Northstar at Tahoe used to be a quaint ski area that you’d visit if you were in the area and wanted something to do. Ever since Vail Resorts purchased it in 2010, however, the ski resort has become one of the destination resorts in the Western United States. Northstar has worked hard to brand itself as the most family friendly ski resort around, and it works. You’re going to pay quite a bit for the resort experience, but just like Disney World or other vacation resorts, you’re going to love your stay here.

The Mountain

Northstar is huge. The resort has three main peaks: Mt Pluto, Sawtooth Ridge, and Lookout Mountain. There are 97 named trails that traipse all over the 3170 acres of inbounds skiable territory. Lookout and Sawtooth both offer off-piste skiing as well. The vertical drop from peak to base is a towering 2280 feet with the base at 6329 feet and peak elevation at 8610 feet. The trail difficulty mix is slanted toward intermediate skiers with a full 60 percent of the trails categorized as intermediate. The remaining forty percent are 13 percent novice and 27 percent expert. That only 13 percent of the trails are ranked as novice is misleading. None of the trails at Northstar are particularly steep and some of the intermediates could be considered advanced novice trails. The best part about Northstar has to be skiing the tree-lined cruisers all over the mountain, however.

A Trail Overview

Advanced skiers are usually found on Lookout Mountain, where glades and tree-lined steeps can be found, all of which are single black diamond rated. The front side of the mountain is heaven for intermediate skiers, with lifts ideally positioned to make navigating the mountain a breeze. There are 19 total lifts with the capacity to ferry 34,800 skiers per hour. The longest run on the mountain is a 2.6-mile cruiser that meanders around the perimeter of the resort. Snowmaking covers fifty percent of the mountain, so on rare days when there is no fresh powder, Northstar will make some. Another huge draw for Northstar are the groomers which lay down fresh corduroy every night and regroom one to three runs in the afternoon.

Bottom Line

As a family resort, Northstar excels. If you’re an expert skier looking for the gnarliest drops and most wicked runs, you’re probably going to be happier at Squaw Valley or Kirkwood. However, if you’re looking for a true destination resort experience with friendly staff that is going to ensure you have a great time, this is a terrific spot for a vacation. With a great ski school, and some amazing novice trails, even beginning skiers are going to have a great time.

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