Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Northstar at Tahoe: Winter 2013

What is Northstar at Tahoe??
Northstar at Tahoe is a ski area located in the North Lake Tahoe area. Northstar has (when everything is open, of course) 19 lifts, 93 trails, 7 terrain parks, both an 18ft and a 22ft superpipe, and 104 "features" (some nice snowboarder can fill me in here on what "features" are ). The mountain includes a wide variety of terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. In 2008-2009, thirteen million dollars were invested into the betterment of the mountain, including the construction of the Martis Express quad chair, serving an additional 414 acres of blues and blacks on the far side of Lookout Mountain. Northstar is associated with "Northstar Village," a complete promenade including high end shopping, dining, accommodations, and the all important Starbucks. For more info try


Northstar Village after dark
Where is Northstar at Tahoe?
Access from the Bay Area is from Interstate 80 East to Highway 267 through the town of Truckee. The nearest towns are King's Beach and Truckee. Northstar's website boasts a three hour ride from the Bay Area—but in my opinion this is if you are considering Fairfield to be part of the Bay Area.

Where can you stay??
Okay, well the first disclosure is that I personally have not stayed at Northstar for about 16 years, before Northstar Village was even built. My references come from our friends who just stayed the weekend of January 31-February 3, and from a lot of additional research.

Our friends stayed in VRBO rental #344903 ( , which is a 1BR + Loft/1 BA condominium right in the heart of Northstar Village. The beauty of this rental is its location which is right at the base of the mountain. This unit is referred to as a "ski-in, ski-out" condo, which means you only have to do is slap on your ticket (which hopefully you bought in advance-more on that later), walk out the door with your equipment, jump on the gondola, and go. Of course, the unit is brand-spanking new—having just been completed in 2005. The rental also comes with covered secure parking and free access to the fitness center, lap pool, and hot tub.
View from loft out to balcony

View from living room of kitchen and staircase to loft

The unit sleeps 6-8 in this arrangement. Two queen beds are in a loft above the kitchen. In the loft itself, there is a ladder that accesses two twin beds—so basically 6 people could be sleeping in the loft, that's tight. There is also a pull out bed downstairs. This is why I always advise to assume the unit sleeps the minimum of the range listed.

But the price is the real kicker. Get ready. On a Friday or Saturday night during the winter, this unit rents for $429! $429!! Sunday through Thursday you get a break-350$ per night. Christmas and ski week the price per night is even more than $429. For $429 I better have my own bedroom (and maybe someone there to rub my feet and cook my meals.) The cost of a three night stay over the weekend is going to run $1208—which may not include taxes.

Okay, these friends are off the hook because I have discovered the new epitome of travel insanity. I just found out that other friends of mine will be spending the latter half of President's week staying at the Ritz-Carlton Tahoe ( , a mid-mountain ski-in, ski-out resort and spa, which opened in December of 2009.  A standard room with two queen beds, and oh yeah, a fireplace will run you 850$ a night during President's week. The taxes on the room bring the nightly fee up to $979.38!! The room doesn't even have a mini-fridge. A 25$ resort fee is charged daily, and I hope you didn't bring your car, because parking is going to cost you another 35$ per day. Literally, over one thousand dollars per night for a standard room

The Ritz-Carlton Tahoe
In a million years I just can't say that I get it. I mean, no standard room is worth one thousand dollars a night! I'm not even going to even compare prices with this place because it's so off the charts for the average GoFamily family!

(Now I must gently speak to the fact that if my friends—who I adore—read my blog they might be slightly mad at me! I hope not! The blog is about value vacationing, and the above mentioned accommodations are clearly a splurge!! Have a great time, my friends! We won't be vacationing together, but we can sip margaritas in my backyard whenever you like!)

Let's look at some other Northstar rentals that are a little more GoFamilyGo valuable! VRBO rental #67310 ( is a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house right on Donner Lake. The house sleeps 6. The price for this rental is $175 per night with a $75 cleaning fee, so really over three nights we're looking at $200 per night. The unit has linens provided, a dishwasher, parking, and a full kitchen—basically what the Northstar Village loft condo has. All the reviews are 5 stars. The only inconvenience is the 15 minute drive from the property to the Northstar ski resort. Hmm—save $230 nightly and all I have to do is drive in the morning? Sounds pretty good to me…

This rental has plenty of room for less money
I would rather overlook Donner Lake than Northstar Village!
GoFamilyGo Savings Alert!!
By staying in the non-resort based accommodation instead of the Northstar Village loft condo, a family of four to six would have saved $690 dollars on accommodations alone over three nights.

