Ski House at Squaw
The backyard destination for San Francisco ski bums, North Lake Tahoe has long been a taken-for-granted last-minute jaunt. Meaning you won’t have to compete with advance planners, since 90 percent of bookings happen within two weeks of travel. Now through mid-February, if you avoid holiday weekends, you can revel in low-season deals, wide-open slopes, and balmy conditions—10 to 15 degrees warmer than in Vail or Jackson Hole. For intense trails below a 9,050-foot summit, start with KT-22 and Headwall at Squaw Valley USA (squaw.com). The area’s largest resort, it merged last September with its edgy neighboring peak, Alpine Meadows (skialpine.com), and now offers 6,000 acres of terrain across two mountains. Between ski days, bundle up in a sled pulled by a pack of huskies for an hourlong tour of the scenery ($95; tahoedogsledtours.com). Northstar-at-Tahoe (northstarattahoe.com), another behemoth complex, is a haven for intermediate skiers that has spent $30 million in recent years on upgrades, including new gladed runs down the backside, an express four-person chairlift, and a 22-foot half-pipe designed by Olympic gold medalist Shaun White, who trains there. The investments have paid off: Once a dead ringer for Devil’s Head in Wisconsin, Northstar has created a swanky yet unpretentious après-ski scene, exemplified by its base village, where you can indulge in gourmet s’mores next to giant fire pits after a twirl in the 9,000-square-foot ice-skating rink ($5 rentals). Send the kids to a movie while you grab cocktails and sushi at Mikuni (530-562-2188, mikunisushi.com). Or take the gondola to Manzanita (530-562-3050, manzanitalaketahoe.com), the house restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, for locally attuned cuisine by the renowned California chef Traci Des Jardins.
WHERE TO STAY
LUXE Perched midmountain at Northstar, The Ritz-Carlton lets you ski out—no lift required—directly from the hotel in boots warmed by the concierge; ski in and recharge at the spa. From $549. 530-562-3000, ritzcarlton.com
BUDGET The value retro motel Ferrari’s Crown Resort sits ten minutes from the ski action and right on Lake Tahoe, where low-season rates drive deals. From $75. 800-645-2260, tahoecrown.com
GOOD FOR GROUPS The boho-chic Ski House at Squaw sleeps 17; a one-week-minimum stay includes use of a GMC Sierra truck. $35,000 per week. 530-414-1366, skihouseatsquaw.com