The formerly overlooked Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort has undergone a renaissance in the last decade, and no self-respecting skier can ignore it now. A $60 million redevelopment project, completed in December 2008, has resulted in the construction of the new Village at Northstar complex, complete with luxurious condominiums and hotel-style rooms. At the heart of the village is a 9,000-square-foot outdoor ice rink encircled by open gas fire pits and cabana-style seating, so the kids can roast marshmallows while the adults enjoy a hot toddy from the bar. Rounding out the village is an intriguing variety of restaurants and boutiques, including an outstanding sushi bar, Mikuni, and the young-and-hip Baxter’s Bistro. At Northstar, if you don’t want to ski, you can make your own candles, create your own beaded jewelry, take a yoga class, or shop till you drop.
Northstar can also brag of having the ritziest lodging property anywhere in the Tahoe basin. Opening mid-mountain in December 2009 is a newly constructed, $300 million Ritz-Carlton, which will have its own gondola connecting it to the Village at Northstar. This will be Lake’s Tahoe’s first five-star hotel, with 170 rooms, plus condominiums and time-share units—all with ski-in/ski-out access.
Situated midway between Kings Beach and Truckee off Highway 267, Northstar was once nicknamed “Flatstar” by the locals. But that was before the 2007 opening of a host of black-diamond runs on the northwestern side of Mount Pluto, and a high-speed express quad lift on Lookout Mountain. For skiers of all abilities, beautifully groomed cruiser runs still travel all the way from the top of the mountain to the bottom. Even beginners can ski down from the summit. A full 60 percent of Northstar’s trails are designed for intermediates, but advanced skiers have more fun here now, too. Those who just like to go fast can rip down the north-facing slopes of Lookout Mountain on Northstar's longest steeps: Stampede, Prosser, Boca, and Martis. The adventurous head for the Backside for bumps, drops, and glade-to-glade tree skiing. Some of Northstar’s black runs might be colored blue at Squaw Valley, but not those on the Backside.
Northstar has 18 lifts and one gondola serving 2,490 acres. Skiers must ride a gondola from the Village to the day-lodge ski base area. Some may find this trip annoying, but you only have to do it once, and lines are almost nonexistent. Wind hold is also rarely an issue; Northstar's protected location allows it to keep its chairs moving in the most harrowing of blizzards. Of 89 possible runs, the resort’s longest is the Logger’s Loop at 1.4 miles with a vertical drop of 2,280 feet. Eight terrain parks, including one superpipe and one half-pipe, keep the X-Gamers busy. In 2008, Transworld Snowboarding magazine ranked Northstar as third best overall snowboarding resort, and third best for parks and pipes.
For non-skiers, there is plenty to do: geocaching on snowshoes, tubing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, a bungee trampoline for kids and adults, and of course, shopping and dining.
*photos courtesy of Northstar-at-Tahoe