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 seven hidden High Sierra ski resorts stashed right under your nose? You’ll have all the fun without the crowds.
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.
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. From a dedicated learners area near the main base lodge to some of the best tree skiing anywhere due to the loggers of days-gone-by saving the old-growth red fir trees, this laid-back resort offers you a bit of everything for every level of skier/snowboarder.
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
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′.
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.
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.
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.