Since my family lives just three hours away from Lake Tahoe, we head up to the mountains fairly often to ski in the winter. Now that we have two kids in tow, we have to consider carefully the cost as well as the amenities of resorts we visit. Not all Tahoe ski resorts are created equal, especially when it comes to kids.
Skiing Tahoe with Kids: How to Pick the Right Ski Resort?
After visiting most of the resorts in the Lake Tahoe area and spending hours researching all the little details relevant to skiing them with kids, I’ve learned that there are vast differences. Some resorts really make skiing for kids a priority, with well-located and well-staffed all day ski school programs. Others make sure kids aren’t bored off the slopes, with kid-friendly apres ski activities like tubing, ice skating, and more.
Most importantly, the price differential between the Tahoe resorts can be huge for families. Some ski schools at Tahoe cost nearly twice the price of ski schools at other resorts. If you are headed up for a few days of skiing and plan to enroll your child or children in several days of ski school, the difference can mean hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
Even if you don’t plan on putting your kids in ski school, other costs for kids vary greatly. Quite a few ski resorts allow the youngest of kids to ski free, but the age cutoff varies. If you have 4-6 year olds, you could find a resort that allows your kids to ski free or you could be on the hook for a pricey lift ticket every day. In short, there are a lot of budget variables in play.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to compare all these variables to see what works for your family’s specific situation and skiing preferences? Well, now you can! I did all the research so you don’t have to. I’ve compiled all the features and costs of skiing with kids in Tahoe at each and every resort into a three page printable below. Now you can check features like:
- Age cutoffs for kids ski free programs
- Ages your kids are eligible for ski school or lessons
- Cost of child lift tickets
- Cost of child ski school programs
- Availability of interchangeable lift tickets for parents taking turns caring for young kids
- Non-ski amenities that kids will love
- and more!
A Few Kid-Friendly Tahoe Standout Ski Resorts
Before you dive into the chart, I think it is important to highlight a few resorts that stand out in certain ways for skiing families. The bigger resorts like Squaw and Northstar California are well-known for having amazing luxury amenities and excellent ski schools (and we love them for it), but that comes at a big price. I think there can be a lot of value in trying smaller resorts on some occasions too, especially when you have younger kids just learning to ski like mine and are just going for a short weekend trip.
That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your own ski experience either – while some of the resorts on the list below are truly not much more than ski hills, some of the medium sized places have very challenging slopes. My black-diamond-loving husband found plenty of challenge at Diamond Peak a few weeks ago, for example, and there are runs even he won’t attempt at Sugar Bowl.
Here are a few ski resort “winners” for certain types of kid-friendly amenities that may matter to your family:
Least Expensive Full Day Ski Schools (all under $180): Boreal, Diamond Peak, Homewood, and Tahoe Donner
While most Tahoe ski schools top $250 a day, these four resorts offer a substantial opportunity for savings with full day ski schools at under $180. Ski school prices include rentals, lunch, and lift tickets. Honorable mention to Kirkwood and Sierra-at-Tahoe for both clocking in with sub-$200 pricing.
Oldest Ages Where Kids Ski Free: Diamond Peak & Tahoe Donner
Both resorts allow kids to ski free up until their 7th birthday. Most other resorts in Tahoe charge at 4 or 5 years old (or younger). Honorable mention to Sugar Bowl, where kids ski free until they turn 6.
Resorts Offering Childcare for Non-Skiing Kids: Heavenly, Northstar California and Sierra-at-Tahoe
Only three resorts in Tahoe offer daycare for younger kids not ready to ski. This service is so important if both parents want a little time skiing together without having to worry about a younger child and hiring a sitter in an unfamiliar location. Heavenly’s Day Care and Nursery takes the youngest kids of the three daycare centers, accepting babies as young as six weeks old. Sierra-at-Tahoe’s Wild Mountain Daycare takes toddlers 18 months and up. The minimum age is 2 years old for Northstar’s Minors Camp. Both Heavenly and Sierra-at-Tahoe also offer a hybrid ski school/day care for toddlers and preschoolers who are ready to ski but not for a full day.
Resorts with Interchangeable Parent Lift Tickets: Boreal, Diamond Peak, Homewood, Mount Rose, Sierra-at-Tahoe, and Tahoe Donner
About half of the resorts in Lake Tahoe offer a lift ticket that parents can swap back and forth on a single day to tradeoff taking care of younger kids. You pay for one person but two people can each get a few hours on the slopes. My husband and I made use of this amenity a lot with our son the past few years when it was really a deal breaker for us when he still needed a nap. So kudos to those resorts that offer this perk! (Note that there are quite a few ski resorts that offer a parent switch ticket but that do NOT advertise it, but I talked to ticket services at each resort to find out if it was a permitted option. Just be sure to ask for it as it may not be volunteered.)
Download the Tahoe Kid-Friendly Ski Resort Guide
Ready to start planning your Tahoe ski vacation with kids? Download the Skiing Tahoe with Kids – Amenity Comparison Chart here – as a three page PDF. Or compare in the images below.
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