"But, but, but," you may say, "I want to be right there! I don't want to drive! Once my car is parked I don't want to look at it!" Well, it's going to cost you but there are still more reasonable and valuable options.  VRBO property #387753( is a 3 bedroom 2 bath Northstar condo that sleeps six. There is no cleaning fee, no resort fee, no parking fee. This property will run you $325 nightly during the winter. It has all the amenities that the Northstar Village loft has, just a lot more space, including sleeping privacy for mom and dad—something I personally think is critical when you are spending this type of money. For a mere two dollars per person, you also have access to the pool, the hot tub, and the fitness center in Northstar Village. Access to Northstar Village is by a free 5 minute shuttle ride which runs continuously during the day. It's not ski in and ski out, but neither is in drive in and drive out, if that's important to you.

A lot more space for less money, and still at Northstar!

By staying just outside of Northstar Village, a family of four to six would have still saved over 300$ over three nights on accommodations alone.

Lift Tickets: Lift Tickets at Northstar cost:
$105 Adult
$90 Teen (13-18)
$62 Child (5-12)

You can get a discount on your ticket (10$ off adult, 4$ off teen, 7$ off child-why less off for teens??) if you buy it online three days before your arrival. Of course a multiday ticket is a better deal. A multiday pass purchased at Northstar can be used at both Heavenly and Kirkwood resorts as well. A multiday ticket purchased at Kirkwood can only be used at Kirkwood and a multiday ticket purchased at Heavenly can be used at Heavenly, Kirkwood, and half the days of the pass can be used at Northstar. That's confusing. Incidentally, on high season days, such as MLK weekend, Northstar raises the prices of their lift tickets. That's lame.
If you think you will ski enough, a season pass may be the way to go at Northstar. We heard from other friends of ours (also visiting Northstar during the upcoming President's week) that it only takes about 5 days of skiing to cover the cost of a season pass if the season pass is purchased on special the season before.

GoFamilyGo Savings Alert!
By buying my tickets online and in advance, my family of five will save a total of $76 over two days of skiing.

Ski Equipment Rentals:
Northstar has a variety of ski equipment rental packages available. The everyday run of the house skis are rented for 52$ if you are over thirteen years of age, 32$ if you are between the ages of 3-12. (Interestingly, 3 and 4 year olds ski for free, but their equipment is not free!) Renting over multiple days will lower your average daily charge.
Adults can rent "performance" skis for 60$ daily and "demo" skis for 72$.
My suggestion—find a place in nearby Truckee as you drive in or rent your skis at home. These exorbitant prices plus the lines and crowds you will have to deal with renting at Northstar are not worth it! In Truckee try Tahoe Dave's Ski and Boards ( A basic adult or child ski package is 29$ and you even get a 10% discount if you make your equipment rental reservation online. Black Tie Ski Rentals ( is more, but will deliver your equipment to you!
GoFamilyGo Savings Alert!!
By getting my ski equipment at Tahoe Dave's instead of at Northstar, my family of five is going to save $179 over a weekend of skiing.

Lift Lines/Crowds:
When I skied at Northstar in the days of the fixed double chair, lift lines at Northstar could be ghastly! Many lift lines even mid week could reach up to 40 minutes. I also really hated that at Northstar the lift operators would always fill the "empty spot" on the chair, forcing you to ride with a stranger. I found this a little creepy as a kid.
Well, though the operators are still going to make sure that every chair destined for the top of the slope is full, the word on the street is that because of the speed and capacity of the lifts, (there is even a "six-pack" chair now!) lift lines are less of a nuisance. I would love some comment on this!!

Adding it up!!
There is absolutely no doubt that taking your GoFamily to Northstar to ski is going to be considerably more expensive than taking them to our beloved Dodge Ridge. However, if you make some good choices in terms of lodging, lift tickets, and rentals, it is possible for a family like mine to save more than $550 dollars. That, mind you, is still staying in Northstar. Almost like having your cake and eating it too! If you can skip the cake and stay in a nearby city, the savings can be considerably more.

With rentals from Tahoe Daves, lift tickets purchased in advance, and staying at the Northstar Drive 3Br condo my GoFamily of five is going to spend $1968 for a two day, three night stay.

The same trip at Dodge Ridge costs my family of five $1348, a $600 savings.

Thank you for reading this post! GoFamily is on the road again next weekend back to Dodge Ridge for more skiing. A near future post will share the details of our return to the Pinecrest Lake Resort!



  1. Hey great post here! I loved all the comparison of the properties and prices..It's really pays to shop around. I totally agree I'd rather overlook a lake than Northstar Village..I heard the crowds are so bad there which makes me sad. I loved that place as a kid..Dodge Ridge is the best many runs and no lines! Let's keep it under wraps, or it will become like Tahoe soon!

    I'm saving this for the great links! Have a fun trip.



Leave me a comment! I would love to hear from you!!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...