Despite year-round warm temperatures in the Bay Area, you don’t need to travel far from San Francisco to find some of the best ski resorts in the country. Snowboarding and skiing near San Francisco is accessible to people of any experience level, from first-timers to expert-levels snowboarders and skiers. We hand-curated this list of the absolute best ski resorts near San Francisco so you can plan your best winter getaway yet!

From the massive mega resorts to the locally-run hidden gems, read on to learn more about the best spots for snowboarding and skiing near San Francisco.

A quick note: most of the places on here are most easily accessible by car. As city dwellers, we always use and recommend Avis for any car rental needs. For those who don’t drive or prefer public transportation, we’ve also included the easiest ways to get to each resort via bus, train, or shuttle where possible.

Best Places to Go Skiing Near San Francisco

Photo Credit: JSGraustein (Flickr CC)

Dodge Ridge Ski Resort

  • Location: Pinecrest, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 164 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site; nearest hotel is the Pinecrest Chalet
  • Experience levels: All levels

As the closest of the ski resorts near San Francisco, Dodge Ridge is a gem of a spot without the crowds (or high prices) of Tahoe’s resorts. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned expert, if you want to go snowboarding or skiing near San Francisco, Dodge Ridge is a local favorite. With a wide variety of trails, ranging from bunny hills to expert-level trails, it’s a very well-rounded resort with a lot to offer families, groups, and even solo skiers/boarders.

While there’s no lodging on-site, there is a large lounge area and lodge with dining options, gear rentals, a snow sports school, and relaxation areas. Beginners and first-timers have tons of resources here when it comes to learning how to snowboard or ski, while more experienced folks can head to the top of the mountain for a variety of different trails and terrain.

How to get there: The only way to get from San Francisco to Dodge Ridge is to drive, and it takes approximately 3 hours.

Photo Credit: Basker Hariharam (Flickr CC)

Sierra-at-Tahoe

  • Location: Twin Bridges, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 176 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site; nearest lodging is the Sierra at Tahoe Cabins
  • Experience levels: All levels

Sierra at Tahoe is one of the many ski resorts near San Francisco that’s located at Lake Tahoe. The views from the mountain are absolutely stunning, and there are 47 trails of varying difficulty. Local skiers and snowboarders love the well-groomed terrain, and the fantastic support for beginners as well as trails for the more advanced snowboarders and skiers. Many reviewers call it a great place to learn to ski!

At Sierra at Tahoe, you can find a sizable lodge with gear rentals, lessons, and food available, as well as tubing and snowshoeing for when you’re not on the downhill trails. For the adrenaline junkies, there are 6 terrain parks of different sizes with all kinds of obstacles to play on.

How to get there: You can drive ~3 hours or take the Tahoe Ski Trips bus from the Bay Area to Sierra at Tahoe.

Photo Credit: Colleen Proppe (Flickr CC)

Sugar Bowl Resort

  • Location: Norden, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 177 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at the Sugar Bowl Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels, with focus on intermediate and advanced trails

Sugar Bowl Resort is a well-maintained 1650-acre ski resort located northwest of Lake Tahoe. This ski resort is beloved by those familiar with the scene for skiing near San Francisco because it boasts smaller crowds and more affordable prices than some of the massive Tahoe resorts. With 4 peaks and 100 trails, you could ski here for several days without ever getting bored or having to repeat trails.

Although only 17% of trails are marked as beginner-friendly, there are lots of resources for learning to ski here. Reviewers are often pleased with the friendly, supportive ambiance, small crowds, and beautiful scenery at Sugar Bowl Resort, plus a family-friendly resort that’s great for a winter getaway.

How to get there: You can drive to Sugar Bowl Resort in ~3 hours, or you can book a round trip bus trip with Sourced Adventures or NacSki.

