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Ski Butlers brings vacation ski and snowboard rentals to you in Lake Tahoe

No more waiting in rental shop lines while everyone is out ripping up the powder … with the company Ski Butlers, you can arrive to your Tahoe winter cabin, get settled and let your skis come to you.

Founded in 2004, Ski Butlers is featured in 60-plus hotels and resorts around the world in 35 destination spots. CEO and founder Bryn Carey started Ski Butlers out of a single-car garage in Park City, Utah, when he realized there had to be an easier, faster way to get on the slopes without having to wait in long rental shop lines.

Carey grew up in a skiing family and hit the slopes when he was just 1 year old. He competed in ski racing through high school and college, eventually earning a degree in business administration from the University of New Hampshire.

He moved to Park City after college and realized that one of the highest margins for profit in the ski business lies in rentals. He thought maybe there was an opportunity to provide better service in renting skis, thus making it not a necessary evil when arriving at a ski resort.

“You don’t always get the best treatment at ski shops,” says Ski Butlers VP of Sales and Marketing Mike Cremeno. “Instead, you can get fitted in your living room with a glass of wine in the comfort of your home.”

RAPID EXPANSION

When launching the business in the summer of 2004, Carey first went around and talked to hotels and resorts, doing some market research and asking how they would feel about a ski rental delivery service to provide for their guests. After receiving an overwhelming positive response, he soon created a business plan to accommodate the demand.

As the 2004-05 winter approached, Carey started building the business out of his garage, storing skis and delivering them to winter destination guests in Park City. In Ski Butlers’ first year, he blew the company’s goals and expectations out of the water.

“He got such a positive reception from (hotel) guests and partners that he realized he needed to expand,” recalls Cremeno.

By 2010, Ski Butlers was present in 35 North American locations, and now it serves over 60 ski resorts in the US and Europe.

“We have hundreds of partners,” Cremeno adds.

A few years after the launch, Carey brought Ski Butlers to Lake Tahoe and hired on additional staff to serve the area. It has offices in Truckee and South Lake Tahoe, working with at least 25 properties in North Lake Tahoe alone.

Top partners on the North Shore include: Constellation Residences, Tahoe Luxury Properties, Squaw Valley Lodge, Martis Camp and the Ritz-Carlton Destination Club, to name a few. Ski Butlers further has a presence in Marriott Timber Lodge, Marriott Grand Residences and Wyndham Vacation Rentals in South Lake Tahoe, among other locations.

“As a new company in the market, we wanted to get involved with the community, so we joined the Chamber of Commerce (in South Lake Tahoe), found out who the nonprofits were, and started volunteering,” says Cremeno.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Ski Butlers highly encourages its employees to volunteer at least two hours a month at a nonprofit of their choosing. The company also works with organizations such as Protect Our Winters to incorporate sustainable practices into its business.

“We are very interested in climate change … we partnered with POW and are closely monitoring our carbon footprint. By 2020, Ski Butlers will be 100 percent off the grid,” Cremeno says. “We are buying electric vans and offsetting our credits with solar and power energy. We’re trying to be leaders in the industry by setting an example.”

Rated five stars from 23 TripAdvisor reviewers who utilized its services in South Lake Tahoe, customers say that if you ski only a couple of times a year, then Ski Butlers is the way to go. Reviews from March 2017 include:

• “Everyone is very helpful and we love not having to wait in line to get our equipment.”

• “Not only did they deliver skis and boots to our house, but they’ll even come to slope and switch things out if you’re not happy. For example, my sister decided her boots were too big, we met Ski Butlers at the gondola 30 minutes later and they had a few new pairs waiting for her to try. That is amazing!”

Although there are other ski rental delivery services available in the region and across the ski industry, Cremeno is convinced Ski Butlers is unmatched in comparison.

“Thousands of people are overjoyed with our service — we’ve been called the Uber of ski rentals,” he says. “People are always telling us how easy and convenient Ski Butlers is. We hold a 93 percent customer satisfaction score in the industry and while we’re not the only ski rental service out there, we are the biggest and best.”

‘A CULTURE-FIRST COMPANY’

Ski Butlers also streamlines its services by holding on to customer information and only carrying specific brands.

