The Lowdown on Lift Tickets - 2021 Season



 

** Info in this blog is up to date as of the week of January 25, 2021. **

 

Rumors abound about rules for the mountain this year, and most of them are at least partially untrue. 

 

Rumor #1: You can't travel to Tahoe. Was True - now False! As of Jan. 25, the previous Stay-At-Home Order has been lifted for Bay Area counties. So as long as you're staying safe, staying with your pod and keeping your mask on at all times, you're good to go!


Rumor #2: Tahoe is closed. False. The ski resorts, filed under "outdoor recreation areas" have been open the whole time. Plus, as of January 25th, short term rentals are open again! El Dorado and Placer counties have been placed back in the Purple Tier for California's Blueprint for a Safer Economy matrix. 


Rumor #3: You need a reservation to go to the mountain. Sorta False. You will need to buy a ticket online before heading up (everywhere except Donner), but this can usually be done right up until the day you want to go, depending on availability. Most days at most places available, though with the recently lifted stay at home orders and impending dump of snow, make sure you check before you go.

Please check the website for the specific resort you want to visit ahead of time to make sure you’re up to date. This information is specifically focused on lift tickets and parking; for specific COVID policies and responses, please visit the website of the resort you are hoping to visit. However, here are some general rules that are true everywhere:

  1. Wear a mask.
  2. Only get on the lift with your pod. Some resorts allow singles to sit on the furthest seats from one another.
  3. Your car is your base lodge.
  4. RFID tickets have been gaining in popularity, but this year they are the norm. Keep them in a pocket by themselves, usually on the left side of your body, for contactless entrance onto the lift. Many resorts also offer options to reload an existing day pass once you have the initial card.


My key takeaways for this season are 1) skiing in Tahoe doesn’t have to be as expensive as one might think, and 2) there’s tons of availability for you to boop up to the mountains safely this winter.

In no particular order, aka the order in which I remembered they exist, here's the lowdown on your favorite Tahoe ski areas:

LIFT TICKETS: Squaw/Alpine crunched the data on their average visitorship per day and have a calculated number of tickets available for each day of the season. Reservations are not required, but you do need to buy the ticket digitally on their website or app before you go to pick it up. They haven’t been selling out, so as long as you’re following the SIP orders, get after it! If you can call 18+ days in advance to order your tickets they will mail them to you. 


PARKING: You do not need to reserve parking, and the shuttle is running between the two mountains.

BONUS: You can now buy advance half-day passes. No more toddling around the parking lot waiting for the clock to strike noon. If you want to do a half day, sign up for a half day (though they’re not as cheap as you might like).

REFUNDS: Squaw/Alpine is being flexible with their refunds this year in the uncertain times of COVID. Give them a call at 1.800.403.0206, preferably within 48 hours of the date of your ticket reservation and they will work with you to get a full refund. They also have a cancellation form for canceling lessons, rentals, and demos, also within 48 hours.

 

PLUS: Basementeers get the best deals on lift tickets to Squaw | Alpine! Grab your mask and head into any Sports Basement store and ask for a free coupon code to shop for lift tickets online. Learn more here.

GET TICKETS TO SQUAW | ALPINE

 

LIFT TICKETS: Tickets are not available for walkup purchase, but must be purchased ahead of time on the Kirkwood website. Ticket availability is updated on Wednesdays, so check back if your desired date is sold out and you might get lucky! Only a few days are sold out for the season so far, and they have a very flexible refund system in place.


PARKING: You do not need to reserve parking, and there are several lots that are always free. Parking in certain lots is not free on weekends and holidays. They have a shuttle running to take you where you need to go around resort property.


REFUNDS: Day passes are refundable until 12 noon on the date of intended use. They can be cancelled online ahead of time by filling out their Refund Request Form, or in person at the window.

HOT TIP: “For the biggest savings, buy 7+ days in advance.”

GET TICKETS TO KIRKWOOD

 

LIFT TICKETS: Tickets are currently available for every day of the season! Homewood is keeping close tabs on the number of tickets released for each day, though it seems that SIP and general fear about COVID are keeping people from the mountains. Reserve your spot early for the biggest discounts and to secure your ticket to ride. Please note that if you purchase a multi-day pass, it is to be redeemed for consecutive days from the initial day of use.

 

From their customer service team: “After you purchase your tickets, you will receive an email confirmation from us with a QR code at the bottom of the email. Once you arrive at Homewood, you may use your mobile device or a printout of this email to redeem your ticket by scanning this QR code at one of our outdoor, contactless kiosks at the base of the resort. These kiosks will automatically issue your RFID lift ticket, which is reloadable and reusable for your next visit to Homewood.”

