Davis is a great place to live if you like snow but don't want to live smack in the middle of it all winter. Lake Tahoe resorts are 1.5-2 hours away in good weather without traffic. If you're just looking for something cold to fall on, there's ice skating closer by, but still none in Davis.
On storm days, it can take 3x as long, or CHP can close highways for safety. Before your trip, call CalTrans at 800-427-7623 or check online if Chain Control is in effect. If your ride is not 4x4 or AWD, get tire chains. Way cheaper to buy at a local store like Kragen Auto Parts, Napa Auto Parts, or Les Schwab Tire Center in South Davis.
Tahoe Ski Resorts
- Alpine is a favorite of many hard riding locals because of the varied terrain, good vibes and inbounds backcountry. Lift tickets are $64 during the regular season.
- Boreal is the closest resort to Davis on the North Shore (up Interstate 80) and only costs $20 for college students on Fridays. Boreal is a small resort so it is best for beginners or people who want to ride their killer terrain parks.
- Donner Ski Ranch is located close to Boreal and Sugar Bowl. It is a small and cheap resort that is best suited for beginners. Although it does have some nice cliffs to drop off of on powder days.
- With half of the mountain in California and half in Nevada, Heavenly offers beautiful views of Lake Tahoe.
- Homewood is located right on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe so it has amazing views. It is small and fairly cheap but still has some steepish terrain and nice lines. Locals like it on powder days when the roads to the other resorts are hard to access. As an added benefit, it is nice and sheltered, so windy days at Homewood are few and far between.
- Kirkwood is one of the best resorts in Tahoe. Located on Highway 88, away from the rest of the area it takes a little bit longer to access than many resorts. Learn the shortcut through Fiddletown and it won't seem so far. Some terrain is steep - lots of chutes (but they tend to let up too soon), the parks are good and the snow is usually fantastic due to the high elevation, which means that along with the great snow there is usually a lot of wind. An excellent place on a powder day - Palisades takes all day to get tracked up. As an added bonus, Kirkwood is also very student friendly if you show them your current schedule, along with a student ID to prove you're a full-time student, you can get a lift ticket for only $39, which is a great deal considering the normal price for an adult $59.
- Jokingly reffered to as "Flatstar", Northstar's front side is pretty darn easy. The resort over-rates their runs, turning blue squares in to black diamonds and greens in to blues. The Backside and Lookout Peak offer nice terrain for intermediate and above skiers. One nice thing is that there aren't as many good people that ride here so powder can be found well in to the afternoon if you know where to look after a storm.
- Sierra is the closest resort to Davis on the South Shore (up Hwy 50). Rather less challenging, but lots and lots of skiable terrain between the trails in the trees - excellent on a powder day.
- Soda Springs is a small, family-oriented ski resort located closer than Boreal on Hwy. 80. Great day trip for snow tubing (no sledding), learning to ski on bunny hill, a toddler "Planet Kids" zone complete with moving carpet and mini-snowmobile track, and "Kids X" beginner terrain park. There are only 2 lifts, and a few trails.
- Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is one of the largest resorts in the area. It attracts many of the regions most devoted ski bums due to the "world class" terrain (featuring a plethora of mogul runs usually covered in ice, but not much else). Absolutely the best steep skiing in northern CA - KT22 lift is never crowded - very few knuckledraggers because of the difficulty. It is the most expensive resort in Tahoe (season passes upwards of $1,000) and can be very crowded with long lines. The vibe can seem a little pretentious to a poor UC Davis student.
- Sugar Bowl is one of the closets resorts to Davis because you don't have to cross Donner Pass. It hosts great snow, nice steeps and plenty of terrain. While the parks usually suck, that is not why one goes to the bowl. This is an excellent resort.
Central/Southern Sierra Resorts
These resorts are a VERY long way away from Davis.
- Mammoth Mountain is located in the Eastern Sierra's. They boast an summit elevation of 11,053 feet and a large portion of the mountain lies above the tree line, giving you many open bowls to choose from. Just for comparison Squaw Valley's highest peak is Granite Chief at 9050 feet. The town is also has many fun restaurants, bars and many inexpensive places to stay. The drive is about 5 hours from Davis. Easiest way to get here is by driving through south Lake Tahoe and heading over the Kingsbury Grade and then hitting 395 south until you see the Mammoth Lakes turn-off. The drive on 395 South is beautiful. For some great steeps and terrain check Mammoth out, it is well worth it.