“Most ski shops carry a multitude of brands; we simplify it by carrying only one brand,” Cremeno says. “It’s like a Starbucks — with Ski Butlers, you get fitted for your equipment one time, and then you get the same products and service wherever you go. When we have their information, we’re able to bring the ski shop to them.”

As far as working in the Tahoe-Truckee market, Cremano notices that consumers here are tech savvy and prone to last-minute shopping, whereas people in other markets book their ski vacations way in advance.

“People in Tahoe love to ski and are passionate about the sport. Especially at Northstar and Squaw … we deliver skis and snowboards on a daily basis to avid skiers,” he says.

When asked what his favorite thing about being a part of Ski Butlers, he quickly says the culture and the people.

“We’re a culture-first company; we believe in people pursuing their passions in the mountains,” Cremeno says. “For our partners, the ski industry can be stressful at times, and we like to relieve that stress. We work hard, play hard, and we want our customers to experience that as well. We’re always having fun and facilitating that fun to our customers.

“We’re growing too fast — even with bad snow years, people understand that ease and service is worth a little bit more for the cost. With us, you don’t lose any time on the slopes. The ski industry had a need to make the rental process easier, and we filled that.”

The opportunities are endless

You find yourself in Tahoe and it’s a picture-perfect powder day. There’s just one problem: The thought of hitting the slopes strikes you as an expensive lesson in learning about aches and pains you didn’t even know existed.

Relax.

Yes, the Tahoe-Truckee region is home to more than a dozen world-class resorts, making it a literal mecca for skiers and riders alike. But there is plenty more to do outside beyond grabbing some turns.

Also, many resorts offer more than skiing and snowboarding, including some of the suggested activities below. So if you’re heading to a resort with friends or family and have no desire to take a lesson, know that there is more than likely something for you to do.

Of course, you could spend your days inside, say gambling, catching a show or enjoying a beer at one of the region’s numerous craft breweries. But those are best saved for those days when it’s dumping snow and the wind is making it impossible to see. After all, this is Tahoe. Take advantage of the fact that you’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world and get outside.

Explore the lake

At the end of the day, everything here revolves around Lake Tahoe. And while summer is the ideal season for exploring Big Blue in the minds of most, winter has its upsides, too.

For starters, there is simply less activity during winter — if you’ve spent any amount of time in or around Emerald Bay in the warmer months, then you know what I’m talking about. That decrease in boat activity lends itself to ideal paddling conditions and a more peaceful atmosphere. (Given the option between listening to a boat full of people screaming over a Miley Cyrus song and the peaceful sound of waves, I’ll take the waves any day).

This is probably the point where you’re thinking, “Wait, isn’t the water freezing?” Yes, yes the water is very cold, so stay out of it. You’re going out to paddle, not to swim. Lake Tahoe’s temperature can quickly lead to hypothermia in the winter, so wear a wetsuit.

As is the case in any season, conditions on the lake can change rapidly. Winter storms also can severely hamper visibility, so don’t stray too far from the shore. And remember, you must have a personal flotation device — a life jacket — with you while on the water, even if you’re on a stand-up paddleboard.

If you want to explore the lake in comfort, find someone with a boat and convince them to take you out. Or, if you’re less outgoing, you can pay to be taken out on the lake. In that case, the M.S. Dixie II is a solid choice. If you’ve spent any time on the lake, chances are you’ve seen this giant paddle wheeler cruising from Zephyr Cove Resort & Marina, the starting point for all trips on the Dixie, toward Emerald Bay. In addition to daytime cruises, the M.S. Dixie II offers other special cruises, including around the holidays, and private charters. Schedules and availability can be found at http://bit.ly/2vnnTdi.

Ice skating

First off, if you have any aspirations of skating on Lake Tahoe, you’re out of luck. While sheets of ice can develop in certain areas, such as Emerald Bay, the lake never freezes over. Have no fear, though. The Tahoe-Truckee region is dotted with ice skating rinks, many of which offer rentals and lessons if you’ve never skated or just needs some tips.

Of course, there are ponds and other bodies of water that are suitable for ice skating. However, you should exercise caution before heading out onto the ice. If you’re in search for more certain conditions, here are a few ice rinks in the region:

Heavenly Village: The village offers plenty to do and the ice skating is a popular one. The rink is located in the heart of Heavenly, allowing you to easily enjoy the village’s other amenities, including shops, restaurants and live music. Skates are available for rent and day or season passes can be purchased. Visit http://bit.ly/2wcTcpZ for information.

