Alpine Meadows Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

  • Vertical (ft)
    6,835 – 8,637 (1,802)
  • Average Snow Fall
    450 inches
  • Lifts (13)
    1 fast 6-pack
    2 high speed quads
  • Ski Season
    Nov to mid May
  • Terrain Summary
    Ski area - 2,400 acres
    Runs - 100+
    Beginner - 25%
    Intermediate - 40%
    Advanced - 35%

Alpine Meadows Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Alpine Meadows Resort has really interesting terrain with plenty of variety on offer for advanced and expert riders in the form of alpine steeps (it’s not called Alpine for nothing), chutes, gullies, bumps, tree skiing, and plenty of rock features to launch off, on both the front side of the hill and the south facing backside. Alpine Meadows Tahoe also has some “meadows” in the form of very gentle slopes near the base area, whilst intermediates have cruisers over most of the ski resort, including a few groomers on the backside.

Ski Alpine Meadows Resort on a Powder Day

Sometimes a set of circumstances conspires against having a truly great time at a ski hill. For the Powderhounds’ first visit to Alpine Meadows Resort, 6-8 feet of snow fell over three days. Whilst the howling storm raged, Alpine Meadows Tahoe was essentially shut down. Avalanche hazards and strong winds spelt trouble for the resort. The feeling of frustration at not being able to ski was only slightly balanced out by the anticipation that comes when Mother Nature is absolutely puking its guts out.

On the morning following the storm, the ski hill was draped in more powder than you’d find on Kate Moss’s dressing room table. Sadly though, as a result of all that snow and the associated avalanche hazard, the access road was closed and no resort staff could get to work on the hill. The Powderhounds found themselves in the bizarre position of being in a powder laden resort at 8.30am (after staying at the Stanford Alpine Chalet), and no one to operate any lifts.

When the first lift finally opened, a veritable riot broke out. Rude, pushy people flailing elbows in the lift line, jeers at any empty chairs, skis and stocks used as weapons of line reduction................. At least there was powder to satiate the savage beasts – just. Relief only came when our nasal passages ceased to function due to powder ingress. Mmmmm, powder ingress.

Sadly for boarders (and some skiers), the Alpine Meadows Resort has too many long flat run outs and traverses when there’s powder. Some of the resort’s signature terrain also suffers from inconsistent or interrupted fall line. Whether that means much to you when in three feet of fresh is up for debate.

Alpine Meadows Lifts

An odd mix of the old and only 3 fast chairs, the lift system is a bit like Squaw Valley in that it has many lifts that are simply redundant and/or duplicitous. The most important lift at Alpine Meadows Tahoe is the Summit Six. It provides access to the majority of the terrain. Most of the other lifts don’t really matter.

The Backside is accessed via the Summit Six (+ High Traverse and hike) or the Sherwood chair (the second most important chair). The Backside is an area of mainly advanced and expert terrain and comprises cornices, bowls and steeps. Some intermediate terrain is accessible from the Sherwood chair.

Other chairs that service additional terrain are the Lakeview (which is great for a lake view…obviously) and Scott. The Alpine Bowl Chair services some interesting terrain and is the closest to Ward Peak – Alpine’s high point (8,637feet). Utilising this (if it’s running) saves a lot of major long run outs to the base area.

Lift Tickets

Lift ticket prices at the Alpine Meadows Resort used to be inexpensive relative to other major ski resorts but now that Alpine Meadows has a shared lift ticket with Squaw Valley Ski Resort, they are outrageously expensive, just like Squaw.

If you plan to visit multiple North American ski resorts, you might want to check out the Ikon Pass and the Mountain Collective pass, which can provide some great savings.

Alpine Meadows Snow

Alpine Meadows gets around 450 inches of the white stuff annually (which is slightly above average for the major Tahoe resorts). That’s a lot! In fact it’s nearly as much as Niseko Japan and Snowbird Utah (to mention just a couple!). But all that snow doesn’t mean it’s the same as Japan or Utah, because it’s not. Big dumps of snow (6 to 8 feet when the Powderhounds first visited) are common, but then so are long periods of that nasty big red orb in the sky. The powder is a lot heavier than Utah or Colorado, but you know what, if you find yourself in 3 feet of Lake Tahoe powder instead of in Utah – are you gonna complain?

Many of the slopes on the frontside of Alpine are north facing so the snow stays in reasonable condition. The Scott chair is west facing so the snow is OK, whilst the backside is mostly south facing and the snow is good for powder days and then after that it turns to Sierra cement, Sierra slush, or Sierra scarce.

Ski Alpine Meadows - for the Beginner

Supposedly 25% of the trails are for beginners but I think someone just plucked a number out of the air because there is very little green terrain. The terrain that exists is excellent because it’s dedicated to beginners who are not likely to get intimidated by fast skiers.

A couple of chairs near the base area are for beginners. They service essentially flat terrain appropriate for absolute rank starters. The Subway chair is the first stop, with the longer Meadow chair seen to be the next progression, then the Hot Wheels chair.

Intermediate Skiing and Snowboarding

If you’re an intermediate you can ski Alpine Meadows with a fair bit of glee. The Roundhouse, Hot Wheels, Lakeside and the Summit Six chairs provide the real intermediate terrain. Much of it is reasonably mellow with the occasional steep-ish pitch thrown in.

Terrain Park

There are a handful of small and medium hits off the Hot Wheels chair. If you’re an experienced park dude, go somewhere else.

Alpine Meadows Skiing - Advanced

Take care on a low vis day as the trail map or signage doesn’t provide distinction between single and double blacks.

There is a lot of joy for the advanced snow rider at Alpine Meadows, but long traverses and some flat exits can become rather tiresome. That whinge aside, there is a heap of advanced terrain mainly centred on the Summit Six and Scott chairs, and also the vast Backside. Don’t be afraid to hike here. Some of the best terrain is only a few paces away!

Expert Skiing and Riding

Cornices and steep chutes plus a few rocks and cliffs make for some expert fun at Alpine Meadows. A few of the better areas require some short hiking. There are no real thigh burning challenges but enough high angle terrain and air to give one a case of the yips. Cornices are everywhere and can be hucked ‘til your hearts content.

For some challenging steeps try the area far skiers’ right off the top of Alpine Bowl Chair (ABC) near the Pallisades and Keyhole, plus skiers’ right off the Scott Chair.

For the Powder Hound

Get in line early on a powder day at the Summit Six. It’s likely not much else will open for a bit, so traverse skiers’ left and start cutting laps. You can continue cutting laps skiers’ left by traversing (and hiking) further and further around the mountain and dropping in where there are freshies. If you make it all the way out to Bernie’s Bowl and the Buttress, you’ve done well.

If you get left behind on a powder day, you’ll find yourself following the tracks of some VERY serious skiers all day long. The best thing you can hope for is that Squaw Valley opens a lot of its terrain on the same morning. This might reduce the crowd numbers.