is your favorite California ski resort? Which resorts are on your skiing bucket list? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Isak Kvam

Isak is an outdoor freelance writer that loves traveling through Western public lands in his self-converted van to hike, ski, and find the country’s best used bookstores and coffee shops. When he’s not writing or adventuring, Isak is working on Seek More Wilderness to provide outdoor goods that give back to the outdoors. You can view his writing clips at isakkvam.com and follow his van adventures on Instagram.

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