Only 3 hours from mountainous Lake Tahoe -- in a state that really, really likes to drive -- San Franciscans grow up making "burrito runs": grabbing a breakfast burrito at one's favorite Mexican joint, filling up an SUV with pals and the nation's priciest gas, bolting to California ski resorts, shredding all day and driving home. Some NorCal hills slide right down into Lake Tahoe itself; others arrive at wonderfully empty spaces we thought no longer existed in the Golden State.
The historic motherland of Bay Area ski trips, Sugar Bowl was founded in 1939 by an Austrian ski instructor who leaned on his most famous client for seed money, which is why its main peak is called Mt. Disney. Sugar Bowl is by no means the largest of the Tahoe resorts, but it feels big, due to the mighty Sierra all around and an amazing 500 inches of snow per year.
Squaw Valley has been rocking skiers' imaginations since 1960, when it hosted the Winter Olympics. The resort represents the Sierras at their steepest and most photogenic. Indeed, Squaw Valley has been nicknamed "Squawllywood" for all the ski and snowboard films made here, as well as for the number of superstars whose careers it has launched. Squaw has become vastly more fun to visit in the last decade, thanks to its new pedestrian-friendly village, which bustles with folks in heated pursuit of boutique shopping, caramel macchiato and darn good sushi.