South Lake Tahoe Recreation Complex: This rink is open year round, offering skating at any time of year. The complex offers lessons and open public skating. Note that the complex frequently hosts events, including home games for the Tahoe Icemen hockey team, so it’s best to check availability before heading out. Visit tahoearena.com for information.

Squaw Valley Olympic Ice Pavilion: When it comes to views, Squaw’s ice rink stands alone. Located at High Camp — “high” being the key word, as it sits 8,200 feet above sea level — the ice rink has panoramic views of Squaw Valley meadow and Lake Tahoe. Accessing the rink does require a tram ride, which adds to the cost. But, hey, you pay for a good view, and in this case, it’s totally worth it. Visit http://bit.ly/2e8tI5I for information.

Truckee-Donner Ice Rink: The rink is typically open December through March. It offers public skating, lessons and other programs for skaters of all ages. The park is located just out of downtown Truckee, making for easy access. Visit http://bit.ly/2iBA6Fj for information.

Sledding and tubing

If you grew up or visited a place with snow as a child, there is a 99.9 percent chance (warning: that percent is entirely made up) that you slid down a hill on top of something. It doesn’t matter if that something was a trashcan lid, tube, flattened cardboard box or an actual sled; what does matter is the excitement of flying down a hill without a care in the world.

Regardless of whether you’re trying to relive your own childhood memories or if you’re just trying to take the family out for some more-affordable excitement, this is the way to go. Again, many ski resorts also have slopes exclusively for tubing, which is a great amenity if you have a young one who isn’t quite ready for the “pizza-french fry” talk.

When it comes to tubing and sledding exclusively, Adventure Mountain Lake Tahoe is toward the top of the list. Located at the top of Echo Summit off U.S. 50, the sledding resort boasts up to 15 machine-groomed runs for sledding and tubing, along with more than enough room for fun in the snow. The resort rents sleds, tubes and safety gear if you don’t bring your own.

Of course, one of the more attractive aspects of sledding and tubing is the fact that it’s free, assuming you have snow and a accessible slope. (Tip: If you have to trespass, then a slope is not accessible.)

Some of the most popular locations are Spooner Summit, located at the intersection of U.S. 50 and Highway 28, and Tahoe Meadows off Mount Rose Highway. You will want to bring your own equipment if you’re heading to either area. More importantly, you need to take your equipment with you when it’s time to leave. Each year pieces of plastic sleds litter the region. Don’t be a jerk — take your trash with you.

Snowmobiling

Snowmobiles are the backcountry equivalent of Jet Skis on Lake Tahoe: incredibly irritating if you’re a bystander, but a hell of a lot of fun if you’re the one riding. Fortunately for both fellow backcountry recreators and those of us who cannot afford a snowmobile, there are several options for guided snowmobile tours in the backcountry.

Coldstream Adventures in Truckee is a popular choice. They offer a two-hour group tour that boasts scenic views of Coldstream Canyon. Private tours also are another option. Regardless of experience level, Coldstream Adventures promises an exciting experience for all. Visit http://bit.ly/2xIv7W3 for information.

If you’re looking for a tour with views of Tahoe, Zephyr Cove Resort is your spot. The resort offers a “scenic lakeview tour,” a two-hour ride that puts the emphasis on the scenery. The tour makes several stop in prime locations, allowing you time to get that jealousy-inspiring photo. Zephyr Cove Resort offers several other different ride options and, just like Coldstream Adventures, the promise something for riders of all experience levels. Visit http://bit.ly/2wejOar for information.

Nevada Nordic brings cross country skiing to the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe

There were once two successful groomed cross-country ski areas on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe: Spooner Lake Cross Country, which provided close to 100 kilometers of trail in the beautiful mountain biking heaven between Spooner Lake and Marlette Lake; and Diamond Peak Cross Country, which was THE place to go when there was not enough snow at lower elevations, as it was located near the top of the Mt. Rose Highway at 8,500 feet in elevation.

