Living just 3 hours away from Lake Tahoe in the San Francisco Bay Area, my husband and I have skied a lot of mountains in Tahoe. When it comes to ski resorts, Tahoe has some heavy hitters known all over the world: Northstar, Palisades Tahoe (formerly known as Squaw Valley), Heavenly, Kirkwood and many more.
Sprinkled in among the bigger resorts in Tahoe are plenty of smaller mountains too. Often these resorts offer more reasonable prices and lots of intriguing amenities in an effort to entice guests away from the larger resorts. With a 6 year old and 2 year old in tow, we knew that getting in a full day on the mountain for both of us was probably impossible. We hated to pay the big resort prices for partial use, so we decided it was time for us to give a smaller resort a try to see how it worked for our family.
For the most recent Martin Luther King Day 3 day weekend, my family set out with friends to ski Diamond Peak. Diamond Peak is located in North Lake Tahoe just over the California state line in Incline Village, Nevada. We had heard from friends that it was a great resort for younger kids. With 30 runs and 655 skiable acres, it is certainly smaller than the mega-resorts but it also isn’t a tiny little hill with a few bunny slopes like some of the smallest resorts.
After three days of skiing with our kids, we truly fell in love with what Diamond Peak had to offer. I can easily see our family returning often.
Here’s why Diamond Peak works for families with young kids and why it should absolutely be on your (very) short list of resorts to visit in Tahoe.
Why Diamond Peak Works for Families With Young Kids
1. Reasonable Prices
With lift ticket prices as high as $139 at some Tahoe resorts on holiday weekends, the prices at Diamond Peak can’t be beat in comparison. Holiday lift ticket prices at Diamond Peak top out at just $69 (regular daily rates are $64). There are a lot of ways to save even further – Diamond Peak offers a 2-7 day “Flex Pass” (use it any 7 days you choose all season long) that averages out to as low as $42 per day. Bay Area residents can also find discount lift tickets for the resort at Sports Basement locations, where daily tickets are just $54.
Another opportunity for savings is that kids 6 and under ski free at Diamond Peak. Most Tahoe resorts begin charging child lift ticket prices when your child turns 5, so there are two extra years of savings at Diamond Peak.
We also noticed that the reasonable pricing extended to everything at the resort, from ski school to equipment rentals to food and beverages in the lodges. We were pleasantly surprised not to gasp at the prices of our pizza slices at lunch time!
What truly takes the cake in terms of savings for families like mine with a younger non-skier is the Interchangeable Parent Pass that Diamond Peak offers. This lift ticket can be passed back and forth between two adults on a single day so each parent can get in some ski time while the other cares for your little one. Many resorts in the Tahoe area used to offer this amenity but have discontinued it, so finding it at a place that already has reasonable prices is even better.
2. An Awesome Ski School
Because Diamond Peak has acquired the reputation of being a great place for kids to ski, it has focused a lot of attention on its Child Ski Center (for ages 4-7). My 6 year old spent two full days enrolled in ski school and truly had a blast. Her skills advanced rapidly in that time. She learned to safely ride the chairlift and can now easily ski every green slope on the mountain. The instructors make ski school fun, with plenty of hot chocolate breaks and time for snow play and tubing so no one is overly tired at the end of the day.
The only hassle we experienced at Diamond Peak was that the Child Ski Center seems to be a bit of a victim of its own success – at least on a busy holiday weekend. Everyone wanted to enroll their kids, meaning that the check-in line was very long. We stood in it for about 40 minutes and our kids were definitely growing weary by the time we dropped them off. That said, there is a silver lining for families who sign up for more than one day of ski school at a time. On the second day, we were able to skip the line entirely and drop my daughter right off. We were on the slopes before the lifts even opened!
3. Insanely Close Parking & Easy Logistics
If you are a parent who has ever skied with kids before, you know that the biggest challenge is getting all the gear you need from the car to the slopes. We arrived early (right before 8 am on both Saturday and Sunday of a busy holiday weekend) and were able to park fewer than 20 spaces away from the ticket booth. Just steps away from the ticket window is the base lodge where ski rentals are available. The bottom line is there is very little walking needed compared to other resorts with massive “villages” you have to trudge through to get to the mountain.
Parking does fill up as the morning goes on, but the lower lots are still very close and Diamond Peak runs quick and convenient shuttles. There are also several short-term parking spots to drop off skiers right at the lift ticket window, so one adult could drop off the family and the gear and return to park.
4. Lots of Terrain to Challenge Parents
Before our trip, I was worried that my husband and I would have to compromise on our own ski experience in choosing a smaller resort. While plenty of smaller ski resorts at Tahoe are quite tiny and are basically just a bunny slope, Diamond Peak has real blue and black runs for parents to ski. My thighs were burning after heading up the longest lift, Crystal Express, and skiing Crystal Ridge all the way down. Even my husband, who skis mostly blacks, had lots of options for the three days he skied.
In fact, Diamond Peak has enough challenging terrain that I’d recommend it even to skiers without young kids. Because the resort caters to young families and beginners, the most crowded slopes are the green runs. This means there aren’t a lot of visitors who are technically capable of skiing the harder slopes. As a result, the more difficult terrain isn’t crowded at all. I skied one black run (Slalom Glade) off of the popular Lakeview chair lift at midday on a sunny Sunday and was the only person on it. I never set eyes on another soul until I got back to the bottom of the lift!
5. Short Lines
With the sole exception of the long ski school line we experienced our first day, we spent very little time waiting in lines at Diamond Peak. Our group walked right up to the ticket windows for lift tickets and ski rentals on both days. Lines for food at lunch time were also quite short.
Even on a busy weekend, Diamond Peak’s lift lines – the most important lines of all – were exceedingly manageable. That meant more time on the slopes and less time standing around and freezing. Only two chairlifts seemed to have any wait at all (Lodgepole and Lakeview, both of which are at the base lodge). Lines for these chairs didn’t build until at least 10:30 or 11 am but they were rarely longer than 5-10 minutes. I was skiing by myself or with another adult on several occasions, so we were able to cut even more of that minimal wait by using the singles line, which had us on the lift in a minute or two.
Tips for Skiing Diamond Peak
If Diamond Peak sounds like it would be a good fit for your family, here are a few tips for making the most of a visit:
- Ski school at the Child Ski Center is for ages 4-7 at Diamond Peak and includes free rental skis and boots (helmet and goggles are extra). No need to rent equipment in advance or bring your own if you have younger kids!
Ski school does sell out during some busy periods, so arrive early to avoid disappointment. If you plan to enroll your child in two or more consecutive days, then you can make advance reservations to guarantee your spot. Up until 24 hours before your reservation, you can cancel with no penalty. Within 24 hours, cancellation is just $25.
- The views of Lake Tahoe at Diamond Peak are as good as it gets. Make sure to pack the camera and head up Lakeview chairlift when the sun comes out. The deck at Snowflake Lodge has spectacular views (and plenty of barbecue for lunch). Another spot for amazing water views is on Crystal Ridge and Lakeview (both blue runs) off of the Crystal Express chairlift.
- If you have a beginning skier in your group ready to move up to some intermediate terrain, there are quite a few blue runs at Diamond Peak that are great for that transition period. In particular, our group found Ridge Run connecting to either Wiggle or Popular good choices.
Disclosure: Diamond Peak graciously provided my family with one complimentary media lift ticket for review purposes. My family paid all other expenses during our visit. All opinions are, as always, my own.