Visiting California and looking to experience a powder day? Keep reading for our list of the top resorts in the state.
As skiers and snowboarders ourselves, we know that there’s nothing quite like waking up on a crystal clear bluebird morning. The first few runs through fresh powder are usually the best runs of the day.
On a typical winter day, you’ll see me on my snowboard and Mike on his skis as we carve our way down the mountain.
When most people think of California, they picture sunny beaches, sprawling metropolises, and palm trees. However, there are some mountains in California that offer incredible skiing with plenty of powder days.
There are some pretty great towns near these resorts, including one that was frequently used as a filming location for a number of Hollywood movies.
Mike and I love to visit ski towns all over the world and we even met in the ski town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado so you could call us connoisseurs.
California Ski Resorts With The Most Powder Days (Over The Past Decade)
Here’s our list of the California ski resorts with the highest cumulative number of powder days. For each resort on this list, we calculated both the average number of powder days per year and the total over the past 10 years.
1. Palisades Tahoe – 510 days (51 days per year)
Want to ski in the same resort as Olympians? You can at Palisades Tahoe, which was home to the 1960 Olympic Games.
For the record, we think any Olympic ski resort would be worth visiting. However, the 1960 games were special because they were the first ever Olympic games to be televised live.
As a result, millions of people watched the games – and the runs of Palisades Tahoe – from the comfort of their own homes.
Palisades Tahoe is known as a resort with challenging and varied terrain. No matter your level as a skier or snowboarder, the terrain can challenge you.
2. Northstar California – 461 days (46.1 days per year)
The resort’s longest run is 1.4 miles (2.3 km) and Northstar California features 20 lifts and 5 terrain parks. With over 46 average days of powder per season, we definitely think this resort is worth visiting.
You don’t have to take our word for it. In 2018, Northstar California was ranked 2nd best terrain park on the continent by Snowboarder.com.
3. Mammoth Mountain – 453 days (45.3 days per year)
Like its name suggests, Mammoth Mountain is a large ski resort with 3,500 skiable acres. You’ll have your choice of 25 lifts, which includes three gondolas, and nine terrain parks.
Mammoth Mountain is located along the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Inyo National Forest.
The town near the base of Mammoth Mountain is Mammoth Lakes. This idyllic ski town was a popular filming location in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. One of the most famous films shot at Mammoth Lakes is “Call of the Wild” a 1935 movie based on the book of the same name by Jack London.
4. Kirkwood – 443 days (44.3 days per year)
Not too far from Mammoth Mountain is Kirkwood, a resort to the southwest of Lake Tahoe. This mountain is beloved by advanced skiers and snowboarders for its trademark 2-mile long ridgeline. From the ridge, you can drop down into a series of cliffs and cornices.
It’s a bonafide playground for those looking to challenge their abilities on the mountain.
Kirkwood also has some great blue runs, but it’s probably not the best choice for beginners. There are more runs for beginner and intermediate skiers to choose from at nearby Mammoth Mountain.
5. Sugar Bowl Resort – 408 days (40.8 days per year)
Sugar Bowl Resort has a double appeal: not only is it one of the ski resorts in California with the most powder days, it also has a cool off-the-beaten-path feel.
This resort is one of the most conveniently located spots on this list, set only two hours from Sacramento. It’s drivable for a day or a weekend trip from the Bay Area, making it the perfect getaway for ski enthusiasts and families in urban areas of northern California.
The best part? The drive up to Sugar Bowl Resort along Interstate 80 passes snow-covered trees from the surrounding forest. By the time you reach the small town at the base of the resort, you’ll feel like you’re inside a snow globe.
Additional California Powder Day Stats
Don’t see your favorite California ski resort on our list? There are plenty of other ski resorts in California that boast impressive power day numbers.
Heavenly, for example, was just barely edged out by Sugar Bowl Resort for its number of powder days. Located near Lake Tahoe, Heavenly boasts an impressive 4,800 skiable acres and incredible views of the lake from above.
- Heavenly – 407 days (40.7 days per year)
- Boreal Mountain Resort – 360 days (36 days per year)
- Bear Valley – 352 days (35.2 days per year)
- Sierra-at-Tahoe – 351 days (35.1 days per year)
- Homewood – 338 days (33.8 days per year)
- Dodge Ridge – 292 days (29.2 days per year)
- Tahoe Donner – 292 days (29.2 days per year)
- Mt. Shasta Ski Park – 272 days (27.2 days per year)
- June Mountain – 270 days (27 days per year)
- Soda Springs – 221 days (22.1 days per year)
- Ski China Peak – 212 days (21.2 days per year)
- Snow Summit – 157 days (15.7 days per year)
- Bear Mountain – 148 days (14.8 days per year)
- Snow Valley – 129 days (12.9 days per year)
- Mountain High – 121 days (12.1 days per year)
- Donner Ski Ranch – 114 days (11.4 days per year)
- Mt. Baldy – 53 days (5.3 days per year)
- Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area – 50 days (5 days per year)
What is the best temperature for powder skiing?
The best temperature for powder skiing is just below freezing. When the temperatures are between, say, 20 and 30 F, the snow stays fluffy because it isn’t warm enough to melt. The same is true in colder weather, but when the temperatures drop below 20 F it can start to feel uncomfortably frigid.
What is the best ski month in California?
When it comes to skiing in California, you can’t beat the conditions in February most years. To be even more specific, the last week of January and the first weeks of February have the best combination of great snow conditions, minimal crowds, and odds of finding some fresh powder.
Of course, snow conditions vary from year to year, so there’s never a guarantee of perfect weather on the mountain.
What months can you ski in California?
The ski season in California typically starts in mid-November and runs through the first week of May. The seasons are dependent on the conditions, so some years will have longer ski seasons than others.
The Wrap-Up: California Ski Resorts With The Most Powder Days
With this list, we hope you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of powder days while skiing in California. As we can attest from our days living in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, you’re bound to have a great day on the slopes when there’s plenty of fresh snow.
When you’ve finished your runs for the day, go for a happy hour drink and a meal at one of the nearby restaurants. This is known as “après skiing” and is a tradition in ski towns. It’s the perfect way to unwind!
Although it may be a surprise, California’s snowiest resorts are a great place to spend the season.