Now, both ski areas are gone due to various economic and logistic reasons, and for North Tahoe/Incline Village and Carson City residents, the closest place to cross-country ski is Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area near Tahoe City.

Nevada Nordic, a nonprofit organization formerly known as Incline Meadows XC, wants to change that and bring a legit groomed cross-country skiing experience back to Nevada.

Nevada Nordic’s ultimate goal is to build a high-quality Nordic skiing venue at the top of the Mt. Rose Highway, located a few miles north of Incline Village and south of Reno. A lodge would be constructed at 8,500 foot elevation, and over 50 kilometers of trail would be groomed.

Producing such a ski area from scratch will take time, money and public support, as well as a lot of cooperation from the U.S. Forest Service and the Incline Village General Improvement District.

Taking small steps in the interim

Until the nonprofit’s dream comes true, Nevada Nordic has dipped its toes into Nordic skiing by providing limited grooming at Spooner Lake State Park and the Incline Village Golf Course(s).

In 2016, Nevada Nordic hired a contractor to run a large grooming machine after big storms at Spooner Lake State Park (located a few miles east of Incline Village and west of Carson City). Between storms, volunteers regularly freshened up the trails via a snowmobile groomer. Fortunately, it was a big winter, since Spooner is an area that gets marginal snow.

Unfortunately, they were limited in the grooming to about 10 kilometers of trail, because the grooming machine was too wide to make it up Snow Valley Road, which is where the most interesting and challenging terrain is located. Some of the trails also had to be shared with walkers and snowshoers, so the quality of the skiing experience was hit and miss depending on how soon you set out for a ski after the grooming machine has passed.

There was, however, no charge to ski, just a parking fee to enter the park, and take it from me — the setting is gorgeous. I skied one day right after the trails were groomed, and it was a joy to once again ski around Spooner Lake and across the meadows to the west of the lake.

Nevada Nordic also experimented last year with pulling a grooming device known as a Ginzu behind a snowmobile to groom trails on the par-72 Incline Village Championship Golf Course.

Dave Straley, a board member of Nevada Nordic, says that on normal years, the championship golf course doesn’t have enough snow to groom. For the 2017-18 winter season, the plan is to groom 2.5 kilometers of trail on Incline’s par-58 Mountain Golf Course, which sits at a higher elevation.

The Nevada Nordic Board of Directors’ primary focus this year is to purchase its own grooming equipment.

“The short-term ideal situation would be a small (snowcat) that we buy or lease, that we could put on a flat bed trailer and haul around,” said Straley. “With the right equipment, we could be mobile, grooming either Spooner or the golf course depending upon the conditions.”

The bigger picture: a ski area at Incline Lake

The dream of a permanent cross country ski area off the Mt. Rose Highway is centered on a five-acre parcel owned by IVGID, located on the north side of the highway near the edge of Tahoe Meadows on what’s known as the Incline Lake property.

The nonprofit’s goal is to develop a cooperative arrangement to allow either Nevada Nordic, IVGID or a third party to build and run an XC lodge on the land. IVGID owns Diamond Peak Ski Area, Straley said, so there is the potential to combine the Nordic facility with the downhill resort as it was in the past.

The next step is to get approval from the Forest Service to groom about 15 kilometers of trails in the Incline Lake area, which would fan out from the lodge, as well as the network of trails formerly operated across the highway by the then-Diamond Peak Cross Country — including a hoped-for tunnel underneath the highway to avoid road crossings.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the Forest Service is currently preparing a Master Winter Use Transport Plan, and Straley says Nevada Nordic has been involved in that process and expects to have a concession for Nordic trails be a part of the completed document. The draft was set to be published this fall, with public hearings and comment to be scheduled before likely another year of revisions and adjustments before final completion.

Even after IVGID and Forest Service approval (should both happen down the road), the facility would still need the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s blessing, considering some of the land falls within the Lake Tahoe Basin.

And even then, if all agreements are signed and Nevada Nordic is able to obtain all the necessary permits — the nonprofit would still need to come up with the funding to make it all happen.

Nevada Nordic Board Member Peter Hanson added that the lodge would not only benefit cross-country skiers, but the entire community.