Once you get your first ticket from Homewood, you can reload the RFID pass by logging into your account on their site.


PARKING: Parking reservations are required, along with your ticket reservation. It costs $5 per day, and is an add-on when you make your ticket reservation.


REFUNDS: Lift tickets are not transferable or refundable.

From their site: “We’re no rocket scientists, but we like to think that fewer skiers per acre could result in a higher percentage of powder turns?”

GET TICKETS TO HOMEWOOD

 

LIFT TICKETS: They have tickets available for everyday through the end of January, and are releasing more if you’re looking further down the road.  


REFUNDS: If you have a ticket reservation and need to change it, you can fill out the Reservation Change Request Form. Discounted pre-sale lift tickets are non-refundable but the value can be applied to a later date if your plans change.

GET TICKETS TO MOUNT ROSE

 

LIFT TICKETS: As with all the other resorts this season, lift tickets should be purchased online in advance. Once you make your online ticket reservation, you can head to the mountain. Follow these steps to pickup your lift ticket. Tickets are RFID enabled; your digital ticket confirmation is not your lift ticket.

1) After purchasing ticket(s) online, print your QR code from home or save the confirmation email on your phone.
2) When you arrive, head to a contactless pickup box located next to ticket windows in the base area for contactless service.
3) Using your phone or printed email, scan the QR code.
4) Your RFID card(s) will print. Place card in left-side pocket.
5) Proceed to lift and enjoy your day!


PARKING: Get to the mountain early to ensure you get a place to park, or sign up for their Preferred Parking Pass ($30 per day) to ensure a spot. Their lots open at 7am everyday, and lifts open at 9am. They are limiting parking capacity; sign up for text alerts ahead of time to see if it’s worth the drive.

 

PARKING: Tickets are non-transferable and non-refundable, so make sure you’re certain of your dates before you book.

GET TICKETS TO SIERRA AT TAHOE

 

LIFT TICKETS: Tickets are not available for walkup purchase, but must be purchased ahead of time on the Heavenly website. If your desired dates have no availability, check back in a couple days and you might witness a miracle! Other guests may cancel their reservations, leaving more spots open for you. Only a few days are sold out for the season so far, and they have a very flexible refund system in place.


PARKING: You do not need to reserve parking, and there are several lots that are always free. Additionally, they have shuttle services running between the lots and the lifts for your convenience. Mask on!


REFUNDS: Day passes are refundable until 12 noon, Tahoe time, on the date of intended use. They can be cancelled online ahead of time by filling out their Refund Request Form, or in person at the window.

GET TICKETS TO HEAVENLY

 

LIFT TICKETS: Tickets are not available for walkup purchase, but must be purchased ahead of time on the Northstar website. If your desired dates have no availability, check back in a couple days and you might witness a miracle! Other guests may cancel their reservations, leaving more spots open for you. Only a few days are sold out for the season so far, and they have a very flexible refund system in place.


PARKING: Free parking will be available daily in the Village View and Castle Peak lots on a first-come, first-served basis. From there, guests can walk to or take a quick shuttle ride to The Village. The Lower Village Premium lot allows you to park just steps away from the gondola. Lower Village Premium Parking costs $20 per day Monday-Friday (non-peak) and $40 on weekends and holidays. Premium parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking in Lower Village is complimentary after 2pm.


REFUNDS: Day passes are refundable until 12 noon on the date of intended use. They can be cancelled online ahead of time by filling out their Refund Request Form, or in person at the window.

GET TICKETS TO NORTHSTAR

 

LIFT TICKETS: Tickets must be purchased online, but you can do so up until the day you want to use them depending on availability. There don’t seem to be any sold out days yet, but lock your days in early to avoid disappointment. When you arrive at the resort, head over to the Will Call Ticket Windows to pick up your actual pass.


PARKING: Premium slope-side paid parking will be offered on most weekend and peak dates. Diamond Peak will not be utilizing the parking lots at Sierra Nevada University, Aspen Grove or the Lakeshore Drive Overflow Lot this winter. Trams and shuttle busses (including the Community Ski Shuttle and Hyatt Ski Shuttle) will be operating at reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. Mask up, hop on, and get on the slopes.


REFUNDS: “Lift tickets, rental equipment, Last Tracks tickets, and other products purchased online in advance are valid only on the date(s) they were purchased for and are non-refundable, unless the resort is fully closed for the day. In the event the resort is fully closed, guests will be given the choice of choosing an alternate day or receiving a refund on any products purchased. Diamond Peak is not responsible for road conditions or closures that might prevent guests from making it to the resort on time.”

From their site: Check out Penguin Pete in their adorable COVID FAQ video, and learn a bit more about their safety precautions for the season.

