Northstar California Resort: A Groomer and Terrain Park Mecca

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Northstar California (formerly Northstar-at-Tahoe) is an intermediate-friendly ski resort that prides itself on its dedication to pristine groomed runs, exceptional terrain parks, and beautiful tree-lined slopes. With an average annual snowfall of 350 inches and access to eight varying terrain parks, Northstar caters to both powder-hounds and park rats alike.

Whether you are planning your next ski trip or looking for a new mountain to call home, this guide will break down everything you need to know about Northstar California including the lodging, trails, lessons and more.

Fresh powder at Northstar. 
Fresh powder at Northstar. Photo Credit: Snow Snow (Flickr CC)

Northstar California: Getting There

Northstar resides on the north shore of Lake Tahoe in the old railroad turned ski town of Truckee, CA. Its proximity to various metropolitan areas as well as other ski resorts makes it an ideal place to visit. Here are some nearby cities:

  • Reno (Reno Tahoe International Airport) – 45 min. / 40 miles
  • South Lake Tahoe – 1 hour / 40 miles

Peak Seeker Pro Tip: If traveling from South Lake Tahoe to Northstar, consider adding five miles to your drive and going around the West side of the lake. This allows you to take in the breathtaking views of Emerald Bay.

  • Sacramento (Sacramento International Airport) – 2 hours / 110 miles
  • San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco International Airport) – 3 hours 15 min. / 200 miles

It might feel like a hefty ride out from Sacramento or San Francisco but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better resort in the same length of time.

Quick Mountain Stats of Northstar California

Here are some stats at a glance:

  • 100 Named Trails
  • 20 Lifts
  • Skiable Acres: 3,170
  • Vertical Drop: 2,280
  • Northstar California Elevation (Summit): 8,610 ft
  • Avg. Annual Snowfall: 350 in
  • Snowmaking Coverage: 50%

Does Northstar California have Night Skiing?

Northstar California does not offer night skiing. The main lifts are open from 9 am-4 pm daily, with the Big Springs Gondola opening at 8:30 am to bring you up to mid-mountain. Take advantage of the powder during the day and you won’t miss any night skiing!

Slaying Northstar Pow
Slaying Northstar Pow. Photo Credit: Snow Snow (Flickr CC)

Lodging at Northstar Ski Resort

When it comes to Northstar ski resort lodging, there is no shortage of options both on and off the resort. Northstar has a variety of lodging choices at all ranges of the budget including hotels, condominiums, and entire ski chalet/cabins.

Here are a few hotels near Northstar ski resort:

  • Best Western Plus located in the nearby town of Truckee, the Best Western offers one of the more affordable options for people visiting Northstar. A free bus (TART) connects the hotel to the resort.
  • Ritz Carlton – for those looking for a more luxurious stay, the Ritz Carlton is located at mid-mountain at the top of the Big Easy chair lift. This is a ski-in / ski-out hotel.

Additionally, there are plenty of options with Northstar village lodging – just a short walk away from the gondola:

  • One Village Place
  • Iron Horse Lodge
  • Big Horn Lodge
  • Catamount Lodge
  • Timber Creek Lodge

Read More:

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Dining at Northstar

Northstar offers a variety of dining options both on the mountain and in the village. If you’re looking for a bite to eat while on the slopes, there are three main lodges that you can stop at. These are:

  • Big Springs Lodge – located at mid-mountain at the top of the gondola, this main lodge serves casual fare such as burgers, chicken tenders, pizza, sandwiches, and salads.
  • Zephyr Lodge – located at the top of the Zephyr lift (accessed from mid-mountain), the Zephyr lodge serves similar food to the Big Springs Lodge with the addition of an Asian station.
  • Summit Smokehouse – located at peak elevation right off the Comstock lift, this restaurant serves BBQ cuisine. Depending on the year, however, the Summit Smokehouse is not always open so be sure to check ahead of time.

Multiple restaurants and eateries exist in the village providing more of a “sit-down” meal. Examples include:

  • Bourbon Pub – traditional American pub food
  • Rubicon Pizza –pizza and brews
  • Los Arcos –Mexican cuisine

Northstar California Resort Ski and Snowboard Rentals

If you have purchased Northstar California lift tickets and do not own your own skiing or snowboarding gear, luckily the resort provides a rental shop to outfit your day on the slopes.

