Even though you may be craving a barefoot run through tulips and springtime, don’t look away from the snow quite yet. There are still a few weeks left to hit the slopes, and with the great winter storms that have hit the West Coast in recent months, look no further than abundant Lake Tahoe to book your next Ski Week or Weekend. (It’s never to early to start planning for next November!)
The first decision to make when visiting incomparable Lake Tahoe is whether to spend your time in the North or the South. From the title of this piece, you can guess which way we’ll nudge you, but here’s why. Both are destinations with breathtaking views and great skiing, but only one has a culture all its own.
In the last 5 years, South Lake Tahoe has seen a renaissance in its local businesses and winter tourism. From new boutique hotels, to gastropubs and lakeside fare, South Lake Tahoe is primed for your discovery. The constant fueling the revival? A singular connection to nature and myriad avenues and activities through which to channel it. To make the pot even richer, South Lake Tahoe has a very village vibe. Locals are welcoming and caring, making for a unique experience in having jaw dropping adventure tinted by the comfort of a home away from home. You can walk into a shop to grab a balaclava and end up with dinner recommendations from Simon the Avalanche Dog trainer. (His puppy was really cute.) There’s a rhythm and a language amongst the locals that can only be experienced firsthand.
Fly into Reno and either rent a car or hop a shuttle to South Lake Tahoe. You can definitely get by in South Lake Tahoe without a car due to their fantastic free shuttle system, but your exploring will be more limited. We recommend renting a car if you plan to do more than ski and enjoy the village. Remember if you’re driving through the mountains in winter, you may need tire chains, so stay on top of road conditions.
Where to Ski & Snowboard
Packing for a ski get away can be intimidating, so before your trip, check out our ski trip packing guide to put your mind at ease. If you’re not into snow sports, fear not, there is plenty to do off the slopes.
1. Sierra at Tahoe
46 trails. 14 lifts. 2000 acres. Least windy resort due to location. 3 Olympians train here.
This is one of the last independently owned resorts in Tahoe and California, which can be felt in every detail from the barbecue sauce to the double black diamonds. Sierra at Tahoe’s slogan is “Certified Unserious,” so if you really enjoy the pretentious atmosphere sometimes found at high-end commercial resorts, this won’t be your scene. Everything you can enjoy at Sierra from Snowboard Lessons with Chubaca to Brisket at the 360 Smokehouse is the best bang for your buck on the mountain. You’ll be hard pressed to find better slopeside fare than at the 360 Smokehouse, and online specials for lessons at Sierra start at $49. (That includes lift ticket, equipment, and a 2 hour lesson!) It truly is a resort that can accommodate all levels, and the staff is the cheeriest around. Big bonus: Friends can ride up the same lift and ski down runs of various difficulties from the same point! Bigger bonus: They frequently have live music and events, so check out their calendar before you go! We cannot gush enough about the vibes at Sierra at Tahoe, so make sure to check it out.
2. Heavenly Ski Resort
97 trails. 28 lifts. 4800 acres. Highest elevation in Lake Tahoe at 3,068 meters.
The selling point for Heavenly is location. From the center of town, you can take the gondola up the mountain or hop on complimentary shuttles that will carry your heavily booted feet to various lodges on this sprawling resort. Heavenly is owned by Vail Resorts, which brings the benefit of Vail’s experience but the detriment of its high prices. The resort also doesn’t have much personality, and that which remains doesn’t much cater to the female consumer. That being said, the views of the Lake are absolutely incredible. For festive dining, ski up to Steins and enjoy sausage or chili al fresco. Otherwise, we recommend packing a lunch and storing it in a locker with your other belongings while at Heavenly. Bonus: The Tahoe Mountain Lab has a location on the mountain, which is the coolest aspect of Heavenly. You can work remotely in this modern co-working space & take ski breaks throughout the day!
Other Winter Fun
Drive around the entire lake.
If you ask a Tahoe local what they recommend you do while you’re in town, at least half of them will say, “You should drive around the lake.” It may not sound all that spectacular, but once you arrive, you’ll see why. Each mile competes with its predecessor for the most stunning views of lake and mountain-scapes. TTW Tip: Drive clockwise around the lake, so you’re in the lane closest to the water. Give yourself a minimum of 3 hours for the excursion, and don’t forget to visit Emerald Bay.
