Northstar Lifts & Terrain

Northstar Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
Northstar Trail Map
  • Vertical ft)
    6,330 – 8,610 (695)
  • Average Snow Fall
    350  inches
  • Lifts (20)
    2 gondolas
    1 chondola
  • Season
    mid Nov - mid April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 100
    Longest run – 1.4 miles
    Beginner - 13%
    Intermediate - 60%
    Advanced - 27%

Northstar Lake Tahoe

At 3,170 acres (1,283 hectares) in size, the Northstar Resort skiing terrain is one of the largest of the Tahoe ski resorts (behind Heavenly and Squaw Valley). Northstar Lake Tahoe can be broadly categorised into three sections. The front face is the main part of the Northstar Resort and largely consists of beginner and easy blue terrain above the “mid-mountain” Lodge at Big Springs. It has a few trails that drop 470 feet (143 metres) down to the Northstar Village that most folks only use as “home trails” so the “real” vertical of the frontside of Northstar Lake Tahoe is only 1,810 feet (552m). The Backside has some slightly steeper intermediate runs and black runs, whilst Lookout Mountain drops down adjacent to the backside and has mostly black rated terrain.


In keeping with its upscale status, the lift infrastructure at the Northstar Resort is very well developed with 20 lifts, including 2 gondolas (that are primarily used for access to the main part of the ski area), 1 chondola (a cross between a chair and a gondola), and 7 express quad chair lifts.

Despite Northstar having very fast lifts, queues can develop, especially on weekends when the whole place can get incredibly crowded.

Lift Tickets

Single day lift ticket prices are outrageously high, especially if you purchase them at the ticket window. Thankfully as a Vail Resort, the Northstar Resort is accessible on the multi-day Epic Pass which can provide good value for money if you ride a lot. The Epic Pass is also valid at Heavenly and Kirkwood (and a raft of Colorado ski resorts, Park City Ski Resort, and even Perisher Australia).

There are a variety of Epic Pass options including a season pass which pays for itself in just over 5 days (particularly inexpensive if you purchase a long way in advance), a 7 day pass (pays for itself in just under 4 days), a 4 day pass (pays for itself in just under 3 days), or an Epic Locals Pass (pays for itself in 4 days) but it has a lot of restrictions and black-out dates.

Northstar is also on the Ski Tahoe Six Pack deal, which can save dollars if you plan to visit various Tahoe resorts, but these tickets tend to sell out early.

Northstar Snow and Weather Conditions

Northstar Ski Resort receives an average of 350 inches (8.9 metres) of snow per season, which is very respectable but it’s a couple of metres less than the average for the major Lake Tahoe ski resorts. To make up for it, Northstar has a massive amount of snow making capability.

The Northstar Resort needs the snow making because it doesn’t seem to fare well when the snow conditions are marginal. We visited during one particularly bad season and the snow quality was far inferior to other nearby resorts such as Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Sugarbowl and Mt Rose.

The backside runs are largely west facing and even though the front face has mostly northeast oriented slopes, they are so mellow that they still cop plenty of sun. Easy Street is super sunny (which is nice for the beginners). The top elevation is 8,610 ft (2,624 m), which isn’t incredibly low relative to some of the Tahoe resorts, but as examples, it’s 1,457 ft (444m) lower than the top of Heavenly Resort, 1,191 feet (363m) lower than Kirkwood, and (1,093ft) 333m lower than Mt Rose.

The plus of the elevation is that the Northstar terrain is below the timberline, and the tree-lined slopes are protected from the wind and nasty weather, which can make Northstar skiing and snowboarding much more comfortable on inclement days.

Northstar Skiing for the Beginner

The Northstar Resort is ideal for novices with a large dedicated area and lots of little fenced off ski school areas with magic carpets. There are a few other green runs for progression, and confident beginners can tackle many of the front face blues.

Ski Northstar - Intermediates

With 60% of the trails rated as blue, there is lots on offer for the intermediate, although most of the blue trails cater for the low end intermediate rider. There are some black trails that are usually groomed, and these are not steep and also well suited to intermediates.

Terrain Parks

A major strength of Northstar is the amazing terrain parks. Northstar has several terrain parks to cater for different ability levels, a Burton progression park, and a 22 foot superpipe.

Advanced Riding

Many of the black piste runs are rather mellow and the degree of difficulty really depends on whether it’s groomed or not, and the size of the bumps. They’re the sort of black runs you could generally send your frail grandmother down.

The real attraction for advanced skiers and snowboarders is the trees and there are lots of them. Of course the quality of the tree skiing depends on the snow quality and whether it’s powder or Sierra Cement. Northstar is a good choice for storm skiing when the Tahoe ski resorts with mostly alpine terrain have no vis or lifts on wind hold. On Lookout Mountain and the Backside, some of the trees are very widely spaced and good for those learning to tree ski, whilst in some other spots the trees are moderately spaced. Generally there are no particularly challenging trees. Freshies last longer in the Sawtooth Ridge area especially if you hike up the ridge to get more vertical in.

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Nothing to see here folks!