Resort: Northstar at Tahoe, California

Northstar Terrain Park

During one of our trips out west this year we got to spend a few days at the Northstar resort in Tahoe, California. It’s a highly developed resort with quite a few downhill trails as well as many other activities. Check inside to see what we thought about the resort, a video showcasing some of the downhill trail’s, and what all Northstar has to offer.

Location:

Northstar at Tahoe

100 Northstar Drive

Truckee, CA 96161

  • Distance to Reno (airport) – 37 miles about 45 minutes

view of the village (click to enlarge)

Summer Operating Hours:

Weekend Schedule – (5/23 – 6/20) and (9/5 – 10/5)

  • Saturday -Sunday – 10am to 5pm

Daily Schedule – (6/21-9/1)

  • Monday – Thursday – 10am to 4pm
  • Friday – 10am – 7pm
  • Saturday – Sunday – 10am – 5pm

mid-mountain base area (click to enlarge)

History:

“Lake Tahoe has a rich history. For years, the shores of Lake Tahoe have attracted millions of visitors. It all started with Washoe native Americans some 10,000 years ago… John C. Fremont was the first non-Native American who set foot on the Lake shore in February of 1844. His exploration party was guided by the legendary scout Kit Carson. The party first viewed part of Lake Tahoe from the top of Red Lake Peak, 10,651 feet elevation, at what is now Carson Pass, located 20 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe.

During the 1860′s Tahoe became the center of a lively commerce involving the silver mines in Virginia City and the Central Pacific Railroad, which was pushing over the Sierra toward the town of Truckee… The modern era of Lake Tahoe really began in 1931, with the completion of the highway around the lake. The highway spelled an end to the age of steamships, and by the 1940′s, put the narrow-gauge railway out of business as well… Luxurious resorts had sprung up all around the lake and while the region was a great success in summer months, it was an isolated pocket of hardy souls during winter months.

The 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley put Lake Tahoe firmly on the map. In 1949 a tree farm was started on Mt. Pluto, where Northstar is located. The Fibreboard Corporation created Trimont Land Company in June 1966 and resort planning began that year. Construction commenced in the spring of 1971, and the mountain opened shortly after for skiing on December 22, 1972.” – www.tahoemountainlodging.com

Events:

Northstar plays host to many events throughout the year on the mountain, in the village, and the surrounding area. They hold monthly XC and DH races on a variety of courses. The village hosts a myriad of events like weekly retro skate nights, star gazing tours, themed movie nights, and wine/candle evenings. There are also numerous golf clinics held at Northstar as well as hiking adventures and live music. Northstar also hosts charity events like the Adventure, Risk & Challenge Fund Raiser.

retro skate night (click to enlarge)

Where to stay:

view of our condo (click to enlarge)

Northstar has a plethora of options for accommodations. They have more than 230 on-site lodging units for rent, which can house about 5500 people. These accommodations range from more hotel like surroundings to condos to luxurious mountain homes. Ski in / Ski out rentals are available with all residences close to the lifts.

view of the kitchen area (click to enlarge)

We stayed in the Ski Trails area in a nice condominium. It featured 2 full baths, a full kitchen, fireplace, 1 queen bed, and 2 twins upstairs. It was a very nice condo with everything you’d need for a vacation stay. We’d suggest trying to get a ground floor room as pushing bikes up the tight staircase can be tiresome. The condo area did have a washer and drier close by with easy access to the lifts and the village.

What to do:

Northstar has a wide range of activities to offer for everyone. From shopping to blazing down the mountain on your bike and everything in between Northstar has tried to cover the spectrum of entertainment for visitors. Their hard work seems to have paid off with the diverse array of people we saw at the resort.

  • Bicycling

This was our first and foremost priority to check out at Northstar. We already had a good idea about what to expect before we set foot on the mountain. Rocks, dust, and more dust was more than plentiful as we took to the downhill trails to see what Northstar had to offer.

entrance to LiveWire (click to enlarge)

They have over 2200 feet of elevation to offer accessible by 3 lifts. In all the park has over 100 miles of trail via 50 different trail routes (XC and DH combined). Northstar has a good variety of trails in the mountain park. The park is 10% beginner oriented, 46% intermediate, and 44% advanced.

jump at the bottom of K-12 area (click to enlarge)