The lodge restaurant would serve sledders, skiers, snowmobilers and the rest of the throngs of tourists that head to Tahoe Meadows in the winter, where there is currently no food services available. Once the snow melts, the facility could be used for a community meeting space as well as to serve the hikers and mountain bikers that frequent the area.

So, while there are many challenges ahead to return a top-notch groomed cross-country ski experience to Nevada, a small group of folks is working hard at Nevada Nordic to recreate some of the happy days of skiing they remember from years past at Diamond Peak and Spooner Lake Cross Country.

Home-grown gear

Lake Tahoe still proves to be a launching pad for creative entrepreneurs in ski and snowboard construction, and more companies are on the rise (especially after the incredible 2016-17 snow season).

Here is a peek at three local businesses that are changing the way people enjoy the mountains with quality equipment inspired by Lake Tahoe:

Coalition Snow, Truckee

Residing in the mountains for more than 20 years, Coalition Snow Founder Jen Gurecki found herself a few years ago surrounded by outdoorsy women who seemed frustrated with the lack of performance snow equipment available to them.

Women were always stuck buying men’s skis and snowboards, Gurecki says, because that was all that was on the market.

“Women want to feel some purpose and connection to what they’re buying,” she told Tahoe Magazine this summer. “A lot of women in the ski industry started to become more outspoken about it, and I saw a movement happening — a void that needed to be filled.”

After summiting peaks in the Eastern Sierra and as far away as Africa, Gurecki started asking people about the concept of building women-specific equipment and was met with a favorable response. The company launched its first pair of skis in the 2014-15 season — since it was the year of a drought, Coalition Snow was off to a rough start.

“A lot of businesses closed. We raised $30,000 on Kickstarter, but we hadn’t had our chance to shine yet,” she adds.

Fortunately, Coalition Snow was able to secure distribution with REI for the 2016-17 snow season — noted as one of the best Tahoe winters on record in the past 10 years — and the company started steadily growing.

“This coming season, we will be in Moosejaw — the third largest outdoor retailer in the United States — (aside from) Amazon and MEC (which stands for Mountain Equipment Co-op, Canada’s version of REI),” says Gurecki. “That’s pretty amazing for an independent company.”

Since its inception, Coalition Snow has recently expanded to include its “Lady Parts” apparel line.

“We started off making skis and snowboards, but there is so much to do year-round. Plus, we just launched an apparel line in June,” she says. “People who know me know that I like clothing and fashion. Trying to grow a company with just skis and snowboards is limiting people’s ability to engage with Coalition, which we want them to feel a part of year-round.”

Coalition Snow’s apparel line — which includes capris, leggings and hot shorts — is based off of its ski and snowboard graphics.

“What makes Coalition different is we’re really clear on what we want. As feminists, we haven’t seen equal representation for a long time; this essentially gives women a platform, a voice in the outdoors,” Gurecki says. “Although women entrepreneurs and business owners are a trending theme right now, it is here to stay. We want equality and are situated to build an inclusive community where everyone is welcome to be a part of it.”

Busy planning marketing and sales strategies, prepping for ski shows and promoting Lady Parts, Gurecki says Coalition Snow’s team is flying by the seat of its pants heading into the 2017-18 winter season, but is thrilled with all of the good things happening.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for us,” she says. “We just won the Skier’s Choice award in Powder magazine, and for a company of our size, that’s a huge honor. It truly demonstrates that we build award-winning skis.”

Visit coalitionsnow.com to learn more about the company.

Slant Skis, Tahoe City

Launching Slant Skis in his Truckee garage in 2007, Josh Bennett started collecting tools to build snow skis as soon as he moved to Tahoe.

Spending many years as a carpenter, ski instructor and ski technician, Bennett started testing and refining skis, saying that in his first year he built “three pairs of skis that worked.”

Since its start, Slant has experienced slow, steady growth and even opened a ski and snowboard tuning shop on Highway 89 between Alpine Meadows and Tahoe City called the Tahoe Snow Lab.

Now offering nine different ski models, Slant Skis are unique in their shape, design, graphics and materials used.

“Our skis are made in the Tahoe Basin, and our unique designs have really been refined to excel in the Sierra snow conditions,” Bennett said in an interview with Tahoe Magazine this summer. “We try to put quality first and quantity second … that’s why I’m not concerned with growing that big because I never want to sacrifice the quality for the quantity.”

