South Lake Tahoe Ski School Smackdown - 510 Families
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South Lake Tahoe Ski School Smackdown

What are the main differences between South Lake Tahoe Ski Schools at Heavenly Resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe, and Kirkwood? Can a parent figure this out before shelling out hundreds of dollars? Let us share our research with you! I interviewed my good friend, Raphe, a father of two in Berkeley to get his experience. Please add yours to the comments below.

For cheaper thrills, check out our guides to snow tubing for families and where to play in the snow near the Bay Area.

South Lake Ski School smackdown: Heavenly vs Sierra-at-Tahoe
Happy in the S. Lake Tahoe snow | Photo: Raphe Goldman

How do you decide if a ski school is “worth it”?

I think there are two metrics to think about:

  1. The kids’ experience (duh). (a) Do they enjoy it and (b) do they learn anything? Actually, the enjoyment part is probably most important, because if it’s fun, they want to do it more – and so they learn over time.
  2. The logistics — i.e., the parents’ experience. Some places make it quick and easy to drop off the kids and get your own butt on to the slopes, others have lots of waiting and lines. This may seem kinda whiny, but you end up paying hundreds of dollars to get lift tickets and rent equipment and stuff for the day, and it sucks to lose part of that day waiting around.

How would you compare the South Lake Tahoe Ski Schools?

Kids Ski Group Lessons at Heavenly

For about $300, a child, aged 5 to 14, can get a full-day group ski or snowboarding lesson complete with gear rental and a single-day lift ticket. Half day lessons begin at age three. The price changes if you purchase multiple days or don’t need a lift ticket or gear.

The kid lessons are reliably good on both of my success metrics. Kid drop-off is generally easy and smooth and only requires one line because the instructors take the kids and get them whatever equipment they need while you scamper off to have fun. My kids have mostly enjoyed the lessons. Accounts are sketchy (because they come from my kids), but the success may be due to a well-organized day or lots of hot chocolate. Probably both.

Heavenly is expensive in all regards, including ski lessons, but in my experience, you get what you pay for. Strong recommend.

Website >
California Lodge Location: 3860 Saddle Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA
Getting there and parking >

Child Snowboard Group Lessons at Kirkwood Mountain Resort

About an hour south of South Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood is an unfussy mountain resort with lessons for kids and adults. For about $250, a child (ages 5 to 14) can get a full-day group snowboard or ski lesson on the slopes at Kirkwood. Half-day lessons are available for kids as young as 3. The price changes for multiple sequential days or if you come with your own gear. Smaller and much less crowded than Heavenly, it is a good option for some families, but it can also sell out.

small children holding skis at group lesson at Kirkwood
Little kids having a half-day ski lesson at Kirkwood’s Timber Creek | Photo: Navin K via Yelp

Website >
Location: 1501 Kirkwood Meadows Drive, Kirkwood, CA
Getting there and parking >

Sierra-at-Tahoe youth lessons

After extensive damage from the 2021 Caldor Fire, Sierra-at-Tahoe has reopened with new terrain and trails (a lot fewer trees!) so some of our prior experiences may not directly apply (like when the hot chocolate machine was busted and the kids revolted!). Read about the reopening >

Youth ski and snowboarding lessons begin at age 4 and continue through teens and adults. Sierra-at-Tahoe also has an adaptive lesson program for physical and intellectual disabilities beginning at age 7. Full day lesson packages begin around $300 including lesson, lift ticket, and gear rental. Discounts apply for multi-packs of lessons.

Website >
Location: 1111 Sierra-At-Tahoe Rd, Twin Bridges, CA
Getting there and parking >

Have you checked out these South Lake Tahoe ski schools with your kids? Let us know what you experienced!

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