Photo Credit: zemistor (Flickr CC)

Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort

  • Location: Soda Springs, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 177 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? You can stay nearby at The Hotel at Sugar Bowl
  • Experience levels: All levels

If you’re looking for a change of pace from the thrill of the ski slopes, Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort may just be what you’re looking for. Royal Gorge is one of the more unique ski resorts near San Francisco, which offers a different experience – cross-country skiing through forested areas. This is technically part of the greater Sugar Bowl Resort area, but consists solely of cross-country trails. It’s one of the few places you can go cross country skiing near San Francisco.

On a visit here, there are a whopping 92 cross country trails you can ski through for a completely different winter sports experience than many of the other resorts on this list. An advantage of Nordic skiing is that it typically tends to be cheaper than traditional downhill skiing due to the lack of lifts and expensive machinery. For beginners to Nordic skiing, there are lessons and rentals available at the resort.

How to get there: You can drive to Royal Gorge and Sugar Bowl Resort in ~3 hours, or you can book a round trip bus trip to Sugar Bowl with Sourced Adventures or NacSki and then take a shuttle to Royal Gorge.

Boreal Mountain Resort

  • Location: Soda Springs, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 177 miles (3 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site; closest hotel is Donner Village Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels; plenty of intermediate and advanced trails

Boreal Mountain Resort is a ski resort located roughly 3 hours from the San Francisco. While it’s a smaller resort with just 34 trails, it’s a family-friendly destination that’s great for intermediate and expert snowboarders and skiers, as well as beginners. It does have many resources for learning to ski, as well as thrilling terrain parks for a bit more of an adventure.

Boreal Mountain Resort has a Take 3, Ride Free program that’s a great value for Bay Area beginners who want a supportive learning experience, plus a season pass to sharpen their skills. There’s also a kids ski free program with an adult season pass, which is a wonderful value for families that live nearby and want to ski or snowboard for the entire season.

How to get there: You can drive in ~3 hours or take a Sourced Adventures bus from San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Gordon (Flickr CC)

Bear Valley Resort

  • Location: Bear Valley, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 182 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at the Bear Valley Lodge
  • Experience levels: Intermediate and advanced

As a smaller ski resort, Bear Valley Resort is a hidden gem located in the Sierra Mountains. Local skiers and snowboarders love it because of its accessible size, relatively fewer crowds, and very responsive staff. With 58 trails and 10 lifts, there’s more than enough transportation to get people up the mountain quickly and efficiently. And, to top it off, the on-site lodge is an incredibly picturesque place to spend a long weekend getaway curled up in blankets in between thrilling runs down the slopes.

How to get there: There’s no direct bus from San Francisco to Bear Valley Lodge, and driving takes just over 3 hours.

Photo Credit: jcookfisher (Flickr CC)

Heavenly Mountain Resort

  • Location: South Lake Tahoe, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 190 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Heavenly Mountain Resort
  • Experience levels: Intermediate and advanced

Heavenly Mountain Resort is probably one of the most thrilling and picturesque ski resorts near San Francisco. With stunning views of Lake Tahoe and a magnificent spread of 97 trails over 4,800 skiable acres, Heavenly Mountain should definitely be on your California skiing bucket list.

Beginners should note that Heavenly Mountain has a heavy focus on intermediate, advanced, and expert-level runs. Only 8% of the trails are beginner-friendly. However, if you’ve gotten several trails under your belt as a beginner and you’re ready to level up, Heavenly Mountain is a beautiful and fun place to do so.

How to get there: You can drive there in just over 3 hours, or book a round trip ticket on a Tahoe Ski Trips bus.

Tahoe Donner

  • Location: Truckee, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 190 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site
  • Experience levels: Beginner and intermediate

Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort prides itself as being “the best place to begin” skiing. Beginner skiers will find a ski park that is less crowded than the neighboring Tahoe resorts. Additionally, there are several wide-open bowls that allow skiers and snowboarders plenty of space to practice and maneuver. The park is small, with 17 runs, and is mostly made up of green and blue slopes.

How to get there: Driving is the best method as there is no public transportation option between Truckee and the ski resort. Take I-80 from San Francisco to Truckee. Get off on exit 184 towards Northwoods boulevard and continue north until the resort.

