8 Best California Ski Resorts for Beginners To Marvel

8 Best California Ski Resorts for Beginners

When getting started in any sport, you always want to go to places where you are sure you’ll receive the best care and still have a lot of fun. 

It’s the same with skiing, as no new skier wants to ride on slopes that will threaten their life or even restrict them when it comes to enjoying the sport. 

If you are a beginner skier struggling to pick a ski resort in California, we’ve got you covered. Here, we’ll review the best ski areas where you can have lots of fun skiing as a beginner. 

The good thing about California is that there are many great resorts where beginners can learn how to ski regardless of age. 

Even so, the wide range of options can make it difficult to decide which ski area to visit for your first ski vacation. 

But you should worry no more as we’ve compiled a detailed review of the 8 best ski resorts for beginners to help you decide which one suits your needs best.

8 Best Ski Resorts in California for Beginners

8 Best Ski Resorts in California for Beginners

#1. Mammoth Mountain Resort

Mammoth Ski Resort
  • Summit Elevation – 11,053 feet (3369 meters)
  • Skiable Terrain – 3,500 acres 
  • Ski Lifts – 25
  • Ski Runs – 150

Mammoth Mountain Resort is a large ski area with plenty of things to do and lots of beautiful sceneries to behold. 

With more than 3,500 skiable acres and an elevation of 11,053 feet, Mammoth has the highest ski lifts that provide skiers with the most breathtaking views. 

When skiing in Mammoth Mountain Resort as a beginner, you’ll have a wide array of ski runs to enjoy, as most parts of the ski area have small runs for new skiers. 

For the best experience, you can start at the Main Lodge and use the Discovery Chair 11 to find some beginner-friendly trails before you head on to challenging runs. 

If you want to ski on high green runs, you can use the Rollercoaster and Canyon Express to access Easy Rider trails for an easy ride down. 

Once you are done with the easy runs, you can move on to more difficult terrain within the mountain to build better skills and improve your performance.

Learning to ski is not a problem in Mammoth Mountain Resort as there are different lessons to take and effortlessly get your feet on the snow

Private lessons are great, but we recommend group training as it’s cheaper and much more enjoyable. 

Group lessons also allow you to meet new skiers and friends who help you laugh off the pleasure and struggles when learning how to ski.

But if you love to be private, you can pay a trainer who will efficiently help you acquire some good techniques and quickly iron out any problems you may face during the training process

For skiing enthusiasts looking for a more difficult challenge, you can try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in Mammoth resort to build stamina in diverse terrain. 

You won’t have to worry about your kids when spending time in this resort since there are many kid-friendly things to do here. You can play with snow at the Snow Play Park with them or visit the resort village for some exciting après ski events. 

What We Liked About this Ski Resort

  • Impressive modern infrastructure 
  • Well-groomed runs and a neat tubing park
  • Excellent beginner slopes that are isolated from the main runs
  • Free shuttle service connecting all ski bases

#2. Palisades Tahoe

Palisades Tahoe ski resort
  • Summit Elevation – 9,050 feet 
  • Skiable Terrain – 6,000 acres
  • Ski Lifts – 42
  • Ski Runs – 270

Initially known as Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Ski Area, Palisades Tahoe became famous after hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics. It features a magnificent diverse terrain and great weather that suits skiers of all levels. 

This is particularly an excellent destination for beginners due to its incredible green runs, which take about 25% of the resort’s terrain.

You can visit the resort with your family as everyone can learn how to ski in the fantastic skiing conditions offered in this ski area. 

If some members of your family are already seasoned in skiing, they’ll have lots of fun on the advanced terrain and the five terrain parks featured in this resort.

When you purchase a ticket to Palisades Tahoe, you also gain access to the neighboring Alpine Meadows, and you can easily get there within 15 minutes using a shuttle.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Ski Resort has a beautiful village with a long list of off-the slopes activities, from outdoor hot tubs to gaming and yoga.

