North America

Never been to (Winter) Tahoe?


Photo credit: North Lake Tahoe/Jeff Dow | North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureaus www.GoTahoeNorth.com

Lake Tahoe, located along the border between California and Nevada, is a large freshwater lake and very popular tourism region in the Sierra Nevada of the United States.

Lake Tahoe offers beautiful views of mountains covered with fir and pine trees, deep blue water year-round, and a wealth of outdoor activities.

A popular destination for skiers and snowboarders during the snowy winter season, Lake Tahoe is also where visitors come to play in summer along the 35 kilometres of shoreline and beaches. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful, crystal-clear blue lake nestled among mountain peaks. It has depths of up to 1,600 feet and the mountain peaks are in the 8,000 to 10,000 foot range.

The lake was formed about 2 million years ago and is a part of the Lake Tahoe Basin with the modern lake being shaped during the ice ages. It is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides.

Once you visit, you will, no doubt, begin referring to the area as “Tahoe”.

Lake Tahoe has been a tourism destination since the turn of the 20th century, when steam trains and improving roads made it possible to visit with ease. The 1960 Winter Olympics, held at Squaw Valley, popularized winter sports at Tahoe.

The grandeur of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and the magnificence of Lake Tahoe are complimented by the myriad of ski resorts dotting the circumference. These resorts offer superb skiing and shredding, astonishing views, incredibly different experiences, and I am lucky enough to have skied them all.

There may not be, at least in North America, any other destination that can boast as many choices for winter sports as the Lake Tahoe area. You can experience some of the best snow, on majestic mountains, where you will enjoy the sunniest winter weather of any ski destination in the world.

Favorite resorts to ski are Alpine Meadows (‘the local’s mountain’), Sugarbowl, Squaw Valley and Royal Gorge.

Alpine Meadows offers a variety of terrain, and you will particularly like the wide, steep, groomed stuff that you can sail down at high speeds. Alpine is also home to Tahoe Adaptive Ski School which offers one of the most advanced programs for people with disabilities.

Sugarbowl is fast becoming one of the more popular mountains in the region. One of the first to reach when driving from the Bay area they are a ski-in, ski-out resort offering hotel rooms, condos and private homes in this Austrian styled village. Sugarbowl was originally owned by Walt Disney and operated as a private resort. It retains that feeling of old worldness mixed with modern conveniences. And, by consensus of opinion, has some of the best dining experiences …


Photo credit: Rennett Stowe

Squaw Valley, host to the 1960 Olympics, is a must see during your trip. This sprawling mountain offers terrain of all kinds, with views of the lake from most upper runs. It also features an ice skating rink, an outdoor heated pool/spa, and several dining choices. Squaw has a village promenade at the base with condos, hotel, restaurants, and shops.

And lastly, Royal Gorge … The serenity, the beauty of the wilderness, the 220 miles of groomed trails on 9000 acres of private land, the invigorating exercise … the feeling of oneness with nature may leave you realizing that a new ‘naturally tranquil’ world is here to explore.

There are many resorts in the Tahoe region for winter sports enthusiasts. Lifts are open whenever the snows begin (usually around mid-November) and close when the weather becomes too warm and the snow stops (usually around mid to late-April, though resorts have sometimes closed as late as July 4th). Conditions will vary depending on the resort, and not all mountains are the same.

There are in fact two resort areas – Tahoe North and Tahoe South. When planning your trip, be cognizant of where you want to stay relative to where you want to play …

North Shore

Alpine Meadows / Homewood / Northstar / Squaw Valley

South Shore

Heavenly / Kirkwood / Sierra at Tahoe

You can rent skiing or snowboarding equipment directly at the mountain. However, to save money and increase the choice of gear, you might want to rent from one of the many ski shops in the area.

Whether overlooking Lake Tahoe or deep in glades of national forestland, there is a winter experience here for everyone. And you don’t have to be a skier or boarder to enjoy the magic. Tahoe offers a wide variety of “cool” winter recreational activities including: ice skating, tubing, sledding, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, dog sled rides, horse drawn sleighs, guided snow hiking/camping, air boarding, sunset kayak tours, and other resort programming activities.

Most visitors fly into Reno/Tahoe International Airport, about an hour’s drive to Tahoe on Interstate 80. Major airports are also located in the San Francisco Bay Area, about 4 hours away, and Sacramento, about 2 hours away.

But if you happen to have your own plane, there are also two smaller private airports closer to the Lake, one in Truckee and another located at South Lake Tahoe.

Car rentals, ski and winter equipped, are readily available but should be pre-reserved.

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