Photo Credit: UnofficialSquaw.com (Flickr CC)

Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows

  • Location: Olympic Valley, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 196 miles (3.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at The Village at Squaw Valley
  • Experience levels: All levels

Alpine Meadows and its sister park Squaw Valley make up a massive ski complex near Lake Tahoe – the largest of the ski resorts near San Francisco. This park is made up of 170 trails across 6,000+ acres of skiable terrain.

There are 3 different peaks between the two resorts. “Snow Ventures” is a small hill primarily for junior skiers and snowboarders. “Big Blue” is comprised of gentle slopes and is made up of 60% green trails. KT-22 is for the experts; it includes 2,000 feet of cliffs and near vertical drops. 

Lift tickets are on the more expensive side compared to others on this list, but you get access to a large and well-run park. This resort is also partnered with the Ikon Pass

How to get there: Tahoe Ski Trips offers shuttles from several places in the Bay Area. You can even buy a lift ticket along with your bus ticket.

Photo Credit: Ryan Grimm (Flickr CC)

Kirkwood Mountain Resort

  • Location: Kirkwood, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 184 miles (3.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
  • Experience levels: Mostly intermediate to advanced, with trails for all levels

As a Northern California gem, Kirkwood Ski Resort is a gorgeous, evergreen-laden ski area that has something for every level of skier or snowboarder. Located south of Lake Tahoe, it’s one of many ski resorts in the area that offers a mix of thrilling, challenging terrain and family-friendly ski opportunities. While it’s a somewhat popular spot for California skiers and snowboarders, it’s well worth the trek from Southern California if you’re seeking challenging terrain in a beautiful spot.

Kirkwood’s trails largely consist of intermediate and advanced runs, but there are 86 total runs that span from beginner hills to expert-level terrain parks. As part of the Epic Pass program, passholders can get admission to Kirkwood’s ski areas included in their membership.

How to get there:  You can drive to Northstar in about 3.5 hours. Click here for directions to Kirkwood Ski Resort. However, if you’d prefer not to drive, you can also book a bus via TahoeSkiTrips or NacSki.

Photo Credit: Udi (Flickr CC)

Northstar California Resort

  • Location: Truckee, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 195 miles (3.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Northstar Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels

With its 100 trails, Northstar California is a large, family-friendly resort on the shores of Lake Tahoe that’s a fabulous winter getaway spot. A whopping 60% of the resort’s trails are rated intermediate, meaning it’s a fantastic place for beginner skiers to start tackling tougher terrain or for more experienced skiers to get more runs under their belt. Northstar is also part of the Epic Pass network, so if you’re a passholder, you’re in luck!

For non-skiers, there’s also tubing, ice skating, and a full set of resort amenities, including a spa and several dining options. We personally enjoyed the dining options around the ski resort – the poutine at the french fry food truck is to die for.

How to get there: You can drive to Northstar in about 3.5 hours (click here for directions). However, if you’d prefer not to drive, you can also book a bus via TahoeSkiTrips or NacSki.

Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area

  • Location: Yosemite National Park, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 200 miles (4 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Accommodation available? 
  • Experience levels: 

When planning a winter visit to Yosemite, why not pair it with an absolutely epic day of skiing? Yosemite has its own Ski & Snowboard Area that caters to all levels of snowboarders and skiers in one of the most beautiful parks in the country.

The only place to ski if you are spending a few days in Yosemite is Badger Pass, which is the oldest skiing area in the country. While this ski resort is small, at 10 runs in size, it has wonderful views of the national park and surrounding mountain areas.

Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area is geared more towards beginners, as 35% of the runs are classified as easy, and 50% are intermediate. Compared to Lake Tahoe, lift tickets are reasonably priced, and there are gear rentals and lessons available.

How to get there: You can drive to Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area in just over 4 hours.

Without a car, you can get to Yosemite with public transportation. Take the BART to Richmond, then an Amtrak train to Merced. From Merced, take a YARTS bus to Yosemite. Once inside, there is a free bus that operates around the park and can take you up to Badger Pass.

