A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
It’s not much of a gamble. Choose a ski resort in Nevada for a quick few turns, weekend or vacation and you’ll find all sorts of degrees of happiness. And if you do want to gamble, go ahead. All of the state’s four+ ski resorts are close to the blackjack and crap tables. Ski all day and play all night.
We say 4+ when referring to Nevada skiing because the so-called elephant in the room is Heavenly at the town Stateline – meaning it sits on the state line between California and Nevada in South Lake Tahoe. Heavenly is known as a California ski area, but fact is fact: Half of Heavenly skiing and riding is in the Silver State. In fact, it one of the very few ski resorts in the United States offering terrain across state boundaries.
But, let’s stick to those resorts that are totally situated in Nevada for now. You’ll find skiing and riding in three places around the state: One is liteally up the hill from Las Vegas. Two are in the Lake Tahoe region and a third is in the eastern part of the state near the Idaho border. None are truly major destinations (though Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe might well qualify), but there’s plenty of fun to be had on the slopes of all of them. All have terrain parks.
Start with Sin City. What a deal – ski or ride during the day and go sin at night. Lee Canyon Ski Area (formerly known as The Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort) has the distinction of being the only ski area in southern Nevada. Located in the Spring Mountains, Lee Canyon sits at a base elevation of 8,510 feet and has three chairlifts plus one surface lift. The ski mountain tops off 11,289 feet and enjoys an 860-foot vertical drop. There are three lifts and a surface tow for the 24 trails. Those trails get an average snowfall of 129 inches a year, but only has 35 percent of the mountain covered by snowmaking. The best part: Lee Canyon skiing is less than an hour’s drive from the lights of the city.
Go east, skiers and riders, for more fun at the Idaho border in Elko County. Don’t get carried away with expectations, though. Elko SnoBowl Ski & Bike Park is a non-profit community ski hill operated by volunteers on land owned by the county. It is open weekends from January to March and is located 15 minutes outside of Elko. SnoBowl features a double chairlift and a rope tow for beginner skiers. Other outdoor options include sledding or snowshoeing. The base sits at 6,300 feet and tops out at 7,000 feet and you can ski or ride over 60 acres. Your wallet will thank you profusely. Lift tickets can be as low as $20. Hint: You can gamble the savings on lift tickets at Gold Dust or Dolly’s and other casinos in town. Close by lodging is within six miles of the ski hill.
The Nevada side of Lake Tahoe beckons you with two options. Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe is a good-sized ski resort on State Route 431. Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe sits just 25 minutes from Downtown Reno on the summit between the so-called “biggest little city in the world” and Incline Village on the Lake’s North side. You’ll start your Mt. Rose adventure at 8,260 feet, the highest base in the Tahoe region. Ski and ride on 1,200 acres spread over 60-plus trails with an 1,800 foot vertical drop. There are eight lifts including two “six-packs” and two quads. Snowfall? Mt. Rose gets an average annual snowfall of 30 feet and has top-to-bottom snowmaking. And, yes, Mt. Rose is a volcano. No worries. It’s extinct.
Diamond Peak is often described as a “hidden gem.” This community-owned ski resort is located above Incline Village on the North Shore. The views are awesome and the runs are generally uncrowded. There’s easy access from the parking areas and a dedicated Child Ski Center makes it a good choice for family skiing and snowboading. It’s a bit more affordable than some of the larger areas surrounding the lake. Base elevation is 6,700 feet and it tops out at 8,540 feet. There are 655 skiable acres covered by six lifts. Terrain is available for all levels, but most space is for intermediates. Snowmaking coverage is on 75 percent of the terrain. The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, two miles from the ski mountain, is a high-end lakefront resort with seven bars & restaurants, a spa, a pool and ski shuttle.
We won’t dwell on it, but If you're choosing between mountain areas of Heavenly, the Nevada side is best for advanced and expert skiers, while the California side provides the best of the mountain's fantastic views and more modern lifts.
There are four distinct ski areas in Nevada, plus the sprawling half of Heavenly: Lee Canyon, Elko Snobowl, Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe and Diamond Peak.
You can ski and ride at Lee Canyon, under an hour’s drive from the Las Vegas strip.
You can ski or ride for as little as $20 at Elko Snobowl and as high as $107 per day at the window at Heavenly. There are plenty of packages and purchasing one of the ski passes (IKON, Epic, Indy or Mountain Collective) can save you plenty of money. See all skipass prices for Nevada ski resorts.
Our vote goes to Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe for its proximity to Reno and its nightlife as well as the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. It’s really an unsung hero and well worth investigating.
Romance is a tricky thing to describe. You can have a drive-through wedding ceremony in Las Vegas and then go skiing (or vice versa if you meet someone you like a lot on the chairlift). But real romance can be found combined with the views of magnifcent Lake Tahoe.
Diamond Peak is probably the best Nevada resort for families with its Child Ski Center, pricing and uncrowded slopes.
You can find pet-friendly lodging at all of Nevada’s resorts. But, don’t plan to bring Fido to the ski trails.
Winter temperatures at Lake Tahoe run in the mid-40s during peak ski season, with lows in the high 20s. Las Vegas highs are in the 50s and low in the 30s. It's colder, of course, at Lee Canyon.
Fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport for Mount Rose-Ski Tahoe or Diamond Peak. For Lee Canyon, fly into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Public transportation to Lee Canyon is limited. Avoid ride-sharing as it is out of range and you likely won’t be able to use the same service returning. Choose to drive. Best way to resorts from Reno-Tahoe International Airport is to drive (45 minutes) or take the North Lake Tahoe Express to Incline Village. For Mount Rose-Ski Tahoe; the drive takes 30 minutes. Rental cars are available at all airports. There are usually two flights a day to Elko from Salt Lake City International Airport.
Perhaps you wouldn't classify Las Vegas or Reno as ski towns, but if you do they are certainly cool. Lots of fun in both of them plus close proximity to the mountain resorts. North Lake Tahoe is a collection of small towns, each with different vibes.
It’s a fun idea to take a few days in Las Vegas and be able to hit the slopes of Lee Canyon for a break from the casino play. Lake Tahoe has so many close options beyond Nevada that you can’t go wrong.