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Visitor's Guide to Winter Weekend Traffic and Ski Area Parking Reservations

February 14, 2024
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We love weekends as much as anyone else, but weekend traffic can sure put a damper on a winter trip to Truckee-Tahoe. If you're visiting during the holidays or winter peak periods (typically Dec-Feb), this guide will help you plan ahead, avoid crowds, and have a great time while you're here.

Make Your Ski Resort Parking Reservation EARLY!

Palisades Tahoe and Northstar California have introduced reservations-based parking programs for the 2023/24 winter season. This winter it's important to plan ahead and make reservations WELL IN ADVANCE. On weekends and holiday peak periods, reservations are required before 1pm. Both resorts offer a mix of paid and free reservations, with incentives for carpooling. Palisades Tahoe will release free reservations every Tuesday at noon and 7pm for the following weekend/holiday period. Northstar will offer free parking at the Castle Peak lot every day, no reservations required.

Learn more: Northstar California Parking Reservations

The following dates require reservations at Northstar California:

  • December 16, 17, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 (please note, NOT on the 25th)
  • January 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 27, 28
  • February 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
  • March 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31
  • April 6, 7, 13, 14

Learn more: Palisades Tahoe Parking Reservations

The following dates require reservations at Palisades Tahoe:

  • December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
  • January 6, 7, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 27, 28
  • February 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
  • March 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, 31

6 Tips for a Successful Ski Day

#1 - Visit Midweek for an Uncrowded Experience

If you have flexibility in your travel schedule, visit midweek (Sunday night - Thursday night) to avoid weekend traffic. You’ll get to experience Truckee-Tahoe like a local while enjoying uncrowded slopes, and you won't have to worry about making parking reservations which are required on weekends and holidays at Palisades Tahoe and Northstar California.

#2 - The Early Bird Gets Breakfast on the Hill and a Parking Spot

It’s no secret that getting an early start can give you a leg up on weekend traffic and help ensure you find a parking spot. Change up your AM routine so that you can get out and on the road before the crowds. Wouldn’t you rather spend that extra time siting in a cafe with a hot latte instead of sitting in traffic?!

Here are some breakfast spots to try when you’re ready to hack your AM ski commute:

#3 - Have a Lazy Morning and Enjoy Afternoon Laps

Not a morning person? We get it. At Palisades Tahoe, you don't need to make a reservation after 1pm. Good news is that most folks don’t shred bell to bell, so heading to the ski resort in the afternoon can be a good strategy to score parking as skiers and riders are heading home after their morning turns. Plus, catching last chair can sometimes surprise you with empty slopes and gorgeous waning light. Be sure to check maps and ski area apps for real-time highway traffic and parking availability.

#4 - Carpool! It’s Fun, Better for the Environment & You’ll Score Premium Parking

Grab your buddies, throw on a playlist, and turn your ride to the mountain into a good time. Carpooling helps reduce the number of cars on the road, and lower vehicle trips means lower emissions. Heck ya. If you’re carpooling to Palisades Tahoe, you can snag parking close to the lifts in carpool dedicated areas (3+ people per car) and you still need to make a reservation. And at Northstar California, carpoolers can score FREE parking reservations for the Village View lot (4+ people per car).

#5 - When all Else Fails, Have a Plan B

Sometimes, no matter how early you get on the road, or how meticulously you plan, your Plan A just might not work out. On those days, know when to turn around and resort to your Plan B. There are so many fun winter activities in Truckee! Go cross country skiing or snowshoeing, explore Downtown Truckee, check out Donner Memorial State Park, stroll along the scenic Truckee River Legacy Trail, or if you want really uncrowded slopes, consider hire a local guide and spend your day backcountry skiing in Truckee-Tahoe.

#6 - Come for the Skiing/Riding, Stay for the Après

Once the lifts close you head to your car and drive home… right? Nope! On busy weekends, it’s a good idea to avoid the 4pm rush, and our favorite way to wait out the crowds is après. Après ski is a french term that literally translates to “after ski”, but what it really means is tapping into the food and drink scene after the lifts stop spinning. Instead of beelining it to your car, pop into an on-mountain dining spot to order some apps and listen to live music. At Palisades Tahoe, hang at the Plaza Bar Apres DJ Series.

Truckee-Tahoe Free Transportation

Getting Around Truckee: Free Shuttle (TART Connect)

Like a “Mountain Uber” but FREE! Truckee’s TART Connect offers on-demand, curb-to-curb service within Truckee service zones. Use the app to order a ride and leave your car behind. Shuttle operates 6:30 am to 10pm from Sept 5th - Dec 13th and 6:30am to midnight daily from Dec 14th - April 7th. Download the App on Android or Apple.

Getting to Ski Areas: Free TART Buses (Fixed Route)

Get from Truckee to your favorite ski areas using free TART daily transit. Use TART Connect to get to and from bus stops. Free, convenient transportation to Palisades Tahoe and Northstar California. Learn more.

Getting to Palisades Tahoe & Northstar California: FREE Weekend Park & Ride Program

TART's Winter Park and Ride is operating on weekends to Palisades Tahoe and Northstar California this winter. On weekends, you can take advantage of this FREE service and get dropped at the front door of your favorite resort! Park and ride at any of the locations below.

Palisades Tahoe Lot Locations: Truckee & Tahoe City

From Truckee: Located between the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District office and the KidZone Museum, at 11603 Donner Pass Rd.

From Tahoe City: Located at the Tahoe City Transit Center with additional overflow parking in the adjacent 64-Acres lot, at 165 West Lake Blvd. Tahoe City, CA 96145.

View and Download the Palisades Tahoe Schedule

Northstar California Lot location: Truckee

From Truckee:  Located at the Lift Workspace parking lot next to Enterprise Rent a Car, located at 10266 Truckee Airport Rd.

View and Download the Northstar California Schedule

The Park and Ride program is designed to offer a hassle-free transportation solution, allowing guests to focus on enjoying their time on the slopes. By choosing the Park and Ride option, you can avoid making a parking reservation, cut down on fuel emissions, and save some money at the gas pump. 

Getting Around Palisades Tahoe: Mountaineer Shuttle

The Mountaineer is an on-demand shuttle service in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows, with evening service between valleys. Download the app, request a ride, and get free, door-to-door transportation with 7-minute average wait times.

Getting Around Northstar California: Northstar Village Transit

Once you’re at Northstar California, use the Northstar Village Transit app to request a ride and get on-demand service throughout The Village. 

Truckee-Tahoe Live Traffic Cams and Maps

Our Weather, Roads & Cams page is a hub of information to help you plan your drive to the ski resort or around the Truckee-Tahoe region. Bookmark the page so that you can easily access links to Caltrans maps, highway conditions, live highway cams, ski area cams, weather forecasts, and more.

Social Media Accounts for Highway Traffic Updates

Ski Area Apps and Social Media Accounts for Mountain Updates

For more information on Truckee-Tahoe ski areas, see our skiing/riding page.

Get Ready for World Cup Weekend, February 23-25, 2024

The World Cup returns to Palisades Tahoe on Feb 23-25, 2024! Plan ahead and get ready for World Cup weekend using the information in this guide and by visiting Palisades Tahoe’s Spectator Info page. Consider watching the event at home, or if you’re visiting Truckee, take TART Connect (free Truckee shuttle) into downtown Truckee and join in the spectating at your favorite Truckee bar or restaurant. More info on how to watch at home coming soon!

More Resources

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