Our Favorite West Coast Ski Destinations
Living in California is amazing for a million reasons: temperate weather, “chill” people and sunsets that never end. However, one of my favorite reasons is the ability to drive just a few hours to world-class skiing in Lake Tahoe, or fly just two hours to the largest ski resort in North America.
Max and I have held season passes to the local ski resorts for over four years and it’s been a great investment every year. Vail Resorts has been buying up a number of incredible ski resorts around the world in recent years and offers a number of options in terms of season passes that may very well be worth your while. We have the “Epic Tahoe Local” season pass, which (when bought early enough) comes in at just around $500 a person. This pass gives us almost unlimited access to Heavenly, Kirkwood and Northstar, with the typical holidays 50% off. We are usually traveling over Christmas and Thanksgiving so we don’t really notice these restrictions much. If you do like to ski over major holidays, I’d consider the full Epic pass. But here’s what we love about our Epic Tahoe Local pass:
It pays for itself if you ski more that four days
If you head up to Tahoe for more than two weekends, the pass pays for itself. Every year, the price of a day’s lift ticket seems to go up. This year, a day pass at Heavenly is about $150. If you plan to ski four days, that’s already way more than the ski pass.
You can visit most other vail resorts for five days of epic skiing, included
Usually, Max and I head to Park City because we get five free days included on our pass. One day at Park City normally is $169. Since we have the Tahoe Local pass, it’s a huge savings for us. Since we usually have already paid off our ski pass with four days at Tahoe, that’s a savings of almost $850 per person!
You also get five days at Vail, Arapahoe, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone.
While one of Vail’s newest acquisitions, Whistler, is not yet available as a free add on for the Tahoe Local pass, you do get discounted tickets, which is amazing.
You get discounted ski-with-a-friend tickets
Since Max and I auto-renew our pass every year, we get 6 tickets each loaded onto our pass that we can share with friends. This gives them discounted tickets that can save them a lot of money to ski with you. Just a few weekends ago, I got a pass for a friend for just $100. That was a huge lifesaver since she also had to rent gear.
Endless terrain within a few hours of our house
We ski almost every weekend up at Heavenly, Kirkwood or Northstar, which is just a 3 hour drive from the Bay Area. Usually, we drive up before dawn and head home at the end of the day, unless we can score a great deal last minute on Hotel Tonight(use my code MENGH1 for $25 off your booking).
We also book a week away at any of the other vail resorts every year to take advantage of the additional access to resorts we had. While we usually head to Park City and book a room at the Hyatt on points, this year we were invited to experience WhistlerBlackcomb. We flew direct to Vancouver, which is just a short 2 hour flight from us. From there, you can either take the ski bus directly from the airport, or enjoy a night in a fun coastal city, like we did at the Shangri-La. We rode up to Whistler with Canadian Craft Tours, which provided efficient, private and very quick service straight to Whistler from Vancouver city. Taking the private shuttle is super quick and our driver stopped along the way at some scenic spots to take photos- which we absolutely loved.
If you plan to head to Whistler or some of the European/Japanese resorts next year, be sure to check out the full Epic Pass. Depending on the number of days you plan to ski, buying the season pass for your trip alone may just be worth it.
Whistler is an incredibly beautiful and adorable ski resort town with so much terrain that there is literally no way to tackle it all in a weekend. We enjoyed a night at the Four Seasons in Blackcomb before spending a few days in Whistler at the Crystal Lodge and had a blast experiencing everything the town had to offer. Sinceit’s just a few hours from the Bay Area, it’s 100% a ski trip we will be taking again.
It’s worth noting as well, if you had the ski pass, it’s good to use for the gondolas in the summer season as well. If you plan to go up to do some hiking or activities in Tahoe or vail resorts over the summer, make sure to bring your pass!