Going Places, Near & Far: Fabulous Snow Conditions Await at Northstar, Lake Tahoe

Eric Leiberman

The first time I boarded at Northstar was just a season ago. I marveled at its glorious setting, boasting some of the best views of the lake of any Lake Tahoe resort. And I enjoyed the food, scenery, and alpine village activities immensely. But to be honest, the skiing left something to be desired, as we had to stick to the trails where snow had actually been “farmed” – moved from one trail to another to keep it open.

And this was no fault of Northstar Resort. This was largely due to the four-year drought and the region experiencing some of the worst snowfall accumulations ever.

But this season, the spectacular powder snow and terrain that stretches forever that people travel from all over the world to ski in Lake Tahoe is back. And Northstar Resort – with its beautifully maintained groomers and knee-deep glades powder – is as good as it gets.

After parking right next to the gondola thanks to Preferred Parking ($40 per day) and cutting one of the longest lift lines I’ve ever seen thanks to Fast Pass ($85 per day), we were greeted by lovely lift operators offering to affix our skis and boards to the gondola for us. As we traveled up the mountain, I looked down at the winding Village Run trail and immediately knew it was going to be a good day. A year ago, the green trail looked more suitable for mountain biking than skiing. But this season, it was packed with beginner skiers and boarders pizza-ing and sliding their way through the 20” of fresh snow.

I was riding with a mix of beginner and intermediate skiers, so we set our sights on the Vista Express lift to start. Serving wide blue trails like Moonshine and Logger’s Loop, it was a great way to start the day, and I was impressed with how well-maintained all of these trails were in spite of the large snow accumulations that had come in the last 24-hours.

From there, we cruised up the Comstock Express lift, which services quite diverse terrain.

Oftentimes, riding with less experienced skiers and boarders can be quite the bore. You find yourself constantly waiting at the bottom of lifts. And with each passing minute, that “Singles” line looks more and more attractive. But you stop yourself, because what’s more fun than lift games with friends, right?

Thankfully, I figured out after a few runs how well Northstar’s design and layout caters to groups like mine. The Promised Land Express lift on the backside, for example, offered a much-welcomed mix of blues and blacks, which made it easy for everyone in my group to ski what they were comfortable with. We’d all go our separate ways at the summit, and then meet back up at the same lift. And we’d do this over and over. 

We did this a handful of times, and then some of the intermediate skiers built the confidence to try the harder stuff in the trees with me. It was perfect. I highly recommend this part of the mountain to anyone in a similar group dynamic.

For lunch, we enjoyed grilled spicy chicken sandwiches and beers at the mid-mountain Zephyr Lodge. Zephyr offers panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and I highly recommend sitting outside on a sunny day. Mid-day breaks don’t get much better than this.

But we didn’t indulge in the mid-mountain hiatus for too long. We were eager to get back on the slopes.

We continued lapping the terrain parks and the backside of the mountain (our favorite, and the least crowded) until the end of the day.

We left the mountain with throbbing quads and smiles, ear-to-ear. We couldn’t wait to get to sleep and do it all over again the next day.

There’s still plenty of skiing and boarding left this season, thanks to the excellent conditions. Northstar has already received 338 inches of snow this season, and has a base 53 inches deep, 98 percent of its terrain is open – which means 3115 or 3170 acres. That’s a lot of terrain to explore.

Tost, Mountain Table, Family Après Snow Play Top List of New Experiences

Northstar California Resort has seen $30 million in capital investments over the past five years, making it one of the quintessential mountain destination resorts for laid-back California luxury and style. It was named “Best Resort for Families” by Outside Magazine and North Lake Tahoe’s top-ranked resort for 2015 by SKI Magazine. Accommodations exude mountain elegance – throughout The Village at Northstar as well as the slopeside Constellation Residences at Northstar, a Rock Resort and The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe.  

Northstar is continuing a really novel experience which was introduced last year,  tōst, the celebratory culinary tradition that redefines the art of the daily toast.  Celebrating the mountains, Lake Tahoe and the tradition of toasting to friends and family, each day on the mountain at 2 pm, guests are invited to raise their flutes and sip bubbles (nonalcoholic available as well).  