- June Mountain
- Bear Valley Bear Valley is hardly a long way from Davis. Davis to Truckee is about 115 miles and Davis to Bear Valley is about 150 miles. Bear Valley has two things to offer you as opposed to the 'Tahoe' experience. No I80 traffic jams. No lift lines. Otherwise Bear Valley has decent terrain parks, decent snow, decent double blacks (albeit SHORT), and a laid back attitude.
- Sierra Summit
Conditions / Mountain Information
Clubs and Organizations
- UC Davis Alpine Ski and Snowboard Team- a team with competitive and noncompetitive skiing and snowboarding; they have their own cabin in Truckee and are a team of 30-60 good friends that just like to ski/board together
- Outdoor Adventures - runs ski mountaineering, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, Shasta, Yosemite and Snowcave Building courses
- SOS - Ski or Snowboard Club at UC Davis - is the largest club on Campus and it's main goal is to help students to go skiing or snowboarding for a cheap price
- Davis Back Country Skiers is a group/forum for Tele, Alpine Touring/Randonee, splitboarders, and cross-country skiers
If you plan to ski/ride a lot, it is best to buy a season pass. Many resorts offer slightly restricted passes for only $200-300. It is best to buy early before the offers expire (sometimes before UC Davis starts Fall Quarter.)
- Members of SOS get pretty good discounts on various tickets, tuneups and equipment.
- Snowbomb is a good place to get deals. Their Tahoe Card can be a good value.
- SlidingOnTheCheap.com - lists ticket deals
- Boreal - Every Friday lift tickets are only $20 for college students.
Cheap places to stay
During the winter, most people want to stay indoors when in the mountains. Camping or sleeping in your car is still an option for those Living Cheaply. People often stay in a friend's cabin or share a hotel room.
- Clair Tappaan Lodge - This Sierra Club has a lodge at Soda Springs that offers "inexpensive" (~$50/night) lodging and meals.
- Sno-parks - sleep in your car all season long for a $25 season pass good for 22 locations throughout Tahoe
- SOS helps members find rides up to the snow.
- Alpine Adventures - Provides ski bus trips to Tahoe, and fully escorted vacations to resorts in North America and Europe.
- Amtrak - trains or buses drop you off in Truckee, far away from any resort
- Napa Auto Parts - sells snow chains
- NorCal Ski Bus - Runs trips to Tahoe on Saturdays.
- NACSki - Tahoe trips to various resorts, as low as $30 for RT bus ride
Places to get gear
- Big 5 Sporting Goods
- Ground Zero Boardshop
- Ken's Bike & Ski
- Outdoor Adventures - rents Telemark, Alpine Touring (Randonee), and cross country skis, avalanche safety gear, and snowshoes. Doesn't rent downhill stuff.
Backcountry Skiing Information
- Davis Back Country Skiers - up-to-date beta on snow and avy conditions, carpooling info, local skiers, trips, etc.
- Bob's Links - All the links you need and want
- avalanche.org - current advisories on snow stability
- California Avalanche conditions - More informative than above link
- SierraBackcountry.org - Excellent site for information on Central and Southern Sierra conditions and routes.
- TahoeBackcountry.net - Trip reports from the Tahoe region.
- TheBackcountry.net - While a store website, it has lots of information on where to go in the Tahoe Region.
2009-07-30 02:23:54 I just got back from the Graeagle area... Suffice to say, it's really nice. My advice is that you should try it if you like Tahoe, but would be willing to trade one big lake for a few dozen smaller ones, and basically no crowds to speak of. —JoePomidor
2010-02-05 14:01:24 Does the Boreal deal for "college students" work for graduate students or do you actually have to be an undergrad? —FloridianPlywood
- I haven't done it in years, but the couple of times I went back as an undergrad they just wanted to see that you had a student ID. I would be very surprised if A) they checked carefully enough to realize you were a grad student; or B) declined you the deal because of it. —TomGarberson
2010-03-03 15:20:54 I'm a Davis Enterprise reporter looking to head up to Northstar or Sierra this weekend (March 6-7) to capture local ski/snowboard feature story. If you think you've got something, ring me at 747-8052 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org —jon.edwards
2011-10-12 15:37:21 Squaw Valley plus Alpine Meadows Ski Pass all season long for one low price!
enter promotion code: <deleted (see comment below)> when you check out or call over the phone to get your pass. See you on the slopes! —GaryFisher
2011-11-30 03:26:30 dear "Gary Fisher": i've deleted your promo code, which only benefits you even though you claimed it would give discounts people who use it. have a good day. —watson