If you do not hail from a wintery wonderland, you may have never tried this, but you SHOULD. Snowshoeing is a great alternative to skiing if you’re a little less hard-core than your slope-shredding travel mates, or if you’re looking for a more zen way to explore the mountainside. Sierra at Tahoe has miles of snowshoeing trails, so it’s possible to keep a large group interested in different pursuits at the same location. A few companies outside of the ski resorts can hook you up with a snowshoe rental if you want to explore trails around the lake after fresh snowfall on your own.
Channel your inner child, and play in the snow. There are several options for tubing all around the lake. TTW tip: Split up your ride around the lake by tubing in North Lake Tahoe and grabbing lunch or happy hour.
For those unfamiliar, this is the oh so important ritual of unwinding after a day carving powder. Different gals go different ways in the après-ski scene. Find a place to grab local brew or a glass of wine, and remember to stay hydrated, because: ALTITUDE.
Cozy up around a fire.
Drinks or s’mores around a fire are a must. Hit up the Coachmen in the evening (whether you’re staying there or not, for some fireside sweets and snuggles.
Get a massage or go to a spa.
With all that snow-play, you’re bound to be sore, so hit up a spa with your girls or treat yo self to a day of solo self care.
Try your hand at Blackjack, or maybe see a show.
If you’re not into gambling, casinos can still bring a welcome changeup to your trip. South Lake Tahoe boasts 5 Casinos, each with lodging, entertainment, and of course, opportunities to test your luck. What you may not know about staying at a casino is often they afford luxury accommodations to those with leaner travel budgets. TTW tip: hit up the rooftop jacuzzi at Harvey’s at least once during your stay.
5 Spots to Gnosh
Edgewood or The Lake House will take care of your fine dining needs, no matter what your preferences, but here are our favorite casual eateries to keep you nourished between excursions.
Perfect for all diets. Great for fresh juice. Don’t miss the nachos!
2. Artemis Lakefront Cafe
Phenomenal service, delicious Greek breakfasts and fresh eats. Stunning views of the lake.
Grab a French Dip and a Choco Haze Porter. There’s a reason this is a local favorite.
Go for the coffee and the breakfast sandwiches.
5. Coldwater Brewery
Stillwater Stout + Cheese Fondue = Après Heaven.
Where to Stay
Truth be told, you will be shocked at the price of accommodations in South Lake Tahoe, especially for a ski destination. With the exception of the holidays, you can find 4 star accommodations for around a 2 star price. Because of the 1960 Winter Olympics, more hotels were built in Tahoe than they can keep occupied. Thus, competitive pricing.
Top Honors: The Coachmen Hotel
If it’s sold out, change the date of your trip. This is the place to stay. The bartender and the GM chat with guests in the lobby over lattes in the morning or wine in the evening. There are fire pits with complimentary s’mores. They support small business in thoughtful ways from the toiletries to the merchandise. This is a place where the guest benefits from the proprietor’s passion. They have a Coachmen Zinfandel that is light and delicious, which you can ORDER FROM THE JACUZZI, BECAUSE THEY HAVE A PHONE FOR THIS PURPOSE. It is walking distance to the beach or to the gondola or to the main strip. Near the entrance to every room, there is a “wet zone” with rubber flooring for snow gear in the winter and swimsuits in the summer. Also, you can bring your pup in select rooms. This hotel is great for European or solo travelers who want to interact with other guests or really crave a local feel.
Tahoe Businesses to Support Run or Owned by Women
1. Fatco Skincare
Founder Cassy Burnside is one inspiring lady. Her line of natural skincare is based out of Tahoe, so check it out while you’re there. FYI, if you’re vegan, this brand won’t be for you as they use tallow in their products.
2. Coldwater Brewery
Owned by Debbie Brown, this brewery has Tahoe pride branded onto every keg and bottle. You can ski the Preachers run at Sierra and then throw back the Pale Ale of the same name at this great gastropub.
3. Coachmen Hotel
This boutique hotel is the perfect accommodation for any type of traveller on any type of trek. GM Kathleen Bunnage.
This sweet little bistro is the brainchild of Robin Bender. Revive has delicious breakfast fare and the best coffee in town. In the evening, stop by for wine and small plates.
The Number One Tip from Locals
Wake up early. Yes, you’re on vacation, but you really won’t mind. This is a destination at its best in the daylight hours. The magic that unlocks on the mountainside in the early morning will bring revelation that will stay with you much longer than those extra two hours of shuteye. (Also, you can take a nap later!) Lake Tahoe should be experienced outdoors in some fashion…so lace up your adventure boots and order a triple espresso!