California offers a lot to outdoor enthusiasts. Thanks to its diverse geography, you can snowboard in the morning and surf in the afternoon. Pretty epic right? Out of all of the 48 lower states, California has the highest number of mountains… an impressive total of 6,106. It is therefore bound to have some excellent shred spots.
In this article, I’ll highlight the best places to snowboard in California, so that you know where to head in the Golden State this winter.
Here are the best places to snowboard in California.
- Mammoth Mountain
- Big Bear Mountain Resorts
- Palisades, Tahoe
- Kirkwood, Lake Tahoe
- Sugar Bowl, Tahoe
Read on to reveal the inside scoop…
1. Mammoth Mountain
- Elevation: 11,053 feet (3,369m)
- Terrain: 3,500 acres (14.1km2)
- Snow Parks: 7
- Lifts: 25
- Off-Piste: Epic tree runs, but head over to The Hemlocks for steep and deep, with plenty of natural features to huck.
Description: Mammoth Mountain is located in Central Eastern California. It is famous for having some of the world's best snowboarding terrain. It also has one of California's largest ski areas, measuring over 3,500 acres!
The large expanse at Mammoth Mountain means there's plenty of shreddable terrain, whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned pro. It also gets about 400" of snow coverage every winter, so there's a good chance you'll get a powder day during your trip.
If you're a freestyler (or a wannabe freestyler), Mammoth Mountain is a great place to go. It has seven world-class snowparks to hone your skills.
Fun Fact: Mammoth Mountain was formed by volcanic eruptions!
- Excellent snow record
- Something for everyone
- Stunning scenery
- Lots of opportunities for freestylers
- It can get really windy, scouring the snow off the mountain.
The prices for a full-day lift ticket at Mammoth Mountain are as follows:
- Children aged 5 to 12: $68 to $84
- Adults aged 23 to 64: $169 to $213
- Young Adults aged 13 to 22: $139 to $171
- Seniors aged 65 to 79: $139 to $171
Mammoth Mountain is about 8-minutes from the Californian town of Mammoth Lakes. It is about a 5-hour drive from Los Angeles, but you can get seasonal flights from San Francisco and Denver to Mammoth Airport. However, Mammoth Airport does suffer from closures in high winds, so consider your options carefully.
2. Big Bear Mountain Resorts
- Elevation: 8,805 ft (2,684 m)
- Terrain: 400 acres (1.6km2) with 55 runs
- Snow Parks: There's freestyle terrain everywhere!
- Lifts: 26
- Off-Piste: Big Bear Mountain Resorts have some of the best steeps in Southern California. Head to the canyons on a powder day.
Description: Big Bear Mountain Resort is another one of the best places to snowboard in California. The area comprises of two ski resorts, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.
Snow Summit is best for intermediate and advanced riders, but there are some great beginner slopes too. The 240 acres of terrain has 27 runs and six snowparks to enjoy. Bear Mountain is famous for its freestyle features. In fact, 85% of the mountain is covered with pipes, boxes, jumps, and rails everywhere, making it a heaven for freestylers.
Fun Fact: The snowmaking facilities cover 100% of the ski area, so there's always good snow cover if the temperatures allow it!
- Superb for freestylers
- A youthful atmosphere
- There are lots of competitions to watch or take part in throughout the season.
- It's not that big, so if freestyle is not your thing, the runs can get repetitive.
The costs of a full-day lift ticket at Big Bear Mountain Resorts are as follows:
- Children aged 5 to 12: $58. to $46
- Teens aged 13 to 17: $115. to $145
- Adults aged 18 to 64: $115 to $145
- Seniors 65 to 79: $94 to $119
- Under 4 and over 80s ride for free!
Big Bear Mountain Resorts are about a 9-minute drive from Big Bear Lake, California, and just over 2 hours from Los Angeles.
3. Palisades Tahoe
- Elevation: 9,050 feet (2758m)
- Terrain: 170+ runs
- Snow Parks: One half pipe, but there's plenty of natural terrain.
- Lifts: 29
- Off-Piste: There are cliffs, steeps, and cornices everywhere. But head to Broken Arrow peak and the Silverado chair after taking a brave pill.
Description: Palisades Tahoe is known for being an excellent all-rounder ski resort. The terrain is made up of two areas, Alpine Meadows and Olympic Valley. The Olympic valley is the best choice for snowboarders, as there are fewer sections you need to traverse on one edge.
