2 Best Nevada Ski Resorts for Families
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It’s difficult to believe that not far from the bright lights and desert of 24/7 Las Vegas that there are fully functioning ski resorts just down the road. But which is the best to choose?
One is a not-for-profit, where the emphasis is on family and learning skills and the other is a remote, high-altitude compact family resort.
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).
Fun for Kids
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.
The Lee Canyon Ski Area is set at a high elevation, where even the base elevation is 8,510 ft (2,590 m), while the highest elevation soars to 11,289 ft (3,441 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.
From here blue and black runs descend tree-lined routes back to base. Above the lifts, an expert-only off-piste area spans the flank of the mountain. This is a hike to the ski area on steep, ungroomed terrain and classed as double black diamond terrain.
15% of the runs are classed as beginner, and the remainder is equally split between intermediate and expert. Three chairlifts service the mountainside and there is one terrain park. There is a small beginner’s area nearby called Rabbit Peak with its own lift and a snow tubing park adjacent.
A snowshoeing trail through the forest operates from the McWilliams camping ground over the weekend and holiday Mondays.
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 Las Vagas about 35 miles distant.
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 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 and during the 40s and 50s film stars and celebrities, such as Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman, and Gary Cooper, made it their destination resort. Sky Tavern is located close to Reno and surrounded by Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake, and Tahoe National Forest.
These days Sky Tavern has changed direction and 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.
Fun for Kids
The Sky Tavern Junior Ski Program is the largest ski school in the country run by volunteers. Starting out in 1948 more than 100,000 children have taken part in the programs.
The instructors are fully qualified Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI). 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 and introduce you to the basics of skiing. Snowboarding is organized in the same way, broken down into seven individual lessons.
Sky Tavern is also a strong advocate of teaching freestyle skiing. A dedicated freestyle team runs courses to introduce ski and snowboard students to the world of features in parks and the natural features of big mountain skiing.
A two-day course over the weekend provides an introduction, followed by a weekday session on the trampoline for balance and strength training.
Adaptive Skiing at Sky Tavern is similarly well organized. A specialist team adapts their skills and equipment to suit everyone’s needs. This can be labor-intensive initially until basic skills are achieved.
When the City of Reno decided in 1991 that it could no longer support the Sky Tavern Ski program parents rallied around and created the non-profit organization that exists today. The organization makes it clear they are operating a training area where family is very important and not a tourist destination.
From the lodge at the base of the resort, the two chair lifts climb the mountain to give access to 6 blue runs from the top and 8 black runs. Lower down there are 4 green runs, with a hand-tow and a Poma lift to provide access. 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.
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, and privately owned apartments, as well as holiday homes for rent.
What we love about Sky Tavern
- It’s a well-organized, economical way to learn skiing as a family
- 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?
In Nevada, it’s possible to combine visits to Las Vegas with skiing. They are a good combination; one is very commercial and the other remote and natural. The mountains in Nevada are high enough to pretty much supply adequate snowfall backed up by snowmaking.
The cost of lift tickets in Nevada is considerably less than some other larger resorts.