EXPLORE TAHOE: Before the snow flies, try some of these off-the-grid locations
October 16, 2016
TAHOE-TRUCKEE — There is a crispness in the air that can only mean one thing — yes, fall is here and winter is around the corner. Ski buffs will be soon breaking out the boards, waxing and dreaming of that first snow.
But not so fast! There is still time to enjoy the ski resorts before the snow flies. Ski resorts are a fabulous playground and staging area for outdoor activities besides skiing.
It hadn't occurred to me to visit a ski resort in the summer until my husband got a job working at the power plant at Kirkwood. The husband has since taken a powder but left behind for me an appreciation of all that these areas have to offer in the summer and fall.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort, for example, is near dozens of lakes and trailheads. Kirkwood hosts a wine festival during the 4th of July weekend, celebrates wildflowers during the months of June and July, sponsors a chili cook-off over Labor Day weekend and honors fall colors during the Aspen Festival at Hope Valley in October.
Accommodations are available on site by calling 844-471-3753. The resort offers a year-round General Store, open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
During your stay, besides taking advantage of hiking, biking, or fishing one of the numerous lakes, treat yourself to a visit to the Kirkwood Inn & Saloon, so named from its early days — originating in 1864 — when it served as the area's inn, restaurant, post office and watering hole. The Inn offers up a full menu from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Journey to the west to visit The Village at Squaw Valley, home of several shops and a variety of restaurants. Squaw Valley hosts events throughout the summer, including the Summer Music Series, Wanderlust Yoga and more.
High Camp is a treat — lounge by the pool in a setting so beautiful it seems surreal or try your hand at the Ropes Course — a mix of vertical climbing events along with a variety of bridges and zip lines. The course is safe and fun for children as well as adults.
Explore Shirley Canyon — access from the end of Squaw Peak Road. Expect to see waterfalls and wildflowers (in season) and beautiful vistas.
Now let's travel further to the west and visit Donner Ski Ranch, which is located west of Truckee, up Donner Pass Road in Norden, Calif. The base of the mountain sits at 7,031 feet and offers a bar and café for summer visitors, open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, weekends before and after that.
Donner Ski Ranch has the distinction of being one of the last family-owned and operated ski resorts in California. Marshall and Janet Tuttle bought the Ranch in 2004 and have been renovating and making improvements ever since.
During the summer, the Ranch hosts live music on Saturdays, which has been a favorite of locals. Summer music is over for the season but hiking opportunities exist as the resort sits near a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Hikers often stop in for lunch at the café on the deck overlooking Donner Summit.
Dorm-style lodging is available at the lodge for around $30 a night, and includes shower and laundry facilities. The owners travel to South America every year at about this time to recruit students to work the resort for the winter ski season. Students have the bonus of being able to stay on the property.
If you visit the Ranch, be sure to ask about Janet's home-made pies. Janet, who also owns and operates the Rustic Cottages in Tahoe Vista with her husband, makes mixed berry and other fruit pies for the on-site restaurant but also sells them to the public. To pre-order a pie for pick up, call Janet at 530-426-3635.
I brought one of Janet's pies to a party — it was a large one, so I hoped for some to bring home — it was completely devoured. Not even a crumb left over; in other words — delicious.
The next time the topic of time away comes up in your household, perhaps consider a stay-cation. I stay at least once a year on the South Shore. Even though it's so close to home, I still feel that I have gotten away and staying in a different place gives me the opportunity to explore areas of Lake Tahoe that I might not otherwise get to.
Temperatures in the fall are optimum for mountain biking and hiking — the changing colors an added bonus. Be adventurous and try a "hostel night" at Donner Ski Ranch or check out the accommodations at Kirkwood or another of Lake Tahoe's ski resorts.
Toree Warfield is an avid nature lover, and writes this column to teach and stimulate interest in the marvels that surround us. Visit saveourplanetearth.com to read columns and to find links to bird song recordings, additional photos and other content.