Lake Tahoe: As Close To A Euro-Style Circus As It Gets -

Ok, so they're not interconnected by lifts in most cases. OK, so you'll need a car or take shuttle buses to ski or ride them all. So?

There are 15 mountain resorts of all sizes – from tiny Granlibakken with one lift to mighty Heavenly and Squaw Valley mega resorts with more lifts and terrain than you'll ever need. There are hundreds of restaurants, lodges, hotels, and vacation homes and condos to fit every budget. A number of the resorts are destinations in their own right. Still, it's fun to take a day or two and soak in some of the other ski areas during your stay. Did we mention casinos?

A skier takes a look out on Lake Tahoe from Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe

Tahoe is a very popular region for those who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose, Sacramento, or if they are really lucky, close by in Reno or Carson City.

The South Shore is famous for its bustling casino district of Stateline (the name is apropos as the border of California and Nevada cross right through it). How did you guess that the casinos are all in Nevada.

The Heavenly gondola leaves right smack from the center of town (surrounded by Marriott Vacation Club Resorts) and takes you into this terrific ski and snowboard area with 30 lifts and 91 trails over 4,800 acres. Heavenly is the largest resort in the Lake Tahoe region and you can ski or ride in two states.

A female skier finds powder in the backcountry of Alpine Meadows, California

The South Shore resorts also include Kirkwood Ski Resort, which is a bit more than a 30-minute drive from Stateline. There are 12 lifts, 65 trails, and 2,300 acres. The resort is known for the good quality of its snow and variety of terrain. Sierra-at-Tahoe, in Twin Bridges, has 12 lifts, 46 trails, and covers 2,000 acres. It's family-friendly, with good terrain parks. Its sister resort is Northstar-at-Tahoe.

Which brings us to the North Shore. Northstar-at-Tahoe is located just outside of Truckee and is a complete destination resort, with its own Ritz Carlton Club for those with healthy wallets, and plenty of accommodations for the rest of the world. Northstar has 17 lifts, 70 trails, and 2,420 acres.

Now, let's go quickly, but you'll want to linger. Alpine Meadows is a favorite for its phenomenal views of the lake from its lifts, long runs, and variety of easy to challenging terrain. There are 14 lifts and more than 100 trails. This is not a self-contained resort, so you can stay anywhere in the region and get to the hill via ski bus or car.

A snowboarder catches air at Donner Ski Ranch on a spring day

Boreal is fairly small (380 acres) and draws a young, fun, snowboarding crowd. It's big enough for 11 lifts, though. Diamond Peak, smaller yet, has six lifts, but 655 acres of terrain. Donner Ski Ranch also has six lifts with 435 acres. Tiny Granlibakken has but one lift and one trail. Remember that these smaller areas offer lower lift ticket prices and you'll still be tired at the end of the day.

More? How about Ski Homewood with eight lifts and 56 trails; Soda Springs is small with two lifts and 16 trails.

Mt. Rose is a popular stop up to Tahoe or back to the Reno Airport. It's a large, fulfilling area that deserves some of your attention, particularly if you choose to stay in Reno and take advantage of good hotel rates and gambling. There are lifts, 60 trails, and 1,200 acres.

A snowboarder drops off one of Sugar Bowl's cliffs

Sugar Bowl is another winner and a historical resort on Mt. Disney, with 13 lifts, 84 trails, and 1,500 acres. Tahoe Donner is small, yet very family friendly with three lifts and 14 trails.

Squaw Valley, USA was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the first to be televised around the world.

One more thing: Do you cross-country ski? Then, for certain, take some time to glide around Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort with 88 trails and 328 km of skiing.

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