Northstar-at-Tahoe not just an alpine destination
The Northstar Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Center is a cozy, friendly, family-centered wilderness experience floating in a sea of world class resort amenities.
It is located next to the alpine facilities at mid-mountain. The Nordic trail systems spreading out to the east and west serve as wings to escape the loud, crackling rock music and hurtling bodies of the alpine area. There are 48K of trails spread over 200 acres, which receive 300 inches of show per year. The altitude varies from 6,900 to 7,800 feet; the varied terrain offers both challenges and restful cruises.
The meticulously groomed trails amble through a white fir forest (protective from the wind), as well as meadows and some panoramic views. A few trails are shared with the alpine skiers.
The best beginner route goes up Forest Trail and Sawmill Flat 2.7K to a caboose serving as a warming hut. Although Forest is rated intermediate, anybody with a functioning snowplow technique should be able to handle it. If not, there is nothing wrong with taking off your skis and walking down the steeper parts.
If you still have energy after reaching the caboose, Lumberjack and Tahoe trails to the south lead 3.6K to a spectacular view of Lake Tahoe and its surrounding mountains. Taking Lumberjack northward leads to the Swiss Hut, which has panoramic views to the north and east.
A more advanced trail from the caboose takes you on a 5.6K climb up High Country. The view of the lake from the top is not quite as good as the lower one, but you have the opportunity to take Freefall, the resort’s best downhill, 1.3K back down.
Roundabout, Sawmill Flat and Forest will take you back to the Nordic center. The smaller trail network to the west offers a teaching area, beginner trails without requiring travel on its intermediate trails, and it has its own warming hut.
Northstar rents classic, telemark and skating skis, as well as snowshoes. Its location right next to the alpine lifts makes it an ideal place to learn to telemark. The instructors are quite skilled at this, as well as all other Nordic techniques. The Nordic center provides drinks, snacks, sandwiches, and soups. More substantial fare is available in the lodge a few buildings down, and even more culinary choices are available at Northstar Village.
Lodging and various combination deals are available through Northstar Reservations (1-800-GO-NORTH), which can provide anything from a studio condo to a spacious home. Childcare is also available at the mid-mountain alpine area.
The typical Northstar guest is somebody staying at the resort who wants to try something different. Fifty percent do classic skiing, 40 percent snowshoeing, and the other 10 percent telemark and skate skiing.
From time to time, an entire grammar school class will come by to ski. Special events include monthly telemark clinics and moonlight snowshoe and Nordic tours. There is also a snowshoe tour led by a naturalist every Sunday, women’s clinics and a gourmet Nordic and snowshoe tour on March 28. The Village at Northstar offers many dining and aprs ski opportunities, as well as shuttle service to Truckee, Tahoe’s North Shore and Reno.
To get there, take Highway 267 south from Truckee or north from Tahoe, turn west on Northstar Drive and follow directions to the park with the alpine skiers. Go to the lift ticket office and get a complementary pass to go on the gondola. Get off the gondola and turn right; the Nordic center, the last building on your right, is where you can get a trail pass and any equipment or services you need. Your trail pass covers travel on the Big Springs gondola and the Echo triple chair (when it is open).
For more information, visit http://www.skinorthstar.com.
John Eaton is a PSIA level I instructor at Royal Gorge-USA Cross Country Ski Resort. This is the sixth in a series of cross-country ski reviews by Eaton.