by Tracie Vollgraf
I’m not going to lie; planning a ski vacation as a single mom (who doesn’t ski) with your best friend and five kids, ages 9,9,9,7 and 6 is no easy task. There’s a lot of packing, a lot of gear and, of course, snow to maneuver! However, if you are looking for a fabulous winter adventure your entire family will enjoy and remember forever, then we found your must-visit destination at Northstar California Resort. With fresh snow falling almost daily this season, Tahoe is a winter wonderland beckoning your family to visit!
Alpine Relaxed Luxury
Northstar encompasses the quintessential laid-back luxury for modern families. Mixing the swanky alpine village vibe with epic outdoor adventures make Northstar the ideal winter family vacation spot. Whether you are an experienced skier or looking to get on the slopes for the first time, Northstar provides plenty of options for all levels of adrenaline junkies.
Northstar not only offers an abundance of premier outdoor activities including skiing, snowboarding, tubing, sledding, snowshoeing, cross county and more, but it is centered around upscale shopping, savory culinary delights and scenery which beckons you to relax and enjoy. Lounge about the inviting fire pits strategically located around the heart of the village while you watch the kids ice skate, grab a hot toddy from one of the cozy restaurants or Cabana Bars, or a steaming cup of coffee at the Starbuck’s hub. If window shopping is your vice, there is plenty of retail therapy to be found!
Time to Get the Kids on the Slopes!
My particular goal this trip was to provide the kids with the tools they needed to feel comfortable on skis. The best way to do this? Enroll them in a ski lesson to help build their confidence on the slopes. We woke up early and grabbed a quick breakfast in the Village on our way to Northstar’s Kids’ Ski School check-in area. Although I was a fish out of water, we were welcomed by knowledgeable Northstar staff members who took us under their wings and guided us through the process.
The kids were lead to the equipment room where they were fitted in top-of-the line safety gear including helmets, boots and skis. Although a flurry of activity, the staff was efficient and professional and amazingly patient with kids of all ages. We were then introduced to their instructor, Kendall who was a bundle of energy, which resonated our rambunctiously anxious group. She explained to us all what she would be working on with the kids, what her goals were for them and where they would be located most of the day and where we could pick them up. She invited us to watch from the roped off area at our discretion. The all-day lesson started at 9:00, took a break for lunch at 12:00 and ended at 3:30.
Once the kiddos were up and running, we eventually caught a ride up the gondola to take a sneak peek at the action. Standing in the large roped off area, it was astonishing to see how comfortable they actually were on skis! The “magic carpet” lift took them up the hill where they started off on lower levels and eventually worked their way up. The higher up they ventured, they gained more confidence and skill. I couldn’t help but notice how well each instructor adapted to the various ages and skill levels.
In the short 20 minutes we stood there watching, each child was able to glide across the snow in a mostly controlled fashion, using the wedge stop when necessary. At one point the three nine year olds were maneuvering around cones and able to make turns as they went. At that point we knew they were in good hands so we headed off on an adventure of our own!
EpicMix is a super handy app that tracks what lifts were used at what time, vertical feet traveled and has a report card from the instructor stating the kids’ ski level as well as a check list of individual skills demonstrated. Also available on the app for anyone on the mountain are maps, race results and photos taken on the mountain by EpicMix photographers. At the end of the lesson we were given a stack of great snaps of the kids in all their glory on the slopes. Something we wouldn’t have seen if not for EpicMix.
You too, Moms!
Although the adults (aka, Moms) in our party did not participate in the “ski” portion of this trip, returning to Northstar this year is their 4Her Ski and Board Program, designed specifically for women that caters to Moms. This program allows you to join fellow women and a female coach to learn or brush up on skiing in a smallgroup setting, from the foundation-building basics of a “first-timer” class, to navigating the easiest greens, to sharing tactics and camaraderie on more advanced green runs. It’s perfect for women looking to get involved in the sport after a hiatus, or honing your skills in a more challenging setting with like-minded skiers. Following the lesson, the women are invited to enjoy a glass of wine and participate in a tech talk in True North in The Village at Northstar. Here they cover questions on skiing, riding, and women-specific equipment by professionals, finishing in time to pick their children up from their lessons.
