Northstar California: a guide to the mountain for kids, by kids

After multiple trips to Northstar California resort with my kids, I asked them what, in their opinion, kids shouldn’t miss on the slopes. Their top picks:

northstar with kids

Cat’s Face, the 22-foot half-pipe: Built for Olympic medalist Shaun White (who recently selected Northstar as his home resort), this intimidating half-pipe (with vertical sides 22 feet tall) is used by Shawn for training purposes…but open to the public when he’s away (which is nearly all the time). The kids (and parents!) dared go down it…and had a blast once our hearts stopped dropping into our stomachs!

The Northstar Terrain Park off Vista chair: When snow depth allows, this huge terrain park splits into both medium and small sections, but the groomers and designers in charge of the various features are such masters (Northstar is known for this) that no matter how much (or little) snow the resort has to work with, there are a variety of options for everyone from beginners to experts.

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Mom Tip: if you have young kids who are not terrain park experts, but still love to spend time tearing it up there, go in the morning. The park will be far less crowded, ensuring that your kids don’t get hurt by other riders and skiers (and also don’t get in the way of more serious athletes).

Lookout Link: This poma bar lift serves as a quick transfer to Lookout Mountain (which is great for glade skiing, by the way) and is located right below the new Zephyr Lodge. The novelty of a poma bar is fun for those who haven’t tried it (even beginners can do it) and a bit of nostalgia for those parents who grew up with them!

Sawtooth Ridge: For expert skiers and riders, this glade with gated opening to the far side of Backside is a great place to play. Check whether it’s open before embarking on this off-piste section! Additional off-piste terrain on Backside that’s open more often: from the top of the Backside Express, take a left along the ridge to find several gates with tree skiing.

The Stash: The Stash, located toward the bottom of the Zephyr Express lift, is an inspired wonderland of natural elements and features, such as logs to slide along, tunnels, and even a cabin skiers and boarders can ride off the roof of when snow levels are high enough! Consider The Stash an all-natural terrain park, with tree skiing added in! (Smaller ‘Adventure Parks’ are located throughout the mountain for younger skiers, too.)

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Mom Tip: Since terrain can change drastically, even during the course of a single vacation, we love that the Northstar grooming team always lets guests know which runs have been groomed overnight. Just check for the orange symbol on trail signage!

The Woods route back to the Village: This (not so) secret route back to the Northstar Village is a great alternative to the super crowded Village Way. (In the late afternoons, that route can become downright congested.) Find the entrance to The Woods run at the end of the Cat’s Face super half-pipe.

Powder Bowl off East Ridge: From the top of the Comstock chair, cruise along the East Ridge to Powder Bowl. If you have advanced skiers and riders, take the black diamond Powder Bowl chute, and if you have intermediate abilities, take the Powder Bowl trail. Either option will drop you into a fun, open bowl with multiple tree glade trails, jumps, and bumps. Kids can make their own path, or stick to wider open intermediate terrain, and meet parents by the Rendezvous chair (all routes lead in this direction).

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For moms and dads (and kids): Check out Tost, offered on the East Ridge off Comstock Express at 2 pm daily. This fun Northstar event includes complimentary champagne for adults and sparkling cider for kids. In sunny weather, sit on bean bag chairs or Adirondack chairs.

Tubing! Don’t forget about tubing! Located mid-mountain right above the Day Lodge (look for the Tubing Yurt), the tubing track at Northstar is faster than most (and these kids have tried many!). Tubing tickets are sold separately (buy them for $30/hour in the Village where you buy lift tickets…you won’t need more than one hour). It’s a great choice for non-skiers who still want to spend time on the mountain. Kids can go in a ‘train’ of two or more tubes (at the operators’ discretion), which makes it even more fun. We opted to tube during our day off skiing, and it made for an entertaining morning activity. Parents who don’t want to purchase tickets can easily watch hill-side.

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How did the Pit Stops kids’ know where all this cool stuff was? They started their vacation with a private family lesson, during which their instructor, Jon, showed them all over the mountain. Not only did the kids get great instruction, but they got their own private tour guide while enjoying fast pass line access! Families can add up to six people to one private lesson, making it a very good value. And I hear (though I wasn’t allowed to see for myself) that there’s a secret kids-only lodge for lesson attendees, where the hot chocolate and marshmallows flow freely!

Want to see some of the action for yourself? Time for a Pit Stops for Kids’ Kid Cam!

The kids thank Northstar for allowing them to experience the mountain with both a private instructor, and later, with boring old Mom and Dad.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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