There is still time this season to for epicureans to discover the essence of Northstar’s laid-back California luxury through Mountain Table, a mountaintop culinary experience at Northstar’s Zephyr Lodge, which features an entire menu of California-sourced ingredients.  Offered twice monthly through March,  each mountaintop dinner presents a feast for the senses which celebrates the best of California’s freshly-sourced produce, meats and seasonal ingredients; masterfully paired with regional artisan wines, craft beers, and distilled spirits.  Dinner is served in Northstar’s Zephyr Lodge, which is renowned for its refined mountain elegance and unmistakable, panoramic view of the Sierra Nevada’s Pacific Crest through floor-to-ceiling windows.  Each Mountain Table dinner will donate proceeds to one of North Lake Tahoe’s non-profit foundations.  

As the first resort to introduce Smart Terrain™ and terrain-based learning into instruction, Northstar this season launched the next chapter with strategically-created snow enhancements – such as berms, gentle rollers and angled features – that offer improved focus on technique which guides skiers and riders to the next ability level.   

“The concept behind Northstar’s terrain-based learning features is to provide a seamless, natural transition between beginner, intermediate, and advanced ability levels,” said Andrew Buckley, Northstar senior director of skier services.  “Skiers and riders will be able to learn on subtly-sculpted snow features that help to steer them into the correct technique.  The added snow features help to control speed and body position, which allows a guest to focus on a specific task.  Once guests recognize the feeling of good technique, progression happens naturally and much more quickly.”  

Enhanced terrain-based learning features can be experienced through the Northstar Kids’ and Adult Ski & Snowboard Schools, the Adventure, Guiding and Learning Center, and the Burton Learn-to-Ride Academy.

Northstar’s renowned terrain parks are constructed with masterful precision suitable for the world’s best athletes, including Northstar’s 2014 Olympic gold medalist, David Wise; and this winter’s new series of progression snow features will bring additional inspiration to budding terrain park skiers and riders. Catering to children and families, the new progression park features will offer a smoother, more refined transition between beginner, intermediate and advanced ability levels during Burton Learn-to-Ride instruction; and for families in search of the best features to enjoy together for a day on the slopes, the new progression features offer an ideal option.  

New this season, Family Après Snow Play offers an arena of interactive snow sculptures and features, fun kid-centric coaching and play with Northstar’s professional instructors, music and a festive atmosphere ideal for families and children.  Located at The Village Overlook above the skate arena, the Après Snow Play area allows for additional activities during select weekends and holidays.  

The new Primo Private Lesson invites guests to enjoy carte blanche access to the mountain – such as distinct privileges to exclusive on-mountain dining, detailed amenities and preferred access to Northstar’s world-class instructors and guides. The Primo Private Lesson begins with the Northstar Adventure, Guiding and Learning Center’s (AGL) concierge experts, who customize the experience, from equipment assistance to guided tours, lessons, lunch reservations, spa appointments, childcare to create a seamless vacation experience of a lifetime. From beginner through expert, skiing and riding is experienced with ease and convenience.

New this winter, guests who reserve private instruction in advance are invited to Northstar’s Adventure, Guiding, and Learning Center (AGL) for a customized high-performance equipment fitting and a one-on-one consultation with Northstar’s team of performance equipment experts.  Skiers and riders can visit during the après-ski hour the day before hitting the slopes, select an upgrade for high-performance equipment from Northstar’s state-of-the-art fleet and customize the fit – all while relaxing in AGL’s comfortable couches and connecting with some of the world’s most accomplished equipment experts.  

Fat bike rentals, available through the Northstar Cross Country, Telemark & Snowshoe Center are also new this season, for use on the entire 30+km Nordic trail system. Rentals and tickets are available daily (conditions permitting) and lessons and guided tours are available for reservation by contacting the Cross Country Center at 530-562-3270.

For more information, reservations, specials and packages, visit  www.northstarcalifornia.com or snow.com.

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Eric Leiberman

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