The mountain park is accessed via the Big Springs Express Gondola. Once at the base of the park it is divided into 2 sections. The Tahoe Zephyr Express lift on the right side of the mountain gives you access to their signature trail LiveWire (features a sprinkler system down the entire trail), Gypsy, Boondocks, and Coaster. The left side of the mountain accessible via the Vista Express has many more trails with highlights such as Karpiel, Sticks and Stones, and Dog Bone.

one of many technically rocky shoots on the mountain (click to enlarge)

Some of the more beginner trails can be a bit pedally but fun none the less for those that aren’t advanced experienced riders. LiveWire was a big favorite and had plenty of traffic all day. It gets a lot of traffic but seems to be relatively well maintained thanks to the trail crew and sprinkler system. If you’re into the more advanced riding Sticks and Stones, Karpiel, and Boondocks will be right up your alley with some great features and technically challenging areas.

one of the skill development areas – skinnies and drops are also available for developing skills (click to enlarge)

If you need to rent a bike or equipment Northstar’s Plaza Bikes has you covered. They offered Giant bikes to rent such as the FR Glory, or lesser travel Reign X2 and Trance X2. We’d suggest getting to the shop early (when they first open) to make sure you get a bike to ride. Like most resort rentals, the bikes can get a bit haggard. In the summer the line can get long quite quickly and the rentals go fast. Should you not be up for a full day, Northstar did offer half day pricing.

Plaza Bikes shop and rental store (click to enlarge)

  • Exercise and Fitness

Northstar has 10 tennis courts available as well as 3 swimming pools. They have a full fitness center with machines and free weights. To top it off they have 3 outdoor spa tubs (one with a 26 foot diameter for families).

  • Roller Skating Rink
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skating rink (click to enlarge)

The massive nine thousand square foot skating rink is placed in the middle of the village. It has lots of seating around the perimeter with fire pits. Skate rental is available with many themed skate nights put on throughout the summer.

Seating around the skating rink

  • Apex Bungee Trampoline

(click to enlarge)

Always a hit with the kids, Northstar has a bungee trampoline available to let kids catch some air.

  • Apex Adventure Ropes Course

Challenging network of ropes makes for some good fun and team building exercises.

  • Hiking and Site Seeing

view from the top of the mountain (click to enlarge)

Hiking is accessible via the free chairlift ride. Northstar has a large trail network that is well marked and offers great chances to see some wildlife. If you’re not a hiker you can still ride the chairlifts to the top of the mountain and see the great views.

Other activities:

Northstar also has many other local activities such as fly fishing and horseback riding. Northstar offers a full 18 hole 72 par golf course with driving range and shop. Northstar also has many fine shops and retailers for those interested in shopping or making gifts. You can make your own jewelry at the Farrah Rale Bead Design Studio or make a candle in 30 minutes at the Village Candle Shop.

What to eat:

Big Wave Burritos (click to enlarge)

Northstar has several nice places to eat at the resort. We got to check out several of them and they were all very good. Each offers a good variety of food at decent prices. Big Wave Burritos is a favorite hangout of many riders. They have some nice beer specials and really good burritos. It’s also a great place to catch some Wi-Fi if you need it (just need to purchase something from them to get the code).

Mikuni (click to enlarge)

Mikuni is Northstar’s sushi joint. They have a wide selection of sushi and Japanese dishes. Everything they make is made to order and is very good.

Rubicon Pizza Company (click to enlarge)

Rubicon Pizza Company was a hit with us. They had a really good meaty pizza on the menu, Big Mountain, as well as some interesting artwork. They also stock a full bar.

If you need to visit the grocery store Northstar has you covered with their Bread and Butter and Earthly Delights shops. Both stock a variety of food to prepare meals and fix later. Safeway is also available in Kings Beach via the free shuttle.

What to do off resort:

If you want to get off resort there are several options you can choose from for various activities. Northstar itself offers a very handy shuttle service that will take you throughout the village from 8am to 10pm. It’s easy to make a reservation and have them pick you up. If you need to get to Truckee or the North Shore free service is available hourly from 7am-8pm at TART stops.

view at Gar Woods (click to enlarge)

We didn’t check out Truckee but we did spend a little time around Kings Beach. It’s a quaint area with a couple of casinos and several shops and restaurants. The best place we ate at on the whole trip was Gar Woods. We went for their Wet Woody Wednesday and had a great time. It sits on the lake at Carnelian Bay and is well worth the effort to sample some great local food. If you’re looking for a unique and beautiful downhill mountain bike destination to visit, make sure to include Northstar in your list of options.

[Northstar at Tahoe Gallery] [Northstar at Tahoe Website]