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Your Guide to the Slopes of Lake Tahoe

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Skiing Lake TahoeLake Tahoe is the perfect place for swimming and hiking, but during the winter months it is far better suited to skiing and snowboarding the mountain slopes. The water gets cold and the hiking trails are covered in snow, but the fun doesn’t have to end.

Fourteen ski resorts surround Lake Tahoe, covering ground in both California and Nevada. The area is rich with hotels and motels for affordable lodging and there are many restaurants in the area for all budgets and tastes. Other amusements off the trails include musical concerts, theater productions, live shows, and casinos. You will probably spend your fair share of time exploring the snowy peaks, but you will never have a dull moment when it comes time to dry off and hit the town.

Making Your Way to Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe isn’t a remote area that will be difficult to reach. The most popular airports are in Sacramento and San Francisco, but you can escape the crowds by using Reno Tahoe International. Every major airline will fly into this airport, but you won’t run into the crowds that are found in the larger airports in California.

Once you touch ground in Reno, you will be about a half hour from the closest ski resorts. Mt. Rose and Diamond Peak are two good ones that are reasonably close.  There are others around, if you want to travel an hour or more to find them.

If you touch ground in Sacramento or San Francisco, you will hop on Highway 50 East and head for South Lake Tahoe on the California side.  You will find casinos and nightlife if you head for Stateline, Nevada. Casinos are also found in Heavenly, Kirkwood or Sierra at Tahoe.

An alternative route is to hop on Interstate 80 and head out to Truckee. From there, you can reach many resorts in the following areas:

  • Squaw Valley
  • Alpine Meadows
  • Donner Ski Ranch
  • Sugar Bowl
  • Northstar
  • Homewood

Wherever you decide to go, make sure you check snotel and to see what you are in for as far as snowfall and temperatures. You will also want to check the traffic conditions and the conditions regarding the snowfall at CalTrans, NDOT, and Magnifeye.

The Terrain of Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe stretches out for twenty-two miles in length and twelve miles in width. It has more than seventy miles of shoreline and you never know what conditions you will find. The weather conditions in the northern area are often very different from conditions in the southern area. You have to check the snowfall and weather conditions in all areas before deciding where you want to go. Most resorts will give weather forecasts in their area on their websites. You can quickly see which resort has the most snow and head where you feel most comfortable.

For those who enjoy turning tricks, you can learn about the terrain parks offered through different resorts on their websites as well. Most have at least one terrain park, but many have multiple options for different skill levels.

Squaw Valley CaliforniaSelecting a Lake Tahoe Resort

Deciding which Lake Tahoe ski resort to visit may seem overwhelming at first, but you can break it down between large resorts and small resorts. The large resorts offer upscale dining, better on-mountain amenities, and bigger vertical relief. Examples of big resorts would be Heavenly, Squaw, and Kirkwood.

Smaller resorts offer less crowded, more relaxed vacations with amenities suitable to those just starting out on the slopes. You will get amazing views, exciting slopes, and a lot of entertainment opportunities no matter where you go, but these smaller resorts offer a more exclusive experience.

Skiing the Backcountry

Going up a chair lift is only one way to get to the slopes in Lake Tahoe. You can also head on foot for a nice hike and gain access to many slopes that are not accessible from the chair lifts of the resorts. As great as the resorts are, many prefer to head out on their own or with a tour guide to explore more of Tahoe. You can explore ridges and couloirs between Pacific Crest and the Desolation Wilderness, which is on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. Carson Range is a great place to the east, sitting just above Reno.

You will need a snowshoe or crampon and ice axe, so heading out into the backcountry is a bit more dangerous and tons more exciting. Some resorts will offer trails set up to be hiked, such as Heavenly’s Milkyway Bowl. If you put out a bit more effort, you can get more vertical feet on this terrain.

When going into the backcountry, you have to check the updates for chances of avalanche, heavy snowfall, and other weather related dangers. You can check with the Sierra Avalanche Center to get this information for all backcountry areas around Lake Tahoe.

From Lifts and Trams to Gondolas

The resorts of Lake Tahoe are very modern and updated when it comes to chairlifts, trams and gondolas. You will find six-pack high speed lifts, funitels, trams, and even six-person lifts. Heavenly and Squaw Valley still have some very traditional style lifts, but for the most part you will experience high tech lifts and trams with more speed and functionality.  You will spend less time waiting around for a lift than you spend racing down the snow.

Amenities On-Mountain

You will get worn out at times and a break will be essential. That may be a problem in some resorts, but here at Lake Tahoe you will always be near a source of relaxation and sustenance. There are lodges located mid-mountain and others situated at the tops of mountains. You can instantly decide to take a break and find yourself in an upscale dining environment or an area for a quick drink. Beer and wine is always on hand, as are the views over the slopes and the lake. It doesn’t get more relaxing and enjoyable than this.

Accommodations at Lake Tahoe

You don’t want to be the bum eating crackers in your car in the middle of the night just so you can hit the trails in the morning. This is a vacation, and you deserve a little pampering. There are thousands of accommodation options around Lake Tahoe, and this includes many very affordable hotels and motels. You can find something within your budget so you retire to comfortable, safe quarters after racing down the slopes. These accommodations are also close to many restaurants, which always tops your crackers.

You can often find packaged deals offered between resorts and particular hotels. This is a way to get a nicer room without paying the higher prices.  Lift tickets, equipment rental, and accommodation can all be packaged, and sometimes meals are included. This is a great way to pay for everything at once and have it all ready to go when you arrive.

Lake Tahoe is ready for exploration year round, whether you want to enjoy it from Nevada or California. Once the snow starts falling, the resorts are opened and the skiers and snowboarders come out in droves. Will you be among them this year?

Written by Snowboard And Ski Guy

October 16th, 2011 at 3:39 pm