Date Day/Night Anyone?
If a little alone time with your significant other is what you seek, there are plenty of romantic restaurants to pop into, both in and around the Village. Wine bar Petra offers over 150 wines to choose from and a warm and inviting ambience. Want to catch the Warriors game? Then head on over to TC’s Pub for a burger and Bloody Mary in front of the fire. Hop on the gondola located steps away from the Village and ride up to The Ritz Carlton for a fire-side drink and amazing views. Mountain-top dining is also available at Zephyr where they also offer monthly Mountain Table Dining Series. Perhaps a movie at Village Cinemas is more your speed, or a couples’ massage at Balance Holistic Health Spa. Whatever you are in the mood for, it’s easy to find in the Village!
Did Someone Say Child Care?
If your kids aren’t up for skiing or taking lessons, but you want to get out on the slopes or covet the abovementioned date night, don’t worry. Guests at Northstar California can take advantage of the Minor’s Camp, a licensed childcare facility that will keep little ones ages 2–6 busy with fun activities and outdoor play.
Relax and Unwind Once back in the Village, we headed over to the newly opened Tahoe Yoga & Wellness Center for a relaxing hour of much-needed restorative yoga. There we were able to unwind, destress and decompress, if only for 60 minutes. The instructor was helpful and able to adapt to everyone’s comfort level. Highly recommended for anyone looking to escape!
At Tavern 6330’, located at the end of Village Run, we grabbed a scrumptious lunch and yet another amazing Bloody Mary. This mountain American Grill inspired by California farm fresh ingredients features the sophistication of a white tablecloth restaurant with the relaxed, inviting atmosphere you’d expect in the mountains. With a full kid’s menu and s’more making on the outdoor patio, the whole family is welcome, but it is also a great date night locale.
Time for Pick Up
We headed up the steps around 3:15 to wait for the kids and hear all about their adventure. They were all smiles walking up with their instructor, Kendall. Kendall then provided a full report on the day, noting what each child learned, what their strengths were and what they can work on moving forward. The kids were very attached to her, one even exclaiming that skiing was her new sport! We thanked Kendall, tipped her for the day (recommended) and jumped on the free gondola to head up to The Ritz for their daily “Marshmallogy”. At 4:30 each day “Marshmallogy”, an upscale s’mores party happens on their patio. Guests choose from traditional or flavored marshmallows, roast them over the fire pits and relax after a fun-filled day of snow sports.
Sunday Fun Day
Sunday brought a non-stop flurry of snow. Since it was a bit chilly, we opted to partake in some of the Village’s activities. The kids braved the elements on the ice rink for a while, then we strolled over to The Village Candle Shop, Pottery, Painting and more. Here you will find a large studio with endless craft ideas. The studio has space for small or large groups, and tables perfect for children of all ages. The knowledgeable staff can assist you in making candles or mosaics, or help you get all the supplies you need to make one at home. Bear Village is an area inside the Villager Candle Shop where you can create your own unique stuffed animal and accessories, similar to Build-a-Bear. The kids stayed busy for a few hours, watched as their candles were made and were quite proud of themselves and their creations.
Lodging at the Village
You can find just about any type of accommodation in and around Northstar. Whether you are looking for high-end luxury at the Ritz-Carlton. Lake Tahoe, or a more budget-conscious option for a family of six, you can find it here. We stayed in a three bedroom two bath condo with a full kitchen, family room and dining room which was perfect for seven of us. The kids were able to spread out and play their games, watch TV or the snow falling outside the window. Allowing the Moms ample time to catch up and enjoy a glass of wine. The accessibility to the Village is unbelievably convenient with a complimentary shuttle that picks you up curbside.
Whether you’re looking for an adventure or just want to relax in a welcoming environment with family and friends, definitely add Northstar to your bucket list.