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Down in the desert of Nevada, Sin City never sleeps, but only 35 miles away, the ski resort of Lee Canyon perches at over 8000 ft, while at Sky Tavern Resort, the emphasis is very much on beginners and learning.
But which is the best to choose?
Our Top Picks
2. Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort – Lee Canyon
Created in 1964, the Lee Canyon Ski Area is 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas. It is in a remote location close to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. The Lodge is situated at the base of the summit of Lee Peak at 11289 feet (3441 m).
What’s the Skiing like?
The Lee Canyon Ski Area is set at a high elevation, where even the base elevation is 8,510 ft (2,590 m). Still in the treeline, the forested terrain extends over 385 acres. There are 2779 ft (847 m) of vertical fall, providing plenty of scope for the 24 named runs.
The small beginner’s area at the base is called Rabbit Peak, which has its own lift and is next to the snow tubing park. 15% of the runs at Lee Canyon are classed as beginner, which is meant for people who have no experience of skiing.
The terrain is purposely designed to help skiers learn and have enough space to try some of their moves.
The remainder of the runs is equally split between intermediate and expert. Three chairlifts service the mountainside, and there is one terrain park.
Learning to Ski
Lessons are organized with qualified instructors and run over multiweek sessions. For the youngest, aged 4-6, the Mountaineer program introduces kids to the basics, including handling the equipment and getting to grips with moving on the snow.
For slightly older kids, aged 7-14, the Freeriders program helps to begin or improve kids’ ski and snowboard skills in small groups. Both groups include the cost of a season lift ticket but not equipment rental.
A snowshoeing trail through the forest operates from the McWilliams camping ground over the weekend and holiday Mondays. This is another great activity for beginners to try out and the whole family can join in. It’s an enjoyable and relaxing way to see another perspective of the mountainside.
Off the Slopes
Lee Canyon ski resort is set in a remote location although family accommodation can be found in nearby towns such as Pahrump, 20 miles distant, or slightly farther away in Las Vegas.
What we love about Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort – Lee Canyon Resort
- The resort is remote in what used to be a mining community
- There is a good variety of runs from beginner to double black diamond
- The lessons are organized over successive weeks to build beginner skills
Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort – Lee Canyon Stats
|Summit Elevation:||11289 ft / 3440 metres|
|Skiable terrain:||59 acres|
1. Sky Tavern Ski Resort
Sky Tavern Ski Resort has a colorful past attracting film stars and celebrities, such as Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman, and Gary Cooper, who made it their destination resort.
Sky Tavern is close to the transport connections of nearby Reno and is also close to Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake, and Tahoe National Forest. So, there is plenty to see close by if you want to spend a day away from the resort.
Sky Tavern is now operated as a not-for-profit, run by volunteers and parents, who make it a center of excellence for training kids on how to ski and snowboard.
The executive director, Bill Henderson, sums it up best: ‘I tell people when not in the ski business, we’re in the kid development business.’ Parents are happy to donate at least two hours of each ski day helping with practical tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, and helping out on the lifts.
What’s the Skiing like?
You will find the beginner area at Sky Tavern just on the right-hand side of the Lodge.
There are four shorter green runs where you can practice and break off to go and have a coffee nearby. One of the lifts is a hand tow, where you grab a slow-moving rope, which drags you to the top of the hill.
The other lift is a Poma or button lift. These can be a challenge for the first few times you use them but it’s a useful skill to have, as they are still in use in many resorts. More challenging that getting onto a magic carpet.
Once you’ve conquered the green runs, you can take the Skyridge Chair, giving you access to the six blue runs higher up. The terrain is lightly forested on one face of the hillside.
Plans are underway to upgrade the snowmaking and floodlighting on the ski area to extend the season and enable night-time skiing across the resort.
Sky Tavern is also a strong advocate of teaching freestyle skiing. As a beginner, it’s probably too ambitious to sign up for a freestyle lesson, but there’s nothing to stop you from watching a lesson in progress or seeing freestylers practicing.
It’s one thing seeing freestylers on TV or on YouTube but watching them live you really get to see another dimension of their skills.
Adaptive Skiing at Sky Tavern is similarly well organized. A specialist team adapts their skills and equipment to suit everyone’s needs so beginners are more than welcome.
Learning to Ski
At Sky Tavern, the lessons are led by fully qualified PSIA/AASI instructors, so you can be sure safety and experience are paramount. The youngest program, Sky Kids, is aimed at 4-5-year-olds, where they are introduced to the basics of equipment and skiing. Children must be accompanied by their parents.
For older kids and teenagers, skiing lessons are subdivided into nine individual lessons, which all concentrate on progressively more advanced techniques. Snowboarding is organized in the same way, broken down into seven individual lessons.
A full program of adult lessons is also available at the weekend, and they are generally scheduled for the afternoons, while the kids are enjoying their free time on the slopes.
Off the Slopes
Although there is no on-resort lodging there is a good range of accommodation in and around nearby Reno. This includes hotels, inns, privately owned apartments, and holiday homes for rent.
What we love about Sky Tavern
- It’s a well-organized, economical way to learn the basics of skiing
- The adaptive skiing program is well-established
- There is plenty of family accommodation in nearby Reno
Sky Tavern Stats
|Summit Elevation:||7557 ft / 2303 metres|
Why Choose Nevada for Skiing?
The summits of our two picks in Nevada are high, which means there is a good likelihood the snow will be sure, even if it’s scorching down in the desert.
The lessons at both Lee Canyon and Sky Tavern are high quality. This means the instructors are skilled in helping beginners to gain confidence and skills. It also shouldn’t be underestimated that the cost of lift tickets in Nevada is considerably less than in some other larger resorts.