Donner Ski Ranch is a small ski area that is located near the Tahoe resort area in Northern California. Donner is located on its namesake, Donner Summit, with a peak elevation of 7781 feet. The ski area’s base camp is located at 7031 feet, giving the area an overall vertical of 750 feet. Annual snowfall on the mountain averages out at 396 inches (10.1 meters). The mountain has two sides, with lifts operating on both of them. In total, there are eight lifts at Donner, five doubles, one triple and two surface lifts. The front side of Donner has 26 trails, accessed by a triple and two double chair lifts. The backside contains another 26 trails, accessed by three double lifts.

The Terrain

Donner Ski Ranch encompasses a total of 460 acres. There are 52 marked runs, split evenly between the front and backsides of the mountain. The front side has 11 novice trails, 9 intermediates, and 6 expert. The backside has a mix of 5 novice, 11 intermediate and 10 expert runs. The longest run on the mountain has a 1.5-mile length; starting at the peak and gamboling on a looping easy cruise down the ridge and around to the base. Donner has with snow making coverage over most of the mountain, as well as on-site lessons for novice skiers.

An Overview

The biggest draw to Donner Ski Ranch is also its biggest drawback: the size. Because Donner is so much smaller, it doesn’t draw as many tourists as the other larger resorts in the area. However, because of this, the lift lines are short, sometimes even non-existent. Additionally, the mix of skiers at Donner tends toward the beginners and people getting their snow legs. This means that the front side of the mountain is always busier than the back, so if you’re more comfortable on your skis, you’ll probably be able to find fresh powder there, even late in the day.

The bottom line when you’re trying to decide on what resort to visit is what is the return you’re going to get for your dollar. If you’re after steeps and chutes or a large bustling resort with a vibrant apres-ski nightlife, this isn’t the resort you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for a family resort with friendly staff and inexpensive lift tickets, this is the place. Donner has a great history as one of the oldest ski resorts in California and with the new ownership, it looks to continue.