Mt. Shasta Ski Park

  • Location: McCloud, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 283 miles (4.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at Mount Shasta Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels

Experience one of California’s best ski parks close to an enormous stratovolcano. Mt. Shasta is located a couple of hours north of San Francisco in the Cascade mountain range. The park is on the smaller side, with 32 runs (20% green, 55% blue) and 2 terrain parks. Prices range from $45 to $65 depending on the week day and time.

This park allows you to escape the crowds of Lake Tahoe’s more popular resort. If you are truly looking for seclusion, rent a cabin in the backcountry for a night and enjoy scenic views of Mt. Shasta.

How to get there: Driving is the best way to get to Mt. Shasta. Take I-5 straight north from San Francisco until Mt. Shasta.

June Mountain

  • Location: June Lake, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 248 miles (5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Not on site, nearby options include Double Eagle Resort
  • Experience levels: All levels

Mammoth Mountain’s sister resort is a California favorite: June Mountain. Slightly farther from LA than its sibling, June Mountain caters a bit more to the intermediate and advanced crowds, with the majority of trails falling into these two categories. It’s also much smaller than its Mammoth counterpart, with just 41 runs. While it’s not the closest place to go skiing near Los Angeles, it’s certainly a crowd favorite.

While there are beginner learn to ski programs at June Mountain, the resort definitely attracts a more experienced crowd. According to past visitors, it’s also significantly less crowded than some of the bigger resorts in the area, making for a much calmer and more fun winter getaway experience.

How to get there: Click here to get directions to June Mountain.

Photo Credit: L. K. (Flickr CC)

Mammoth Mountain

  • Location: Mammoth Lakes, CA
  • Distance from San Francisco: 265 miles (5.5 hours)
  • Accommodation available? Yes, at The Village Lodge
  • Experience levels: All levels

If you’re looking for the full “ski trip” experience, look no further than Mammoth Mountain. This ski resort and ski town combination make for a fabulous family-friendly snowboard and ski combination that’s about a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles. There are a whopping 154 runs in the resort, ranging from bunny hills and learning areas to double black diamond expert terrain.

Here at Mammoth Mountain, there’s an atmosphere that’s totally welcoming and supportive of beginners, which means you’re in luck as a first-timer, with plenty of daily ski lessons and gear rentals available. The vast majority of trails here are beginner to intermediate level, but there are a handful marked as advanced and expert for more experienced skiers.

How to get there: Click here to get directions to Mammoth Mountain.

Skiing Near San Francisco: Additional Resources

What to Pack

  • Waterproof outerwear – Possibly the most critical pieces of clothing for your ski trip packing list is durable, waterproof outerwear. Burton and Helly Hansen are famous ski brands for having best-in-class clothing that will keep you warm in the coldest, snowiest conditions. Click here to shop ski jackets and compare prices.
  • Thermal layers – Thermal baselayers are absolutely critical for a smooth skiing experience, as these will keep you warm and dry underneath your outerwear. The best kinds of thermal baselayers are made of Merino wool, which is moisture-wicking and comfortable. Our favorite brand of thermal layers is SmartWool – their tops and leggings are soft, lightweight, but warm and durable for all kinds of outdoor activities, including skiing. Click here to shop thermal tops and leggings and compare prices.
  • Ski goggles – No ski trip packing list would be complete without a pair of fog-resistant ski goggles, especially if you’re going somewhere that makes artificial snow. Ski slopes often have snow blowing into the air several times a day and it can be hard to keep freezing snowflakes out of your eyes, even during clear days. We use and recommend these ski goggles. However, you can shop ski goggles and compare reviews/prices here.

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive list of things to pack, head to our Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List to view our full packing list and gear recommendations for the slopes!

Related Pages & Links


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Author

Kay Rodriguez is the Chicago-based travel writer and photographer behind Jetfarer and Skyline Adventurer. When she's not blogging furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, or paddling in a new city.

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