The High Sierra is known for its legendary powder and star-studded resorts, but you don’t have to hit the “big boys” to experience all the fun. Instead, why not explore these 10 hidden High Sierra ski resorts stashed right under your nose? You’ll have all the fun without the crowds.

June Mountain

Learn more about June Mountain

June Mountain High Sierra Skiing
Image appears courtesy: June Mountain Resort

Even though June Mountain is the sister resort to Mammoth, it couldn’t be more different. While Mammoth provides all the bells and whistles of a world-class ski resort, June Mountain on the other hand, offers you peace and quiet. Translation: A powder hound’s dream! There are no lift lines and after a nice dump, the fresh tracks last for ages. June Mountain is probably better known as California’s best family-friendly ski resort, with FREE skiing and riding for kids under 12 all season long (holidays, too!), free kid’s events, and lots of room to spread out and learn turns. Powder hounds and families agree, it’s worth at least a day trip, if not more.

Not Just Skiing But A Winter Wonderland

What makes this place stand out is the town of June Lake sitting below in the horseshoe shaped canyon. The town itself is a rare gem that still has kept its soul and yet provides winter activities right on your doorstep. Kick off on a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis and take in views of Silver Lake pretty much by yourself. Dip your boot into some of the best backcountry skiing in the nation with Sierra Mountain Guides. It’s no wonder why we think it’s one of the 10 places you must visit in California during the winter.


Learn more about Sierra-at-Tahoe

Sierra-at-Tahoe Skier
Image appears courtesy: Sierra-at-Tahoe

Without a village or on-mountain accommodations, it’s all about keeping it simple… which is a good thing. The resort might be a bit smaller than the other ones around Lake Tahoe, but it still carries a big punch. While taking a direct hit from the Caldor Fire a few years ago, this has opened up its acreage and created a giant playground of playful terrain that didn’t exist. Alongside the “new” ski area, the laid-back resort remains and still offers you a bit of everything for all levels of skier/snowboarder along with a dedicated learner’s area near the main base lodge.

Awe And Then Some Thirty Minutes Away

And just thirty minutes away you have the city of South Lake Tahoe. Enjoy world-class dining, test your luck at one of many casinos, or just relax in front of a fire as you sip on an award winning beer. Even if nightlife isn’t your thing, this side of the lake is a gateway to outdoor fun be it snowshoeing, sledding, or good ole fashioned snow play.

Dodge Ridge

Learn more about Dodge Ridge

Dodge Ridge Resort High Sierra Skiing
Image appears courtesy: Dodge Ridge Resort

Thirty miles east of Sonora is a cozy resort that’s still family owned. The closest ski area to the Bay Area and the Central Valley, it offers skiers & snowboarders a family-friendly option that’s nearby and more wallet-friendly than others in the region. With 1,600 vertical feet and 67 trails laid out over 862 acres, there’s enough room for everyone to hit the slopes and find their favorite powder stash. In addition, it’s a great base for other winter activities like the Long Barn Ice Skating Rink and the Leland Snowplay area. For $39 on weekends or $25 on weekdays, you can take a lift uphill on an inner-tube and slide down a variety of chutes at Leland Snowplay area.

Homewood Mountain Resort

Learn more about Homewood Mountain Resort

Homewood Mountain High Sierra Ski Resort
Photo by: Silent A Photography – Image appears courtesy: Homewood Mountain Resort

As the name connotes, this mountain gives you a “homey” feeling as you schuss down its slopes. Compared to its glitzy neighbors to the north, it’s a throwback to how skiing used to be. Whilst it may not have the prima donnas, it does have some of the most awe-inspiring views of Lake Tahoe. Receiving on average 450 inches of snow and a top elevation lower than other resorts, this is THE spot to storm ski. Another attraction this resort provides is cat skiing. Homewood Snowcat tours offer up 750 acres with up to 1,828 vertical foot drops to the base of Old Homewood Express chair (mid-mountain). But, if you take the run down to the base area, the max vertical you’ll enjoy is a whopping 2,400′. 


Learn more about Granlibakken Resort

snowboarder enjoying spring skiing at Granlibakken
Image appears courtesy: Granlibakken

It can be quite intimidating to get on the slopes for the very first time. Reduce the stress and embark on your journey to sliding downhill by visiting the intimate slopes at Granlibakken. The 74-acre property harkens back to the classic Tahoe ambience but with modern amenities you want. The ski and snowboard hill features a bunny slope accessed by a rope tow and an intermediate trail accessible by a Poma. 

