Donner Ski Ranch is one of the many ski resorts located near Lake Tahoe, which include many of California’s finest ski resorts. Some of these, like Squaw Valley and Heavenly Mountain, are large mega resorts, popular with out of town tourists. Others, like Donner Ski Ranch, are more laid-back and relaxed small resorts.
Donner Ski Ranch is one of the oldest ski stations in California. It was founded in 1937, when the Jerry Ellis rope tow was constructed. Beginning near today’s Donner Ranch ski lodge, the tow ran just 75 feet, but was instantly popular.
After the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley,
skiing in the Lake Tahoe area gained international
prestige. Donner Ski Ranch was conveniently located
to take advantage of this newfound popularity.
Located on the historic U.S. Route 40 (the Lincoln
Highway), Donner Ranch ski area is an easy drive
from the San Francisco
Bay area and Reno
Donner Ranch ski area takes its name from Donner Pass, a mountain pass through the northern Sierra Nevada. In the winter of 1846–1847, a party of 83 migrants were trapped in the snows of the pass as they made their way to California. It was months before rescuers came to the aid of the Donner Party. By that time, 40 people had died and some of the survivors had been forced to resort to cannibalism to stay alive.
Today, Donner Ski Resort Tahoe is much more welcoming to visitors. Donner Ranch ski area gets lots of snow — over 30 feet a year — so there are some great powder days on its slopes. It’s located just four miles from Interstate 80, so it is easy to get to. There are 52 runs and 460 acres serviced by six chairlifts. Donner Ranch ski lodge is located at over 7,000 feet above sea level; the vertical rise is about 750 feet and the longest run is over one and a half miles.
Nevertheless, Donner Ski Ranch remains a hidden delight. You will rarely find lift lines or crowded slopes. There is good terrain for all levels, except perhaps for the most expert skiers. Most trails are suitable for intermediate or advanced skiers and snowboarders. There are half pipes and a terrain park for the boarders. Beginners will also find plenty of good runs at Donner Ski Resort Tahoe and great snow on which to ski them.
There are also some spectacular views of Donner Lake and Castle Peak from the top of Donner Ski Ranch. The 360-degree panoramic views from the summit are not to be missed.
The best thing about Donner Ski Resort Tahoe is the laid-back atmosphere. Skiing is not a fashion show for visitors from Los Angeles or the East Coast here. This family-run resort has affordable lift tickets (adult day passes are less than $40 even on weekends and holidays), making it an ideal place to bring a large family for a fun but relaxed day on the slopes.