Live in the San Francisco Bay Area and want to escape for a quick weekend of skiing or snowboarding? Well you’re in luck, as there are plenty of superb resorts which can be reached in less than five hours of traveling. From ski resorts elsewhere in California out to Nevada, Oregon and Colorado, these five resorts should cover all requirements. Skiers can prioritize uncrowded slopes, relaxed and accessible terrain, or tougher trails for more advanced winter fun.
Bear Mountain is an accessible ski resort situated in the San Bernardino mountains of Southern California. Its 200 acres of skiable terrain have slopes for all abilities as well as a great deal of off-piste territory to explore. It doesn’t have anything too challenging for experienced skiers, but it does have terrific terrain parks which draw snowboarders from Los Angeles and beyond. The resort is close to the busy town of Big Bear Lake, which has good restaurants and other attractions such as an Alpine Zoo.
Getting there: The easiest way to reach the resort from San Francisco is to fly to one of two Orange County airports, Long Beach or John Wayne Santa Ana, both of which can be reached nonstop in 1.5 hours for less than $120 return. From Orange County, Big Bear Lake is a 90-minute drive.
Mt. Bachelor is a great ski resort with 88 varied trails threading through one of the largest single mountain ski areas in the United States. It has a good ski school, a reputation for reliably excellent snowfall and expert-level challenges for snowboarders. When not exploring the slopes, visitors can spend their time in the neighboring town of Bend drinking at one of its many microbreweries.
Getting there: Direct flights from San Francisco to Portland take 1 hour and 45 minutes and can usually be found for about $150 return. From Portland it’s a drive of 2 hours and 45 minutes to Bend and Mt. Bachelor’s ski slopes.
Lake Tahoe is famed for its sublimely situated ski resorts, within minutes from the emerald shores of the lake and the glitzy casinos of North Lake Tahoe. Three of the best Lake Tahoe ski resorts are Sugarbowl, Northstar and Diamond Peak, each of which has its own specific strengths. Sugar Bowl has a traditional resort feel and is especially good for intermediate skiers. Northstar is great for those seeking a little luxury and is also very family friendly. And Diamond Peak is more affordable, and very close to the airport in Reno.
Getting there: The quickest way to reach Lake Tahoe from San Francisco is to fly to Reno, one hour direct and typically less than $200 return, and then drive for 45 minutes to the lake.
Perched above the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort offers a mighty contrast to the dusty desert town. It’s reasonably small, with only 30 trails overall, but as almost half of these are advanced it’s a great weekend destination for experienced skiers. And being so close to Las Vegas it offers the rare opportunity to pair a day on the slopes with a pool party.
Getting there: The route between San Francisco and Las Vegas is pretty popular, and the 1.5-hour trip is served by a ton of airlines who offer return trips for around $150.
Breckenridge is a little further to fly from San Francisco than the other resorts listed above, but it has a size and scope beyond any of them. Its 150 trails are served by 31 lifts, including the highest in North America, the appositely-named Imperial Express Superchair. All this is spread across a mighty 2000 acres of skiable terrain and five separate mountains. Plus, the resort is next to the lively town of Breckenridge, which has a ton of activities and restaurants to fill any ski getaway.
Getting there: To get to Breckenridge, fly from San Francisco to Denver in 2.5 hours for around $250 return and then drive to Breckenridge in 1 hour and 45 minutes.