What We Liked About Palisades Tahoe

  • 2 ski resorts in 1 for variety and more adventures
  • Wide variety of beginner lessons to suit all types of guests
  • Long ski runs for unrivaled fun
  • Family-friendly resort

#3. Sierra at Tahoe 

Sierra at Tahoe ski resort
  • Summit Elevation – 8,852 feet 
  • Skiable Terrain – 2,000 acres 
  • Ski Lifts – 14 
  • Ski Runs – 46 

While Sierra at Tahoe Resort does not have a large beginner terrain like most ski areas on the list, it definitely has more than what new skiers need.

This resort is situated at South Lake Tahoe and provides unmatched views to skiers and snowboarders looking to have fun in the snow

If you visit the resort to learn how to ski or practice your skiing skill, it will take you a long time to explore the entire beginner terrain. 

Sierra at Tahoe receives an average annual snowfall of about 470 inches, so you can be sure of excellent skiing conditions and exciting slopes. 

What you’ll love more about this ski area is that the price is much more reasonable than most popular resorts in California. 

If you don’t have your own gear, you can rent everything you need from the slopeside rental shop that sources quality equipment from leading brands in the industry. 

You can save money by renting your equipment online, at least three days in advance, to get a discount. 

For skiers and boarders who love extra fun on the slopes, there is a designated snow play area for sledding and snow tubing. 

What We Liked About Sierra at Tahoe

  • Reasonable prices on tickets and ski lesson packages 
  • Easily accessible resort in South Lake Tahoe
  • Incredible terrain for beginner skiers
  • High snowfall for reliable skiing conditions 
  • Family-friendly ski resort

#4. Big Bear Mountain Resort

Big Bear Mountain Resort
  • Summit Elevation – 8805 feet (2684 meters)
  • Skiable Terrain – 748 acres (Bear Mountain) and 240 Acres (Snow Summit)
  • Ski Lifts – 18 
  • Ski Runs – 27 (Bear Mountain) and 30 (Snow Summit)

Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Mountain Resort is a combination of two ski areas, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. This gives skiers a great opportunity to ski in both areas with the same entry ticket.

It’s a great place to learn to ski without too much hassle or getting out of your comfort zone since about 42% of the terrain is beginner-friendly.

If you are a beginner, you are better off starting at Snow Summit and then progressing to Bear Mountain as you build confidence and better skill.

The good thing is that it’s easy to access both mountains with the Bear Mountain Express Lifts.

While there are no slopeside hotels on the two resorts, you’ll find countless lodging options and multiple Holiday Inn spots in the Big Bear Lake Area.

What We Like About Big Bear Mountain Resort

  • A combination of two mountains to ski with the same entry ticket
  • Great slope options for skiers seeking an adrenaline rush
  • Multiple terrain parks for different skill levels
  • Family-friendly atmosphere 

#5. Bear Valley Ski Resort

bear valley ski resort
  • Summit Elevation – 8,500 feet (2591 meters)
  • Skiable Terrain – 1,680 acres 
  • Ski Lifts – 10
  • Ski Runs – 56

If you are looking for a unique place with a relaxed vibe to learn how to ski, Bear Valley Ski Resort will give you a remarkable experience for your first ski trip. 

This resort is located in an alpine basin between Yosemite National park and Lake Tahoe, and it features all types of trails, from green to black runs. 

Unlike most ski resorts, Bear Valley allows beginner skiers to ski on high-altitude terrain with none of the risks that come with skiing at high elevation. 

When skiing in this resort, you can take Mokelumne or Kuma Express lifts to access easy blue and green runs.

You can go to the far left side of the resort and take a Koala lift for more blue runs to build skill and improve your skiing performance. 

For complete beginners, there is a variety of skiing and snowboarding lessons to benefit from. These lessons can be private or public, and those with disabilities will enjoy the adaptive package. 

Off-slope activities are plenty and quite exciting at Bear Valley. You can engage in snowshoeing, sledding, snow tubing, or take a cross-country skiing adventure to better your skill.  

