Northstar — Cross-country
The Lake Tahoe region may have the greatest concentration of large cross-country ski areas in the U.S., with more than 800 km. of groomed trails. We have listed the bigger operations; local tourist offices can direct you to smaller and less expensive centers. Many of the ones we list here also have full-moon tours and snowshoe rentals and tours, so call for information.
The largest private trail system in North America is in California at Royal Gorge (530-426-3871; 800-500-3871, nationwide; 800-666-3871, Northern California only) just off I-80, west of Donner Summit at the Soda Springs exit. Royal Gorge has nearly 9,000 acres of terrain, and more than 300 km. of trails with a skating lane inside the tracks. They also make snow on some trails and use modern snowcats.
Royal Gorge has four surface lifts to help skiers up the tougher inclines. It is a full-service ski area, with rental equipment, ski school, ten warming huts, four cafes and a full-time ski patrol. Trailside lodging is at Rainbow Lodge, an historic 1920s B&B, or at Wilderness Lodge, a rustic retreat in the middle of the trail system. Book either through the ski area.
Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort’s Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Center, with its 30km of trails for snowshoeing, cross-country and telemark skiing, is now open. It was relocated to near the top of the Big Springs Express Gondola to make room for the new Ritz-Carlton Highlands Resort being built at mid-mountain. The mountain is now hosting geocaching activities for cross-country skiers and snowshoers — maps are available at The North Face in the Village at Northstar. Phone 530.562.2475 for more information.
The Tahoe Donner Cross-Country Area (530-587-9484) is off I-80 at Donner State Park exit. This area has 100 km. of trails, all double-tracked with wide skating lanes, and a day lodge with cafe. Tahoe Donner has California’s only lighted night cross-country skiing, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Cross-country gear, snowshoes and pulk sleds are available for rental.
Squaw Creek Cross-Country Ski Center (530-583-6300) is a small area at the Resort at Squaw Creek, which has rentals and lessons. Trails cover 18 km., are groomed daily, and range from beginner to expert. Child care is available for kids ages 4 and older.
Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Area (530-583-5475), 2 miles east of Tahoe City, is now a non-profit ski foundation. It has 65 km. of groomed skating lanes and tracks, a day lodge, cafe, lessons and rentals. Call to inquire about bringing your dog. Snowshoes and pulk sleds also are available for rental.
Spooner Lake Cross-Country (775-887-8844, recording; 755-749-5349, live voice) on Hwy. 28, about a half-mile north of Hwy. 50, has more than 80 km. of trails, nearly all of which are machine groomed, with one 19-km. backcountry trail. Lessons and cross-country gear, snowshoe and pulk sled rentals are available; you also can rent a backcountry cabin