GET TICKETS TO DIAMOND PEAK

 

LIFT TICKETS: As with all of the other ski resorts, you must buy your ticket online, by 11:59 pm the day before you intend to use it. They have a limited number of tickets available each day at each price point; the longer you wait to buy, the more you might pay. But availability looks good for the current release, with tickets ranging from $62.50 to $132 for an adult single day pass. And if you don’t see any lift tickets available on a particular day, check back. Sugar Bowl is monitoring their sales and adjusting inventory levels regularly.


PARKING: Their Preferred Parking spots are sold out for the season, but there is free parking in several lots available by Judah Lodge.


REFUNDS: If you cannot make the dates of your purchased lift tickets, have a confirmed COVID case, or are precluded from travel by Shelter in Place closures, throw yourself on the mercy of the Customer Care crew. You can request a refund or a change of dates, and they will get back to you within 10 business days. A hopeful addendum from their site: “We've updated our cancellation policy to accommodate those who cannot feasibly visit Sugar Bowl on a day trip to the mountain.” Bay Area peeps, just know this might not apply to you.

GET TICKETS TO SUGAR BOWL

 

LIFT TICKETS: Probably the only resort ranch where you can still walk up to the window and buy a ticket for that old school feel. Save interaction time by printing off and filling out their liability release form. And though it says it is the “Tubing Release” form, it does list all winter activities. In summary: don’t run over the other kids, whether you’re skiing, riding, sledding, or tubing.


PARKING: From their site: “Our Parking Lot restrictions will limit the size of our crowds. If a parking lot is blocked off we have reached our capacity. Please arrive early to guarantee a parking spot.”


REFUNDS: Not an issue because you can’t have a ticket unless you go up that day! Ah, the good old days.

VISIT DONNER SKI RANCH SITE

 

LIFT TICKETS: Listen ya’ll, no where on the planet can you find a $25 day pass for all ages. Unless you’re going to Boreal’s Feel Good Friday, that is! Other tickets are a bit more. Anywho, they have a staggered entrance system in place called “Go Time.” So if your desired start time seems sold out, try a different time and you’ll probably get lucky. Ski into the night with the Accelerator and Castle Peak chairs spinning until 8pm. After your first visit, you can reload your day pass by signing into your account and purchasing additional days.


PARKING: “Convenient, easy-access parking is located at the base of Boreal Mountain California and the Woodward Tahoe facility just off the I-80. During the winter season parking is only permitted for paid Boreal / Woodward guests with pre-purchased lift tickets or other product reservations. Parking for backcountry and other snow access is not permitted. Parking may require a fee for guests without advance purchase reservations or depending on time of year.”


REFUNDS: Tickets are non-refundable.

GET TICKETS TO BOREAL

 

LIFT TICKETS: Online, advance purchase lift tickets are required, but no worries because there’s tons of availability for the season. Save your email confirmation for contactless pass pickup at the kiosks at Soda Springs Lodge. After your first visit, you can reload your day pass by signing into your account and purchasing additional days.


PARKING: “Convenient, easy-access parking is located at Soda Springs Mountain Resort in a main parking area, plus two overflow lots. During the winter season parking is only permitted for paid Soda Springs Mountain Resort guests with pre-purchased lift tickets, a season pass or Mountain Adventure access. Parking for backcountry and other snow access is not permitted. Parking may require a fee for guests without advance purchase reservations or depending on time of year.”


REFUNDS: The Soda Springs would rather work with you for a change of dates rather than have you show up sick. “If you are feeling sick, have signs of respiratory illness or a fever. You may contact our Guest Services team and we’ll work with you to reschedule your visit for another time.”

GET TICKETS TO SODA SPRINGS

 

3 comments

  • Jim says...

    1. Does Sports Basement have Bear Valley adult and child lift tickets and if so, how much are each type?
    2. Does the Campbell store have have the Bear Valley lift tickets?
    3. If not, which store has them?
    4. If Sports Basement doesn’t have Bear Valley lift tickets, do you know who might have them in the South Bay area?

    Thanks.

    On February 01, 2021
  • Chris says...

    Thanks Ben! Also there is still a statewide travel advisory, that didn’t go away.
    That’s separate from the lifting of the stay at home orders.
    Very misleading.
    https://covid19.ca.gov/travel/

    On January 28, 2021
  • Ben says...

    As of today (January 26), Santa Clara County and San Francisco still have mandatory 10-day quarantine required for people who travel into the county from more than 150 miles away. That omission makes your answer to Rumor #1 misleading. You can go travel to Tahoe, but you then you have to quarantine when you come back.

    On January 28, 2021

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