Whether you're new to Northstar California, or a longtime veteran, then you no doubt know that the ski resort offers some of the most exciting terrain in North Lake Tahoe. However, a smart plan of action will help you make the most of your time, and ultimately, make the most of the runs you take on the hill. If you know where to head, you can be getting around Northstar like a seasoned veteran, skiing and riding some great runs, some of which you won't even find on trail maps. Having experienced Northstar for the first time this winter, I'm here with some tips and recommendations for first-time skiers and snowboarders to Northstar California.
Starting at the Village at Northstar, many people assume that the only way up the hill is by taking a gondola, and therefore, head straight for Big Springs Gondola. When there’s crowds, however, you don’t want to forget about Village Express, which actually takes you to a higher point to Logger’s Loop (Blue). That short ski run then takes you down to the main three lifts on the front side -- Vista Express, Arrow Express, and Tahoe Zephyr Express. The Village Express four-pack chair is a great way to bypass the gondola lines, especially on those powder weekends.
Generally speaking, Logger’s Loop is a great run to take when you make your way down from the top. Cruise over from Vista Express if you want the most direct path. Or, head down from East Ridge (Blue) if you’re coming from the top. East Ridge is a great, long, blue groomer that tends to not have as many crowds as other runs. If you have terrain park friends that are lapping the features, it’s also a great way to keep “in the loop” with them. Furthermore, there are a number of black runs that shoot off from it. Plus, this is where you'll want to be by 2 p.m. for Northstar's daily pop-up champagne bar, tōst.
If you’re looking for something that’s got a little more variation in terrain, take the Vista Express, or head down from the top, to the Magic Moguls run. Magic Moguls is a little bit hidden and doesn’t have the same fall line (that is, downhill-facing direction) as the other runs in the vicinity. It’s really fun for carving, and towards the second half of the run, you’ll find it great for jibbing park features -- a great place for experienced riders to mix things up a bit.
For some adventure, advanced riders can head to the Backside and to the ominous-sounding Promised Land. It's fitting that Northstar also has a chair with the same name. There, you can avoid the crowds that you might run into while tearing up the black runs around the Comstock lift on the front of the mountain. The terrain at Promised Land has pitch, with some great trees to weave in and out of in the powder if the weather and your level permits.
Even more advanced terrain can be found on Lookout Mountain, another facet to the Backside. This mountain, while serviced by a single lift, requires getting there by taking the lifts up to the top before skiing or snowboarding down the West Ridge to the Lookout Link -- otherwise known as the T-bar. The area is great for advanced and expert riders on a powder day, and therefore not recommended for beginners.
See Northstar's interactive trail map here.
At the end of the day, it might be a foregone conclusion to take the Village Run (Green) all the way back into the Village. Instead, take the aforementioned Logger’s Loop to The Woods, the run on the furthest side of the Northstar border. It’s a perfect blue run to end the day while avoiding the flatter, green sloped Village run.