Resort visitors can purchase various ski and snowboard packages depending on their ability and budget. These include sport, demo, and performance packages.

There are also multiple privately-owned Northstar ski shops in the village that can provide you with your own gear if you are looking to purchase instead of rent. A tuning shop is in the village as well for all your gear servicing needs.

Top-Rated Terrain Parks at Northstar California Resort

Fresh snow at Northstar California. 
Fresh snow at Northstar California. Photo Credit: Snow Snow (Flickr CC)

Northstar is consistently one of the best terrain parks in North America and it’s no secret why. With eight terrain parks for all different ability levels, every skier and rider can find something to enjoy and push their limits on.

  • Beginners: Beginners can start in the Burton Progression Park, where skiers and riders will find an assortment of small jumps, hips, and ride-on boxes. Watch out for the groms!
  • Intermediate: Intermediate terrain park riders will find themselves most comfortable in the Moonshine park, but will also find do-able features in Pinball.
  • Advanced: Experienced terrain park riders will find the largest features on The Straits. However, this park is not always as developed as the others. Pinball often contains many large, complex jib features including kinked rails, down flat downs, rainbow rails, and other creative options. Jump sizes in the advanced parks can range from fifteen feet up to sixty!

At the end of the terrain parks, Northstar grooms an impressive 18-foot halfpipe, where onlookers from mid-mountain sit and gawk at the tricks being performed.

Trails at Northstar: Something for Everyone

Northstar is known for its impeccably groomed runs and offers green, blue, and black diamond runs throughout the resort. Sixty percent of the runs at Northstar are blue intermediate runs, making it an ideal place for individuals that are already somewhat comfortable on their skis or snowboards.

The Northstar California map is broken down into three main areas:

  • Mt. Pluto – The main face of the mountain, this is where you’ll find most of the green and blue runs, as well as the terrain park. The terrain park can be accessed via the Vista Express lift. Beginners looking to move up from the magic carpet will find the Big Easy chair the next best option. Comstock Express takes you to the top of the mountain where the resort’s best groomers can be found.
  • Backside – Located on the opposite side of Mt. Pluto’s summit, the backside offers leg-burning mile-long black diamond runs divided by long stretches of trees.
  • Lookout Mountain – Lookout Mountain is a secondary peak at Northstar, home to the steepest black diamond runs found at the resort, as well as expansive glades.
The trails at Northstar.
The trails at Northstar. Photo Credit: Snow Snow (Flickr CC)

Northstar also contains two gated, expert terrain sections. These are open as conditions allow and offer some of the most secluded, advanced, and off-piste terrain in the resort.

  • Sawtooth Ridge: Accessed via gate halfway down the run Challenger (backside). This is the only location at the resort where hiking is needed. Skiers and riders can hike to three different peaks, dropping down to the Backside Express chair lift.
  • White Rabbit: The most extreme terrain of Northstar is located here. It is accessed via the top of Martis Camp Express and takes you through remote terrain down to the bottom of the backside.

How about Lessons at Northstar California?

Those looking for lessons at Northstar can choose between group or private lessons at the Ski School, located at mid-mountain.

Northstar also has a snowboarder’s only school – Burton Academy. Burton Academy teaches snowboarding lessons at varying experience levels and even has its own freestyle teachers for aspiring park riders.

What Else Does Northstar Offer Besides Skiing or Snowboarding?

If skiing or snowboarding doesn’t interest you, Northstar provides plenty of other winter activities. Visitors can snowshoe, cross-country ski, and even fat-tire snow bike at the Cross-Country, Telemark, and Snowshoe Center located at mid-mountain.

Ice skating is also offered in the middle of the village, where skates and helmets can be rented for the day.


With world-class groomed trails and ample lodging options, Northstar California makes a fantastic resort for your next ski trip. The diversity in the trails with an emphasis on intermediate skiing ensures that everyone will find something to enjoy.

Freestyle skiers and riders will be more than impressed by Northstar’s meticulously crafted terrain parks, making it the perfect place to elevate your park riding.

If Lake Tahoe is on your skiing radar, then look no further. Northstar is the place to do it all – carve corduroy, shred powder, and catch air. So, wax your gear and get out there!

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