We went last December and stayed in South Lake about a couple blocks from the gondola at Heavenly for about $40 a night. You can get cheaper lodging IMO in South Lake than North Lake. You can check Vbro and similiar sites to compare.
We rode Heavenly, Kirkwood and Northstar and Kirkwood was by far my favorite. Its about an hour from South Lake and Northstar is about 45 mins from South Lake. South Lake has you brand name Casinos(Harrahs, etc) and has plenty of local and chain restuarants.
To me it felt like South Lake had more options for eating/lodging/entertainment as Northlake felt more isolated.