If you want to get a feel of an authentic outdoor experience during your ski holiday, you can book one of their camping tents for some unforgettable moments under the stars. 

What We Liked About Bear Valley 

  • Modified ski lessons for those special needs and seniors’ training sessions
  • Great snowmobiling adventures
  • Plenty of accessible beginner terrain
  • Exciting village and top-notch restaurants 

#6. China Peak Resort

China Peak Resort
  • Summit Elevation – 8709 feet (2654 meters)
  • Skiable Terrain – 1400 acres 
  • Ski Lifts – 11
  • Ski Runs – 52 

If you are searching for a well-organized ski resort for a family holiday as a beginner skier, China Peak Resort has everything you need for a memorable ski trip. 

It’s located at the shore of Huntington Lake, which is only a few miles from Fresno and just a few hours’ drive from Los Angeles. 

Established in 1958, this family-owned resort has high peaks with stunning views for skiers and boarders to behold when spending time in this mountain. 

The skiing experience beginners get in China Peak is unmatched, given that it has well-maintained green runs and easily accessible lifts to take you to different areas. 

You can book private lessons in advance to learn how to ski in this resort or take group lessons that suit your age and ski ability. 

China Peak Ski Area also has some exciting blue runs for intermediate skiers so you won’t get bored when you start feeling like you need a more difficult slope to challenge your skill. 

Hotels and restaurants are affordable in China Peak, and you can even rent a cabin along the shore beside Huntington Lake.

What We Liked About China Peak

  • Groomed and well-maintained trails for beginner skiers and snowboarders
  • Perfect for family holidays 
  • Snowmaking system for early-season skiing
  • Wide variety of skiing and snowboarding lessons

#7. Dodge Ridge

Dodge Ridge
  • Summit Elevation – 8,200 feet (2499 meters) 
  • Skiable Terrain – 862 acres 
  • Ski Lifts – 12
  • Ski Runs – 67

Since its establishment in 1950, Dodge Ridge has been a delighting spot for many avid skiers. 

The resort is situated near the San Francisco Bay Area, making it a regular destination for many people who ski regularly each season.  

Dodge Ridge is a family-friendly ski resort as it’s equally ideal for both beginners and experienced skiers and snowboarders. 

If you want to travel to the resort with your own car, you won’t have to stress about where to park it as there is a spacious parking lot at the front base. 

Green runs for beginners are designated in the low areas, so there are no distractions from seasoned skiers flying every minute. 

Most beginner trails are easily accessible with chairlifts at different starting points and are quite easy for new skiers. But if you want to challenge your skill as a beginner, there is a blue run to help you boost your skiing confidence. 

What I found exciting about this ski area is that the ski school has a variety of packages with several levels of lessons. 

If you want to learn to ski privately, there is a learning package that allows skiers and snowboarders to train away from the crowds from level 1 to 6. 

When you are not hitting the slopes, you’ll have plenty of things to do, from snowshoeing to visiting Yosemite Park. 

What We Liked About Dodge Ridge 

  • First-time lessons that come with a rental package
  • Over three terrain parks where skiers and snowboarders can practice and test their tricks
  • Modified equipment for people with disabilities
  • Endless accommodation options

#8. Heavenly Ski Resort

Heavenly Ski Resort
  • Summit Elevation – 10,067 feet (3,068 meters)
  • Skiable Terrain – 4,800 acres
  • Ski Lifts – 28 
  • Ski Runs – 97 

Well-known for fast lifts and an abundance of après ski activities, Heavenly Ski Resort is an excellent destination for any beginner skier or snowboarder. It has stunning views, just as its name suggests. 

While there is a vast skiing terrain suitable for all skiers regardless of their age and ability, the lively party atmosphere when you are off the slopes will make you love the resort the most. 

The resort’s base is a home for unparalleled entertainment, consisting of live music, great food, casinos, and special drinks. 

