For the first time, Homewood Mountain Resort breaks into the top Pacific rankings of our Reader Resort Survey. Many are discovering this "sleeper of the Tahoe region," as one reader puts it, with its exceptional scenery and hard-to-beat value. "Incredible beauty," professes another. Located on Tahoe's West Shore, Homewood has eight lifts spread over 1,260 acres. Its lakeside location is both blessing and bane: It makes for the "best views of Tahoe in the Sierras," but environmental concerns hamper attempts to upgrade its Sixties-style facilities. As a result, the shoreline resort offers no high-speed chairlifts or polished amenities. "Lifts are old and slow," a reader complains. But what Homewood lacks in luxury, it makes up for with some of the best powder skiing in the region. With 8,740-foot Ellis Peak to block high winds, Homewood's snow typically comes down loose and fluffy rather than crystallized. Much of the resort's terrain faces north or northeast, so the snow stays cold and dry. From the top of the mountain, skiers can cruise the Rainbow Ridge and Glory Hole groomers. More than half of Homewood's terrain is tagged for intermediates, but particularly beefy steeps on Quail Face and the Hobbit Land sate thrill-seeking appetites. Riders are drawn to Homewood's multiple terrain parks, such as the Sherwood Forest park, which has hosted World Cup and national competitions. Kids ages 4 to 12 stay happy in the beginners Snowstars Program and in Supersliders, an inexpensive group-lesson program for more experienced skiers. Best of all, lift tickets are now free for accompanied children 11 and younger. When it's free, who needs amenities?
(-) "Slow, beat-up lifts." "Stark amenities."