Despite Palisades having a reputation for extreme terrain, it does have terrain for all levels and moods. Whether you want to take it easy or scare yourself witless, you'll find a slope that does the trick.
Fun Fact: Warren Miller often filmed locals hucking off cliffs in the 1980s, making the terrain legendary and increasing the resort's popularity.
- Genuinely caters to all abilities
- Impressive freeride terrain
- Great après scene and nightlife
- Excellent lodging options
- It gets busy on a powder day
- Locals can be intimidating to less advanced riders
- Can be expensive
The costs of a full-day lift ticket at Palisades are as follows:
- Free for kids aged 4 and under
- Children aged 5 to 12: $106 to $146
- Teens aged 13 to 17: $136 to $188
- Adults aged 18 to 69: $170 to $209
- Seniors over 70: $136 to $188
The Olympic Valley side of Palisades Tahoe is 11 miles from the town of Truckee and 7 miles from Tahoe City. You can fly to Reno Tahoe International Airport, which is 49 miles away.
4. Kirkwood, Lake Tahoe
- Elevation: 9,800 ft (2987m)
- Terrain: 86 runs across 2,300 acres
- Snow Parks: A couple of options if you like small to medium features.
- Lifts: 15
- Off-Piste: Many chutes, bowls, and tree runs to enjoy.
Description: Kirkwood is one of the best places to snowboard in California because it gets 600" of snow every winter!! It also has its fair share of technical terrain. This will keep the most hardened rider grinning from ear to ear.
This ski resort has a low-key, relaxed atmosphere, so don't expect a bustling town and epic nightlife. This is the kind of place where you go to bed early and get up early to enjoy the bottomless snow.
Kirkwood isn't for you if you're looking for a lively atmosphere and luxury accommodation. But if you want varied terrain, especially if you're an advanced rider, you'll love it.
Fun Fact: Kirkwood is one of the World Freeskiing Tour venues, giving you an idea of what the terrain is like!
- Fantastic terrain for advanced riders
- Lots of snow every year
- Best snow in the Tahoe area
- Low-key and friendly
- Lots of ski-in-ski-out lodgings
- Nothing else to do apart from ride
- The nightlife is pretty much non-existent
Day tickets at Kirkwood cost:
- $129.00 for adults
- $116.00 for seniors and teens
- Kids can ride for $94.00
Kirkwood Mountain Resort is in the Eldorado National Forest. It’s around 34 miles south of the town of South Lake Tahoe. It is also 178 miles from San Francisco.
5. Sugar Bowl
- Elevation: 8,383 feet (2555m)
- Terrain: 100 runs over 1,650 acres
- Snow Parks: Switching Yard is fun and unintimidating
- Lifts: 12
- Off-Piste: Lots to choose from, but head to Crow's Nest for tree runs
Description: Sugar Bowl is one of the best places to snowboard in California for a day or two, especially while staying at one of the other Tahoe resorts. It's not really a place you specifically go to for a vacation.
Many people visit Sugar Bowl for weekends or day trips. It's the closest ski area to Sacramento and San Francisco's Bay Area. However, it is still less crowded than some of Tahoe's higher-profile resorts.
One of the best things about Sugar Bowl is that it gets about 500" of snow every winter; only Kirkwood receives more. It also has excellent snowmaking facilities that can cover 25% of the slopes when it gets a bit thin.
Fun Fact: Sugar Bowl is one of the oldest ski resorts in California, opening in 1937! When it opened, you could ride the lift for $0.25 and ski back down for $2.
- Down to earth vibe and is not pretentious
- Great place to visit while staying in other Tahoe resorts
- Not as crowded as higher-profile resorts
- Consistent fantastic snowfall
- Lots of side country and backcountry terrain
- Not as polished as other resorts
- Not much in the way of nightlife
- It doesn't take long for the snow to turn into "Sierra Cement."
Sugar Bowl’s day ticket prices are as follows:
- Adult: $129 – $150,
- Young Adult 13-22: $103 – $119
- Child 6-12: $59 – $87
- Child 5 & Under: Free
- Seniors 65-74: $88 – $122
- Super Seniors over 75: $59 – $87
Sugar bowl Ski Resort is just off the I-80, 10 miles from Truckee, and about 24 miles from Lake Tahoe.
Those were the best places to snowboard in California!
Trust me, you’ll have a great time at any of them. My personal recommendation would be to stay at one of the main resorts – you can then make side-trips to the other local resorts on the list.
Disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’re thinking about venturing outside of California, check out some more of our other snowboarding destinations.