Many people have fun at Heavenly Ski Area each year but what most skiers don’t know is that this resort offers some of the best off-piste skiing experience in the Lake Tahoe region.

 Apart from breathtaking views and unique off-piste terrain, Heavenly Ski Resort is also the largest ski area in Lake Tahoe. 

If what interests you most is powder-coated runs, you will never have enough of this resort as they are committed to providing excellent skiing conditions for all skiers and snowboarders. 

Freestyle skiers will also take great pleasure in testing their skills on Heavenly‘s terrain park.

What We Liked About this Resort

  • The highest elevation in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range for breathtaking views
  • Large ski area for beginners with easy green trails
  • Intense backcountry terrain for more adventure 
  • Great off slopes activities with the Vegas-style vibe

What Are the Best Ski Areas in California?

What Are the Best Ski Areas in California

California boasts an array of world-class ski areas that welcome skiers from different parts of the world. 

Whether you are looking for a premier resort in Northern or Southern California, there are many dazzling options.

If you want to hit the slopes in Southern California, Big Bear Mountain Resort is the perfect place to be. It has two resorts, including Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, and each has incredible skiing terrain.

For Northern California skiing enthusiasts, Northstar California Ski Resort embodies excellence from its ski trails to modern chairlifts. 

It has over 3,000 skiable acres, about 100 groomed trails, and 20 accessible chairlifts. If you and your partner have just developed a new interest in skiing, you can visit the resort for a romantic getaway. 

Sugar Bowl Ski Resort in the Lake Tahoe region has the most intriguing runs, receiving a decent snowfall of about 500 inches. 

While the ski resort maintains its classic ski atmosphere, it provides some of the best modern and advanced facilities for its skiers. 

Sugar Bowl Ski Resort boasts 98 ski trails and 12 lifts with ski runs that suit intermediate and advanced skiers. 

And if you want to learn how to ski, Sugar Bowl is still an excellent place for your first ski trip, as it has well-equipped instructors to teach you everything you need to learn. 

Another incredible resort is the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, recently renamed Palisades Tahoe, which is perfect for both beginner and advanced skiers and snowboarders.

Advanced skiers looking for slopes that will give them a great ski thrill will find the legendary black diamonds in Kirkwood Ski Resort enthralling. 

Other renowned ski resorts in California include Mountain High, Coppervale, and Badger Pass Ski Area.



Q: Which Ski Resort is Best for Beginners in California?

A: There are many great California ski resorts that make it a desirable ski destination for beginner skiers from all over the world. 

These include Mammoth Mountain, Kirkwood, Northstar, Big Bear Mountain, Heavenly, Palisades Tahoe, Sierra at Tahoe China Peak, and more.

Q: Where Should I Go for My First Ski Holiday?

A: The best destination for your ski vacation will depend on a number of factors, including your ski experience and budget. 

If you want to ski for the first time, you should find a ski resort with beginner-friendly terrain like those listed in this article. 

The timing on which you are planning your vacation also matters a lot, as some ski resorts don’t have great snow all the time. 

When skiing between March and May, the best ski resorts to consider are the ones with the longest ski seasons for reliable skiing conditions. 

Q: What Are the Best South Lake Tahoe Ski Resorts?

A: The best ski resorts south of Lake Tahoe include Heavenly Ski Resort, Kirkwood Ski Resort, and Sierra at Tahoe.

Other ski resorts surrounding Lake Tahoe are Palisades Tahoe, Sugar Bowl, Mount Rose, and Northstar Ski Resort. 

Wrap Up 

Wrap Up 

If you want to get started in skiing, there are many great California ski resorts you can visit for your first ski holiday, as discussed in this article. 

Most of these resorts have reliable snowfall, so you can always be sure of excellent skiing conditions throughout the ski season.

And when you build your skill and gain confidence, the above-listed ski resorts in California allow you to challenge yourself on difficult runs within the same mountain. So, don’t hesitate to try any of these ski resorts!

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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