Best runs to ski with your kids at Northstar

One of the great joys of a family ski vacation to North Lake Tahoe is actually skiing with your kids. Once children have mastered the basics in ski lessons or ski school, a family day on the mountain can be such an adventure and memorable experience, both for kids and their parents.

And at Northstar California, there are so many slopes for families of all ability levels to ski together. What I've found to be the sweet spot, however, is undoubtedly intermediate (Blue) runs, which Northstar has so many of, often characterized by wide, cruising ski trails. Families can find something for any level on the mountain. So below, you'll find a few of our family’s favorites, grouped by skier level so you can find the right challenge for your family.

Beginner (Green)

Once your children have mastered the bunny slopes off the Big Easy lift, it’s time to take them out on the mountain. Try these green runs to take the challenge up a level while still keeping the skiing fairly easy.

Upper & Lower Main Street. It’s hard to miss Upper and Lower Main Street, as they are the green runs right off of the bustling Arrow Express lift. This corridor can get busy on popular ski weekends, so arrive early and ski these runs first to get your ski legs before you set off for harder terrain.

Lumberjack. Parallel to Main Street is Lumberjack, where children still mastering the basics can start. However, you'll first have to ski some intermediate runs to reach the top of it. Alternatively, take the Arrow Express lift, which allows you to access Lumberjack halfway down the run.

Village Run. At the end of your ski day, skip the Big Springs Gondola, and take Village Run (weather and conditions permitting) down the mountain. This fun and easy pathway home originates at the top of Big Springs Express Gondola and meets the gondola in the Village.

Intermediate (Blue)

Once your child masters green runs, moving up to the intermediate runs is a major rite of passage. And Northstar has so many blue cruisers that are ideal for families to ski together. Below are a few of our family's favorite blue runs at Northstar.

West Ridge/Luggi’s. For families with skiers just graduating from the beginner slopes, West Ridge and Luggi’s are excellent starter blue runs, since you're upgrading to the Comstock lift. To reach it, take Comstock to the top of the mountain and ski West Ridge down until you see Luggi's turn off to the right, where it's marked as the easiest way down that part of the mountain. Additionally, Luggi's is wide enough to have plenty of room for error for children (or parents!) still getting used to steeper runs.

Powder Bowl. On busy ski weekends, every family wants to avoid the crowds. So I’ll let you in on my favorite uncrowded secret at Northstar: Powder Bowl. I have skied the run at least a half-dozen times this season, and see fewer people on it than any other blue run at Northstar. Powder Bowl is scenic, with a few trees sprinkling the landscape, and snow conditions are always so good. Beat the crowds by taking the Rendezvous lift to get to the top. While the tip-top is a black diamond, I recommend cutting over to the lower blue portion of Powder Bowl via The Flume. The Rendezvous lift may be slower than most of Northstar's other lifts, but there's rarely any wait, getting you to the top faster than some of the more popular lifts. In my experience, it’s better for children to be waiting on a moving lift than standing in line.

Upper and Lower Pioneer. These two long blue runs off of Tahoe Zephyr Express are a sweet spot for families with intermediate skiers. Typically groomed, these are a great couple of intermediate runs, not too easy and not too hard. 

Castle Peak. Looking for a more challenging blue run to ski together as a family? Castle Peak on the Backside is a smart choice for more adventurous families. It's one of Northstar's longer runs, and is typically uncrowded. I also find Castle Peak to often have better snow conditions than some of the other runs on this side of the mountain.

The Woods. Headed home at the end of a long day with intermediate skiers? Instead of Village Run, take The Woods, a blue run that ends in the same place. The Woods is often completely empty and unspoiled. Reach it by taking Logger’s Loop (a great, often uncrowded, blue run) off of Vista Express and enjoy the tree-lined pathway home.

Expert (Black)

After a few seasons of skiing, chances are pretty good that your children will surpass you with their fearlessness and skill. If you are ready to tackle the challenging stuff with children in tow, don’t miss these black diamond runs to ski as a family at Northstar.

Upper Grouse Alley. Several of the black diamond runs off of East Ridge are good gateway advanced runs for families skiing together, including Upper Grouse Alley, which I consider one of the best for location and snow conditions. Upper Grouse Alley's finale rewards you with a rollicking lower blue portion through the woods that is similar in style to Powder Bowl.

Springboard. Similarly, Springboard, located off Comstock, is another great introductory black diamond, since it's not as steep as many of Northstar's other black diamond runs. Plus, if it's intimidating upon approaching the top, you can simply ski a few more feet down West Ridge and take the parallel blue run, Ax Handle, instead.

Challenger. On the far end of the Backside, Challenger is an introductory black diamond run families can try if they are in search of harder terrain. While not as steep as other Backside runs, it's a nice long run for introducing your kids to the Backside. However, this is one run you'll want to check the status and conditions of to see if it's open.

Leslie is a recovering attorney turned travel writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two kids, ages 7 and 3. Her travel passions include all things air travel, wacky roadside attractions, national parks, Disney, and (of course) skiing! Leslie has lived in California for more than a decade, but she still proudly holds onto the last vestiges of her Southern accent, acquired from a childhood growing up in Alabama. When she's not writing for Northstar, you can find her work on her blog, Trips With Tykes. Follow Leslie on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.