Which Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts Have the Best College Season Passes?

Roger Romani | | Industry NewsIndustry News

Which Tahoe resorts have the best deals for college passes? We tallied the costs, counted the blackout days, and weighed the pluses and minuses to help you figure it all out.

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Squaw/Alpine

Pow laps on Silvy. photo: Squaw

Price: $469

Blackout days: None!

Pluses: The terrain, oh, the terrain. It doesn’t get much more fun than Squaw, period. Send the fingers, pole whack on the ‘saides, and hike Granite Chief Peak, all while getting heckled from the lift, and showed up by washed up pros like Miles Clark. Top it all off by boasting about that three foot rock you sent at the Chammy. Plus if you want to bust out your tele skis or your local’s attitude, head on over Alpine for some “chill,” “laid back” and “down to earth” vibes.

Minuses: Everyone and their mom from the Bay Area skis here. Crowds were absolutely heinous last season (including at Alpine). You need to work for fresh tracks, meaning weekdays, getting up at 6 am, or hiking your but off. Not the greatest park. There are closer resorts to the Bay Area.

Homewood

Cracking a brew at Homewood. Feelin’ the authentic vibes. photo: Homewood

Price: $299

Blackout days: None!

Pluses: Ahh Homewood… a breath of fresh air for those tired of the resortification of ski resorts. This is a mountain where people who want to have a good time skiing go, and nothing else. Slow chairs, off the beaten path, and no ego all scream “local” and “authentic.” Plus, Homewood doesn’t typically get skied out fast at all. A real family vibe, if you’re looking for that.

Minuses: Not much “extreme” terrain, if you really want to push yourself you might want to look somewhere else. Somewhat off the beaten path (is that a minus?). A family vibe, if you’re not looking for that.

Kirkwood

Hucking some meat off of Kirkwood’s epic terrain. There’s a lot more where this came from. photo: Kirkwood/@chris1089

Price: $489 (includes Northstar, Heavenly)

Blackout days: 11

Pluses: It’s like Squaw crossed with Homewood; great terrain without too much of the “resort” vibe. You will not get bored skiing here. Plus, there’s a surprisingly vibrant supply of local pros, so if you’re looking to try to chase down some real rippers, Kirkwood is a great place to be.

Minuses: Way off the beaten path. Slow lifts. Small relative to Squalpine. Well, all these could actually be pluses, depending on perspective. Owned by Vail (well, again, that depends on perspective).

Sierra at Tahoe

Stormy. photo: Sierra at Tahoe

Price: $329

Blackout days: None!

Pluses: Again, this is one of those unpretentious hills that if you love, you love. Not much competition for tracks. Some pretty fun terrain (if you know where to look).

Minuses: Not close to much. If you’re looking to be seen getting rad, you might want to look somewhere else.

Northstar

Sliding a box at Northstar. They’re also well known for their spring jumpline. photo: Northstar

Price: $489 (includes Kirkwood, Heavenly)

Blackout days: 11

Pluses: Well known for a great park, but a lot more than just a jumpline. Close to Truckee/North Lake. Unpretentious. If you know where to look, you can find some fun terrain.

Minuses: Called “Flatstar” by some… and not entirely without reason. If big mountain terrain is your thing, there’s not much at Northstar. Generally fairly crowded. Vail (if that’s an issue for you). Lots of families.

Mt. Rose

The Chutes at Mt. Rose. photo: Mt. Rose

Price: $449

Blackout days: None

Pluses: Mt. Rose is not well known or much visited by the Bay Area crowd, meaning it’s a bit less crowded that resorts like Sugar Bowl or Squaw. Plus, there’s some gnarly terrain to be sent (The Chutes!). Close to UNR (or SNC). There are definitely some rippers who ski here, if you’re looking for good skiers to chase down. Relatively high elevation, so if it’s precipitating it’s usually snow.

Minuses: Not a true premier resort, somewhat off the beaten path. (Again, those could be pluses.) It’s going to be hard to convince your buddies from the Bay Area to ski here. There’s fun stuff to ski, but it doesn’t have the see and be seen vibe that Squallywood or to a lesser extent Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood do.

Heavenly

Low angle powder laps over South Lake. photo: Heavenly

Price: $489 (includes Kirkwood, Northstart)

Blackout days: 11

Pluses: BIG mountain (as in large, not as in big mountain terrain). There’s lots to explore here, especially mellow terrain if that’s your speed. Fun stuff to ski for sure, but not much of an “I’m extereeem” vibe. Close to South Lake, Reno, casinos. Reputation for great nightlife. Generally pretty easy for large college groups to find lodging here.

Minuses: If you want insane terrain, look somewhere else. Very much a resort. Can get pretty crowded. Vail.

Sugar Bowl

Higher elevation = more pow. photo: Sugar Bowl

Price: $549 (Young Adult, Unrestricted)

Blackout days: None

Pluses: Terrain is definitely top notch, up there with Squaw, Alpine, and Kirkwood. If you do cool stuff, you can sometimes get hooted at from the lift. There can be crowds for sure, but it’s never the worst in the region. Relatively high elevation and good location, so it usually gets more snow than other resorts. Pretty much the closest to the Bay Area. Good touring options.

Minuses: Somewhat of a family vibe, if that’s not what you’re looking for. Weird layout. Doesn’t have quite the same vibe as Squallywood, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Diamond Peak

Corduroy. photo: Diamond Peak

Price: $239

Blackout days: None

Pluses: Cheap, real “home mountain” vibe. If you go to SNC, roll up before/after class for a few quick laps. A ton of racing talent for such a small mountain, in addition to the European beasts on the SNC team, you’ll run into skiers from down unda training during their summer.

Minuses: Small, lots of families who don’t really know how to ski. Not really any extreme terrain. Plus you’re not a good enough skier to bother talking to those cute racer girls.

Boreal/Woodward

Spin to win. photo: Boreal

Price: $429 (Young Adult, includes Woodward)

Blackout days: None

Pluses: Break out the tall tee boys, we’re skiing park today. Boreal is known for one thing, and one thing only, hitting the jump and rail lines from opening to close (well after sundown, thanks to the lights). There’s a lot of talent here, if you want to push yourself in the park. If you don’t want to buy a season pass, there’s $15 Fridays for college students. Very close to the Bay Area, possible to even do day trips if you don’t have class. Plus, not many people ski here when it’s snowing, so you can actually get a lot of powder if you get lucky. And your pass gets you in to Woodward, the undeniably awesome place where you can perfect that dub 12 mute (or just send a backflip to your head a bunch of times in the foam pit).

Minuses: Park skiers. Lots of them. Small mountain, essentially no expert terrain. It would take a certain type of person to only ride here.


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