chickadee ridge reno

Low-Risk Outdoor Winter Activities in Reno

It is January in Reno and there is nothing better than to get outdoors in the open air with your family! There are almost 300 sunny days per year in Reno, and that makes for some beautiful bluebird days.

Ski resorts on both sides of the California Nevada border are open and operating with modifications this season.

Heading to a popular ski resort or trail means exposure to groups of people outside your family bubble. This means extra planning, precautions, limitations, and a thoughtful approach to planning it in the first place. You must evaluate the risk for your family.

Low-risk Covid-19 winter activities in Reno

The following is a guide to low-risk Covid-19 winter activities in Reno. There are several family-friendly ski resorts with safety measures in place, activities offered, and other ways of enjoying the great outdoors during Covid-19.

Social Distance

Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and snow hiking are great for maintaining social distance because they are activities done outdoors, in open air, with face coverings, goggles and gloves, and you can stick with your family group. (the risk comes with some of the things inherent to going to a resort: waiting in line, riding shuttles, using lifts or gondolas, public bathrooms, using rental equipment, indoor spaces.)

The resorts have come up with clever ways to mitigate the problems associated with people from different families congregating in one location.

Read on and I’ll tell you what resorts are doing to keep you and your family safe. There are things you can do to plan ahead and reduce exposure risk, too.


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Wear a Mask

Wearing masks when visiting North Lake Tahoe is required. It has been mandated by both California and Nevada.

Inside: wearing a face mask or a face covering when in a public location is required.

Outside: wearing a face mask or a face covering when coming within 6 feet of other groups is required.

outdoor winter activities

Skiing and Snowboarding: My Top 5

These destinations are within reasonable driving distance from Reno and are family-friendly.

Before you Buy

There are many factors that affect the cost of your lift ticket. Age of participants, days desired (weekday or weekend), half-day or full-day, multiple-day pass or season pass. The timing that you buy— buying well in advance you will get a better deal.

Almost all resorts now require you to buy tickets online and in advance. Some resorts like Northstar and Sugar Bowl no longer have season passes available for 2020/2021.

First check the resort website that you plan to visit for ticket options, specials, deals, and sales.

Then check onthesnow.com to compare lift ticket prices and season pass prices. Their website, twitter, and instagram features webcams, weather reports, resort reviews and price comparisons that can come in handy while planning.

Take into consideration if you’ll be renting equipment and/or taking lessons. These costs are independent of the lift ticket purchase. Costs can add up fast for an average family.

If you will be participating in winter sports every season, look into deals and purchase your own equipment. evo.com and backcountry.com are top sites to check out for deals.

Check the Snow Report

Find out up-to-date snow totals at the resort you’re going to visit. You should find out the new snow totals in the last 24 hours, base depth average and forecast before going.

Closest to Reno: Mt. Rose

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe

Location: 25 miles from Reno

Activities: Skiing and Snowboarding

Age your child can take lessons:  6+

Food options: Bring your own snacks and water. Some ready-to-go hot and cold food options.

Lift Ticket Price (estimate for 1 adult): Weekend: $125 / Weekday: $105 / Half Day: $90 / Season Pass: $750

Equipment Rental Price (estimate): Adults: $60 including helmet / Kids: $40 including helmet

Tips: Mt. Rose now offers ticket plus rental package deals through online reservations.

Notes: No Sledding or Tubing.

Northstar

Location: 37 miles from Reno

Activities: Skiing, Snowboarding, Cross Country Skiing, Fat Tire Biking, Snowshoeing

Age your child can take lessons: age 3

Food: Bring your own snacks and water. Some ready-to-go hot and cold food options.

Lift Ticket Price (estimate for 1 adult) Weekend: $154 / Weekday: $137 / Season Pass: $939.

Equipment Rental Price (estimate): Adults: $68 including helmet / Kids: $52 including helmet

Tips: Reservations only. No half-day tickets. Season passes are no longer available for the 2020/21 season.

Notes: No Ice Skating or Tubing. No childcare. No indoor dining. Bars closed.

Donner Ski Ranch

Location: 41 miles from Reno

Activities: Skiing, Snowboarding, Tubing

Age your child can take lessons: No age limit

Food: Bring your own snacks and water. Some ready-to-go hot and cold food options.

Lift Ticket Price (estimate for 1 adult): Weekend: $89 / Weekday: $49 / Half Day: $69 / Season Pass: $489

Equipment Rental Price (estimate): Adults: $65 including poles and helmet / Kids: $59 including poles and helmet / Ages 0-5: $20

Tips: Online reservations are not required. No group lessons. Private lessons are available to book 48 hours prior to your visit.

Notes: No lockers available. Portable restrooms only.

Sugar Bowl

Location: 42 miles from Reno

Activities: Skiing, Snowboarding

Age your child can take lessons: age 8+ group lessons/ no age limit for private lessons

Food: Bring your own snacks and water. Some ready-to-go hot and cold food options.

Lift Ticket Price (estimate for 1 adult): Weekend: $125 / Weekday: $89 / 2 Day Pass: $236 / Season Pass: $829.

Equipment Rental Price (estimate): Adults: $64 including helmet / Kids: $55 including helmet

Tips: Advance, online purchases are required. No day-of, walk-up tickets, rentals or lessons will be available. There will be no opportunity to purchase a lift ticket on the day of your visit. Season passes are no longer available for the 2020/21 season.

