Northern California With Kids: All Together Now At Northstar-at-Tahoe
National Geographic Traveler columnist Christopher Elliott recently visited northern California with his family. This is the fourth of six reports. Read the first and second and third posts.
Northstar-at-Tahoe isn’t the first ski resort we’ve visited as a family. Just last week, we checked out the slopes in nearby Heavenly. And last year, we took the kids to Beaver Creek, and the year before that, to Steamboat Springs in Colorado.
But we’ve never skied together as a family–all five of us. Until now.
They say Northstar is the place to go for that. There’s a variety of terrain, ranging from super-easy to somewhat challenging. And they offer deals for families, including generous discounts on lessons and a special Parents Predicament lift ticket that can be swapped between parents and is useful for adults with very young children.
Also, we didn’t get any eye-rolls when we walked into the new Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe for an afternoon snack.
You know the eye-rolls, don’t you? The ones that say, “Great, why did they have to come in on my shift?” None of that.
The northern Lake Tahoe area is a world away from the high-energy southern shore, where we had stayed a few days earlier. No casinos here–they’re all on the Nevada side. It feels more subdued, like a quiet mountain hideaway, which is what a ski resort should feel like when you’re learning the basics.
We had rented our equipment from a company called Black Tie Skis, which delivers your skis, boots and poles to your hotel and then picks it up when you’re done. They have locations on both sides of the lake, so we didn’t have to worry about returning our gear to Heavenly when we were finished. That’s extra-helpful when you’re on a tight schedule.
Until now, everyone had learned to ski at their own pace: our four-year-old daughter spent all of her time on the bunny slopes, while her two older brothers (ages 5 and 8) sharpened their technique on the more advanced runs. Mom would either follow them around with a camera or take a lesson herself, while I toured the mountain alone or with friends.
But we never did it together.
I have to admit, I was a little nervous about hitting the slopes with my kids on a recent afternoon. First of all, my father taught me how to ski, and I promised my kids I’d let a professional show them how it’s done. I didn’t want to become their ski instructor. Too much pressure!
I also felt a lot like I did in 2002, when the doctor handed me my newborn son and said, “Congratulations, Daddy.” It’s a lot of responsibility. What if one of my kids falls off a chairlift? What if one of them hits a tree? What if they plunge off a cliff?
So here’s how it went down: We rode a slow chairlift up a slope called The Big Easy, and took it nice and slow. Mom and our daughter, Erysse, took it very slow, snowplowing all the way. The boys, to my surprise, wanted to not only go fast, but also take jumps and try 180s.
What were they teaching them at ski school?
Our togetherness was short-lived. The boys begged me to take them up Vista Express and Arrow Express, which services some excellent intermediate terrain. The girls decided to stay on the Big Easy.
We had a few close calls, to be sure. At one point, Iden, our five-year-old, almost got whacked by a detachable quad lift he was trying to board. A helpful lift attendant boosted him safely into his seat. And my oldest son, Aren, took a pretty incredible spill on an icy advanced slope, losing a ski. He was fine, too.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
As we skied back to the village at Northstar, I heard Iden yelling something.
“Thank you,” he said.
“For what?” I asked.
“Thank you for being our teacher today.”
(Video by Kari Haugeto, a.k.a., Mom, taken on a Flip and edited in Final Cut Pro.)
Christopher Elliott writes The Insider column for Traveler and blogs at www.Elliott.org.