Great day to be alive at Northstar |

Great day to be alive at Northstar

Rail slide at Northstar's freestyle terrain park
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What’s the big hurry?” asked the highway patrolman after clocking me at 74 through the straights near the east end of Highway 20 last week.

“I’m going skiing,” I said matter of factly, as if that explained everything and he’d just forget about it and let me go.

Not that I condone breaking the law, mind you, but if my haste bought me just a few extra runs, the speeding ticket was well worth it.

“It’s a great day to be alive,” yelled a boarder from the parking lot at Northstar at Tahoe Friday morning, anticipating the turns to come.

Driving over the Summit earlier that morning, fog poured from Donner Lake and filled the bottom of the Martis Valley. Clouds swirled above and mixed with the fog, painting the sky around Northstar too many shades of gray to count.

And while the sun came and went, it managed to cast a glow through the swirling pall,

making for another epic ski

day in the Northern Sierras.

Skiing a resort for the first time is always a great adventure, and Northstar didn’t disappoint with pleasant, but challenging, surprises around every corner and down every ridge.

Letting our skis run fast the first schuss of the morning, our edges chattered over corduroy still frozen in the shadows along Logger’s Loop.

Dropping off the East Ridge into runs like Tonini’s, The Chute and Dutchman made for some snow flyin’ wild rides.

Skiing down West Ridge from the top of Mount Pluto, we took a random left and found ourselves on Northstar’s backside, cranking turns like crazy down a nicely tilted and demanding Iron Horse run.

All in all, we were able to sample pretty much all of the mountain, and most every run we took was a good, fun one.

I can’t tell you about Northstar’s restaurants firsthand – the skiing was too good to stop and eat.

Ski Magazine’s annual readers’ poll ranked Northstar 21st overall among North American ski areas and third in California. Northstar was also recognized for having the best family programs in California and the best terrain parks of all Lake Tahoe resorts.

Jeff Kerber from Chico has been skiing Northern Sierra ski resorts for years.

“This is probably the best of them all,” he said.

Sure, nearby Squaw Valley’s a lot bigger, Kerber said, but pound for pound and run for run, Northstar serves up some great terrain.

“You’ve got your tree skiing, groomed, off-the-trail – whatever you want,” Kerber said.

Next week, I’ll be skiing at Homewood Mountain Resort, another one of Kerber’s favorite Northern Sierra ski areas located on Lake Tahoe’s western shore.

“It’s a throwback there, it’s an old one,” Kerber said. “You can get splinters riding the chairs, but the skiing’s great.

And you can’t beat Homewood for views of the lake.”

I skied last Friday until the lifts shut down.

Standing atop Mount Pluto before the last run of the day, snowflakes drifted from a squall sliding by to the east while the sun broke through a gap in the clouds to the west – and it was snowing in the sun.

And I forgot all about the speeding ticket.


Northstar is located on Highway 267 between Truckee and Kings Beach.

Getting There:

Follow Highway 20 east to Interstate 80, then take the Highway 267 South exit at Truckee and go about three miles.


Lift tickets for adults (23-64) are $57 for a full day and $45 for afternoons. Lift tickets for seniors (65-69) are $33 and $10 for seniors 70 and over. Tickets for children (5-12) cost $19 for a full day and $16 for an afternoon.

Vertical Plus is a Northstar program that awards skiers and boarders with prizes and discounts for the amount of vertical feet they ski or ride.

Ski Profile:

Northstar’s two double-, two triple-, and five quad-chairs, along with the Big Springs Express Gondola, lifts skiers and boarders to 70 runs, covering 2,420 acres of skiable terrain.


Northstar’s base Village, mid-mountain and summit lodge restaurants serve up a wide variety of menu options, ranging from hamburgers and hotdogs to barbecued tri-tip and grilled portabello mushroom sandwiches.

Perched atop the summit of Mount Pluto at 8,610 feet, the Summit Deck & Grill mixes great food with awesome views of Lake Tahoe.

On the Web:

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