Soda Springs

Location: 45 miles from Reno

Activities: Skiing, Snowboarding, Tubing

Age your child can take lessons: age 7/ 3+ for private “family lesson”

Food: Bring your own snacks and water. Some ready-to-go hot and cold food options. You can order food ahead of time online.

Lift Ticket Price (estimate for all ages): Weekend: $44 / Weekday: $44 / Season Pass: $239 (adult).

Equipment Rental Price (estimate): Adults: $45 including helmet / Kids: $45 including helmet

Note: Complimentary rental equipment (skis/snowboard/helmet) is available or guests with a shoe size 4 or below.

Tips: Daily lift tickets must be purchased online prior to arrival. Only guests with valid daily tickets or a season pass will be able to access indoor facilities like restrooms or picking up rental equipment.

Notes: Closed Tuesday-Wednesday. “Mountain Adventure” is a kid-safe area with many non-skiing and newbie activities.

Cross Country “Nordic” Skiing: Best Pick

Royal Gorge 

Location: 46 miles from Reno

Activities: Cross country skiing, skate skiing, snowshoeing and dog trails

Age your child can take lessons: 6

Food: Bring your own snacks and water. Some ready-to-go hot and cold food options.

All Day XC Trail Pass: Adult: $39 / Child under 12: $10 / Dog: $5.

Equipment Rental Price: Adults and kids: $30 full day. No helmet is necessary.

Tips: All daily trail passes, rentals, and lessons need to be purchased online in advance. Season passes are no longer available for the 2020/21 season.

Notes: This is North America’s largest cross country resort. This resort has dog-friendly trails.

mt rose chickadee ridge

Snowshoeing: Chickadee Ridge Experience

Mt. Rose Meadows

Location: 29 miles from Reno

Hike length: 2.1 miles, out and back

Activities: Sledding and Snowshoeing for all skill levels

Directions: Chickadee Ridge is located 1.2 miles southwest of Mt. Rose Summit. Park along the side of Mt. Rose Highway to access the trailhead. It begins in the dense forest area. Follow the established trail up to the elevated area, Chickadee Ridge, for the lookout over the lake and the chirping birds—  you will have amazing views from above Lake Tahoe!

Tips: Rent snowshoes for the whole family from Galena Sports, a local ski and gear shop on your way to Mt. Rose. Pack a handful of birdseed to feed the chickadees right out of your hand. These birds are so used to people that they will land on an outstretched hand even without food. Download the AllTrails App on your phone to help you along the way!

Notes: This hike is dog-friendly. Snowshoes are recommended but if the snow is packed with no fresh snow, it can be done in snow boots.

Hiking: Galena Creek Nature Trail

Galena Creek

Location: 20 miles from Reno (Galena Creek Regional Park)

Hike length: 1 mile loop

Activities: Sledding, Snowshoeing, Hiking for all skill levels

Directions: Take 580S to NV-431. Take exit 24. Merge onto Mt. Rose Hwy. Destination will be on the right. South Entrance.

Tips: Rent snowshoes for the whole family from Galena Sports, a local ski and gear shop minutes from Galena Creek.

Notes: The trail has 18 signposts with information about the ecology and cultural history of the area. Grab a brochure when you first enter the park. Galena Creek is dog-friendly. I love this trail so much I have written about it before!

Health and Safety Updates for 2021

As I said earlier, resorts have come up with solutions to decrease the spread of Covid-19 from people in different families congregating in one location. A mask mandate, enforced social distancing (in the lift queue and chairlifts too), contactless payments, no half-day tickets (at some resorts), no childcare, no indoor seating, grab-and-go food only, no bars open and capacity limitations are just the start.

If you visit the website of the resort you plan to visit, you can be sure there is a whole section dedicated to new rules in place, modifications, and closures meant to keep your family safe.

The most popular resorts no longer sell season tickets because they want to avoid overcrowding. Online tickets sales are used [almost] across the board no matter where you go— this way the resort can plan exactly how many guests will be visiting at one time.

At Mt. Rose, they are limiting daily skier visits substantially on average peak days.

The Health and Safety tab on the RenoTahoe website has the most comprehensive list of updates and protocols.

winter snowshoeing reno nevada

Do your Part

Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snow hiking fall under the umbrella of Outdoor Recreation and therefore ski resorts and state parks can operate during this uncertain time. It’s a fact that being outside in fresh air and exercising is good for the body and mind.

Just this week, the greater Sacramento area [including resorts I mentioned] exited the state’s Stay at Home order, and this affected the resorts because lodging has become available again in Tahoe.

The best thing you can do is:

  • plan and reserve ahead of time
  • go early and on weekdays if possible
  • educate yourself on new rules and protocols
  • wear your mask at all times
  • social distance
  • wash hands often
  • arrive together and ski together
  • stay at home if you feel sick
  • bring your own food and drinks
  • be respectful of others
  • leave no trace

Enjoy the great outdoors!

Have you planned any winter activities in Reno for your family yet this season? What was your experience?

Maureen Lowe
Maureen Lowe

Maureen Lowe is a Bay Area native that relocated to the high desert mountains of Southwest Reno with her family in 2017. Mama to her active pup and toddler boy, Maureen is a textile designer and graduate of CCA San Francisco. With a lifelong love of nature and the arts, Maureen has made it a mission to explore Reno’s scenic trails and cultural offerings to find kid and dog-friendly outings that work in all seasons.