Lake Tahoe is one of the top ski and snowboard destinations in the United States. With several resorts to choose from and gorgeous scenery featuring the sparkling blue lake, it’s easy to see why skiing enthusiasts flock here every winter. However, due to its immense popularity and high quality, lift tickets in the Lake Tahoe area are not cheap. (I looked into a few of the resorts in the area and they’ll run approximately 3x what we paid when we skied in the Alps.) What if I told you that there was a way to ski for free at Lake Tahoe? Gather ’round and I’ll tell you the little-known deal that will get you on the slopes at one of three premiere resorts for $0.
Four ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area offer free or discounted lift tickets for travelers with same-day boarding passes ending at the Reno-Tahoe Airport. Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, and Sierra-at-Tahoe all provide free lift tickets, and Mt. Rose offers a big discount. All you have to do to get one of these is present your boarding pass and photo ID. This was the perfect deal for someone like me who only had an afternoon to ski anyway (I had to spend the rest of my week at work), but it’s also great if you’ve booked a resort stay but didn’t want to pay for a full day of skiing on your travel day. You could also use it as a way to sample another ski resort if you’ve booked one for most of your stay but want to check out a different one before settling in.
My free lift ticket for Squaw Valley
I chose Squaw Valley as my ski destination due to its history as the site of the 1960 Olympics and I was not disappointed. Upon arrival at the resort you’ve selected, head to the ticket office and present your boarding pass and a photo ID. If you have a mobile boarding pass, you may need to email them a copy.
The free lift ticket deal doesn’t include gear rental, so you’ll either need to rent or bring your own. I own my own skis, so I brought mine with me for a truly free skiing experience. Gear rental will likely run you more than $50, so I’d bring your skis or snowboard if you have them. Since my airline status allows me free checked bags, I really did get away with just paying for food.
The drive to Squaw Valley took a little less than an hour, and getting there in mid-afternoon meant that I was driving opposite a steady flow of traffic. When I got close to Squaw Valley, there were signs saying that the parking lot was closed, but the massive amount of cars that appeared to be leaving made me think that I’d have a decent chance of finding a spot. I went ahead and turned down the road for parking and found plenty of spaces. By the time I got all of my ski gear on in the parking lot (putting your snow pants on before your ski boots is a good start) and lugged my skis and poles up to the lift area, I was down to about two hours until closing time.
Skiing at Squaw Valley
I’d been a bit nervous about my prospects when I arrived because I’m not exactly the greatest skier. Despite having learned as a kid, I haven’t done much skiing outside of southern Michigan landfills. Fortunately, I found a lot of great terrain at Squaw Valley for beginners and intermediate skiers, so I had an awesome time. The snow conditions were perfect and the skies were blue. I’ve returned two more times on free lift tickets since my first visit and I’ve never had a bad experience.
The walk back to my rental car with my skis was hard on my tired legs, but my two-hour free skiing adventure was so worth it. My constant business travel isn’t always easy, but moments like this remind me of how very lucky I am to have opportunities like this.
You can find out more about the free lift ticket offer at the Reno-Tahoe airport here.
Check out these other great Lake Tahoe tips:
- Squaw Valley for Beginners
- Ten Best South Lake Tahoe Restaurants
- Hiking Your Way to a Spectacular View of Lake Tahoe
- How to Use the LimeBikes in South Lake Tahoe
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