Alta Sierra, or Shirley Meadows Ski Resort is a fun little ski hill that benefits from a small resort feel and a great family-friendly environment. This small ski area is located on Shirley Peak just northeast of Bakersfield, and is about a 3 hour drive up I5 and SR-178 from Los Angeles. The ski area features two double lifts and a single surface tow-bar for the learning area. There are 11 named trails, with 2 novice, 3 intermediate, and 6 expert; Alta Sierra also has a small progression terrain park located near the drop off of the Lakeview Chairlift. The vertical at Alta Sierra is 600 feet; it’s not a huge drop, but you aren’t headed here for the insane vert, you’re coming here because this is a great little family-friendly ski area that lets you and yours do what you love best without navigating the crowds of the pricier Sierra ski resorts.

Skiing Shirley Meadows

The Meadows is a little different from most resorts in that the base area is separate from the lift loading area. Novice skiers will want to stick with the bottom quarter of the mountain. Once they get used to the snow at the dedicated learning area (complete with its own tow bar), they can move on to one of two runs: The Meadow is a solid cruiser that has a slight incline but rapidly settles into a steady learning run. The Back Door is a little more advanced as a tree lined groomer that will keep newbies paying attention to what’s around them.

Intermediates have three runs. New School parallels the Back Door and takes a little more aggressive line through the trees. Exhibition is a fun steep that runs down the right side of the mountain. Competent skiers will have fun turning the speed they’ve gained at Exhibition into a boost as they zip through New School. On the other side of the mountain, Forbes Run is a fun steep that also serves as a bail point for the expert steep Goosebumps.

Expert Skiers have one steep and a semi-chute to choose from if they want groomed snow. Goosebumps is the lift line steep that follows the fall line down the mountain. Hole Shot is a wide chute that darts between glades just off exhibition and takes a steep line down to the base of the mountain. For those more adventurous expert skiers, there are four ungroomed glades found on the edges of the mountain. These should be skied only if you’re comfortable with glades and natural terrain. If you’re really up for a challenge, you can also go off-piste into unpatrolled terrain, but remember to bring a buddy and avalanche safety gear.

Après Ski at Alta Sierra

The après ski here is mainly about getting into the warming hut to take a break between runs and chat with your fellow skiers about the latest runs. The cafeteria serves traditional fare, from salads and soup to more hearty burgers and dogs. Hot coffee and cocoa are also available to take the edge off. You can eat inside or sit outside at the picnic tables to enjoy those rare bluebird days.

Because this is a family-friendly ski area, lessons are always available to skiers of any age. For the toddlers, private lessons are available that will get them up on their board or skis and ready to tackle the tow bar with confidence. Skiers that are six and older can participate in group lessons or individual, and is a great way to sharpen their skills so they can tackle more of the mountain. Alta Sierra is open on the weekends, which makes this a great weekend vacation for families or anyone looking for a small resort that won’t have them standing in line waiting for the next lift so they can stand in another line. The locals at Alta are friendly and welcoming and you’ll always leave with great memories and a smile on your face.