Rounding Out Your Mountain Experience

Bringing the family along? Dedicate an afternoon or even a whole day to some sledding fun! North Lake Tahoe offers numerous safe spots for sledding adventures. Afterwards, unwind with some après-ski activities at various locations like Basecamp Tahoe City, where you can enjoy Happy Hour in their cozy lobby.

Tahoe Donner

Learn more about Tahoe Donner Resort

Downhill Skiing in Tahoe Donner – Image appears courtesy: Tahoe Donner
Photos by Trevor Clark of CLARKBOURNE Creative.

Beginners don’t need to shell out a ton of money to try the sport in Truckee. Instead, you can head to Tahoe Donner. Known for its friendly slopes and approachable terrain. It’s dubbed “the best place to begin,” offering an affordable ski experience with lessons for kids as young as 3 years old. You’ll find wide-open bowls, uncrowded slopes, gentle beginner terrain, and excellent grooming.

Perfect Full Winter Getaway

Don’t just come for the day but make a mid-week winter getaway to Truckee. Glide across the snow on a pair of cross-country skis and immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Donner Memorial State Park. Create cherished family moments by sledding together. For the adventurous, venture into the backcountry for some thrilling skiing, or enjoy the slopes at one of the seven nearby ski resorts. With endless activities to enjoy, you’ll find yourself wanting to return for more!

Donner Ski Ranch

Learn more about Donner Ski Ranch

Image appears courtesy: Donner Ski Ranch

If you’re looking for an even more hidden gem near Truckee, venture up onto Donner Summit and visit Donner Ski Ranch. The family-owned ski resort offers a budget friendly skiing experience that the entire family will enjoy. Be sure to bring your camera! Perched high atop Donner Summit, you’ll be rewarded with views of Donner Lake and the surrounding peaks. Once your body cries ‘uncle’ from all the ski runs, keep the kiddos entertained by moseying on over to their tubing hill.

Bear Valley

Learn more about Bear Valley Mountain

Hidden Ski Resorts in the high sierra Bear Valley powder day
Image appears courtesy: Bear Valley Resort – IG user @extrakarlie; 📸: Alex Bluemel – Ft. Brian Place

Sometimes you just need to get away from the “scene” when visiting the slopes. A place that has a relaxed vibe, no hassle, nearly non-existent lift lines, and of course a TON of snow. That’s Bear Valley in a nutshell. This cozy resort located literally at the end of the road (plowed that is) provides the escape that families and powder hounds will enjoy. At a whopping 1,280 acres and a vertical drop of 1900’ along with the 30 feet of snow annually, it’s a true winter wonderland. And once you’re done enjoying the slopes, be sure to bring your cross-country skis for the 35km of groomed trails at Bear Valley Cross Country. For more winter fun in and around Bear Valley, check out the post: Winter in Calaveras: Active Adventures.  

Badger Pass

Learn more about Badger Pass

Yosemite Badger Pass Ski Area skier in powder with sun
Image appears courtesy: Badger Pass Ski Area

One of only THREE ski areas located within a National Park, Badger Pass offers visitors a chance to see the attractions of John Muir’s wonderland AND get a few runs in. Since its opening in 1935, making it the oldest in California, it’s been the perfect spot for those that want to learn skiing and snowboarding. Each of the 10 trails of varying difficulty finish at the lodge. They make sure you can focus more on learning and not stress about navigating the resort. This affordable ski area is also a gateway to ALL winter fun such as cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, and even snow tubing.

Diamond Peak

Learn more about Diamond Peak

skier skiing powder at Diamond Peak Resort in Lake Tahoe hidden high sierra ski resorts
Image appears courtesy: Go Tahoe North

Not just a diamond in the rough but a TRUE hidden gem amongst the mega-resorts surrounding Lake Tahoe. This quiet community-owned resort on the northeast corner of “big blue” is focused on providing the best skiing and snowboarding possible within its 655 acres. Expect to find grooming to perfection, amazing fall-line skiing, and stunning views of Lake Tahoe. You’ll feel like you’re dropping right into the water! Once you’re done schussing these slopes, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been here before.

Fancy a ski break away from the masses? Then be sure to take a close look at these low-key destinations that turn out to be hidden gems in the High Sierra.

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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