Ski enthusiasts throughout the world know Tahoe, thanks to the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley USA. And, while Squaw is certainly a go-to resort for top-flight skiers (and families too, we might add), locals and regulars know that Squaw is but one of a bevy of fine resorts, each of which delivers its own particular brand of charm for families with skill levels that range from beginner to black-diamond.
Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe
Mt. Rose also offers lots of daily specials, so check the website regularly. The coolest deal of all is that kids 5 and younger ski free!
Recommended Hotel: Hyatt High Sierra Lodge
Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN PLUS Truckee-Tahoe Hotel
Kids (3 to 12 years) can learn to ski or snowboard in the Wild Mountain Childrens' Ski and Snowboard School with packages that include equipment rentals, half-day and all-day lessons, lift tickets and even a kid-friendly lunch. If kids get tired of skiing, they can hang out in the bounce house, eat snacks and do arts and crafts while their parents ski.
The Parent Predicament Ticket allows parents to share one adult lift ticket. One parent can ski while the other watches the baby, and later, the parents switch the baby and the lift ticket. That way, the little guy doesn't have to spend too much time (or any time) in daycare. If you are looking for daycare arrangements, Sierra offers a California-licensed daycare for kids ages 18 months to 5 years.
The Teach Your Kid lesson is specifically designed for parents who have 2- to 5-year-old children. The instructor works only with the parents to teach them how they can best teach their children the beginning basics of skiing. (Often, parents are great skiers in their own right but haven't learned the methods for teaching a toddler or preschooler how to ski.)
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Becket
Sugar Bowl Ski Resort
The Den Children's Learning Center is for ages 4 to 12 and half- and all-day packages include lessons, rentals, lift tickets and lunch for the kids, leaving parents free to ski. The little kids, ages 3 to 5, are called Sugar Bears and can play indoors and out, fully supervised, in a California-licensed daycare setting. Sugar Bears ride a magic carpet ride (100-foot-long moving sidewalk) to the bunny slope and are introduced at the little bear level to the sport. If they're tired, they'll go indoors for games, arts and crafts, and lunch.
Sugar Bowl also offers the Parent Ticket -- one parent can ski with a single lift ticket, while the other parent watches the children; then they can swap with the same lift ticket. A budget-friendly General Admission package for everyone, ages 13 to 69, is also available. You'll receive free rental equipment and a free, two-hour group lesson (for any level) on general admission days for the price of an adult chair lift ticket.
Recommended Hotel: The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe
Squaw Valley USA
Squaw offers a bevy of nice programs for varying ski levels, including an inexpensive Learn to Ski and Ride Weekend, a wondrous Mountain Top Full Moon Snow Shoe Tour (families love this one) and Women of Winter on Wednesdays. Squaw also offers free night skiing and is often called one of the best in the night skiing business. Several runs at all ski levels are beautifully lit.
If you're not crazy about skiing and need something fun to do when your family is on the mountain, choose from a wealth of fun activities at Squaw: great dining, cable car-riding, shopping, cross-country skiing or having a massage at the Resort at Squaw Creek. Families will also love ice skating, snowshoeing, snow tubing and wall-climbing.
Recommended Hotel: Resort at Squaw Creek
Enroll your kids in Alpine's Kids' Camp (3 to 12 years), where they'll receive ski or snowboard lessons and, later, can play in the indoor space and find lunch, games, movies and beanbag lounge time. (If you're enrolled in the Kids' Camp and pay a small fee, you'll receive a front-and-center parking spot that is just a stone's throw from the Kids' Camp itself.)
Parents might also want to check out the Alpine Adventure Guide Program. Up to five people are guided around the mountain by a top-level instructor. Reserve a half-day or a full day, and learn about hidden spots with a day tailored to your family's skill level.
Recommended Hotel: The Village At Squaw Valley
Diamond Peak Ski Resort
The Child Ski Center provides a fun learning experience for children 3 to 7. The Ski & Snowboarding School offers group and private lessons for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers, and snowboarders. With smooth terrain and wide trails, beginners can learn how to ride the slopes, while more experienced skiers and riders perfect their skills and take on new tricks. The Diamond Peak Terrain Park is perfect for those looking to take on some extra thrills and excitement.
Recommended Hotel: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort
Heavenly Ski Resort
Heavenly offers ski school for kids and an all-day, California-licensed daycare for ages 18 months to 6 years.
Recommended Hotel: Marriott Grand Residence Club
Homewood Ski Resort
Homewood offers a Mountain Rangers Academy for kids 3 to 12 years, where a "magic carpet" whisks kids and their skis up the mountain (similar to moving sidewalks at airports). Homewood also sports Critter Canyon, where kids will find life-size animals made of wood dotting the beginner ski trails. Ski instructors make a game of skiing around the animals and the kids, of course, love it!
Every child in ski school receives his or her own GPS unit and it is monitored inside the resort. Homewood will know exactly where to look for your child. (GPS units can also be rented for those not in ski school for a nominal fee.)
Recommended Hotel: Pepper Tree Inn
Kirkwood Ski Resort
It offers a kids' ski program for ages 3 to 12 that includes rentals, lift tickets, lunch and a California-licensed Mini Mountain daycare (for kids 2 to 6 years). Fifteen percent of the mountain is for beginners, 50 percent is intermediate, and 35 percent is black diamond so there are plenty of varying runs for everyone's abilities.
Recommended Hotel: 3 Peaks Resort and Beach Club