Trying to use American-made materials whenever possible, Slant offers men’s and women’s models for every type of snow terrain — “from skinny park skis to big fat rocker,” as Bennett says.

“We try to fill each type of niche in skiing,” he adds.

Personally, Bennett’s favorite mountain to shred on his Slants is Alpine Meadows, but he tries to get out in the backcountry as much as possible, too. Slant offers a model called the Ambush, a pair of skis that is designed for backcountry shredding, but it can charge at an alpine resort as well.

“I love that I can play with my favorite things, live in Lake Tahoe, and do what I love to do every single day,” he says.

The shop is located at 1730 River Road, No. 110, in Tahoe City, sharing space with Tahoe Snow Lab. Slant Skis are available to demo in the shop and come with a two-year warranty. When the ski season gets rolling, Tahoe Snow Lab is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit slantskis.com to learn more.

TahoeLab, South Shore

Founding the company in 2013 with longtime friend and boardercross buddy Abe Greenspan, Lee Collins began making splitboards and snowboards with Greenspan when they were unsatisfied with what was on the market at the time.

“We are both big into backcountry splitboarding, which is what inspired us to launch TahoeLab,” Collins told Tahoe Magazine this summer. “I’m 6 foot, 2 (inches) and Abe is 5 foot, 8 (inches) so we needed different boards for riding. We each built our own and found that they had the same shape, so now we have created that to be available in different sizes.”

Greenspan was born and raised in South Lake Tahoe, growing up in the boardercross race scene when he met Collins. Originally from the East Coast, Collins came to Lake Tahoe to ride down some “real mountains” and met Greenspan working in a snowboard shop that sponsored him.

Seven or eight years later, the pair reconnected through Daron Rahlves’ Banzai Tour.

“We started riding together, and neither of us could find the board that we wanted to ride, especially for me since I don’t fit the body type of an average snowboarder,” Collins recalls. “The options were limited — I’m quite a bit bigger than the average boarder, so we made our own.”

Although it’s common for people to make their own splitboards by cutting them in half, they sacrifice durability when converting an old board of their own. Now going into its fifth season, TahoeLab sells six different models, available in various sizes, including a directional board and the PowFish with a directional stance and swallow tail.

Collins and Greenspan work out of a shop in South Lake, making all boards from scratch in-house. New this year, TahoeLab is making skis, splitboards and snowboards that are made of a carbon fiber/fiberglass mix, as well as boards that are made of full carbon sheets for lightness and durability.

Currently, TahoeLab is producing about 100 boards a year in small batch quantities, and every model is available in both a solid board and a splitboard.

In terms of success, Collins said that while launching a business during one of Tahoe’s low snow years wasn’t easy for a lot of companies, it proved to be perfect timing for TahoeLab.

“In the beginning we didn’t have a ton of product in stock because we weren’t sure if we could sell it, but it was perfect because it was kind of a soft opening. We didn’t have a huge demand,” says Collins.

The few years in between allowed them to focus on improving their boards for when the big 2016-17 snow season came.

“We can’t rely on ski resorts to make snow, and last season was great because we depend on the backcountry for our company,” says Collins. “We both got out quite a bit last year.”

Over the last few years, TahoeLab has gained some momentum from straight word of mouth. Collins said, adding that the crew spent this summer working hard to get ready for the 2017-18 snow season.

“We’re looking forward to having another great year. We both enjoy all outdoor aspects of living here and having the ability to test our product,” he says. “We receive instantaneous feedback on how our boards perform living here in Tahoe. It’s probably a lot cheaper to be based in a big city, but we like being in the mountains.”

TahoeLab boards are available to purchase directly through the company’s website at tahoelab.com, or you can schedule an appointment to drop by the shop, which is located between Zephyr Cove and Stateline, on the Nevada side of Tahoe’s South Shore.

Tahoe tipples

Picture this: You just spent the day bombing down the mountain on some of the best snow you’ve seen all year. You’re tired and happy — but awfully thirsty. It’s time for a warm cocktail and a soak in the hot tub.

Lucky for you, Rocket Vodka and Tahoe Blue Vodka — a pair of Tahoe-based distilleries — are whipping up some of the smoothest vodka on the West Coast, perfect for pairing with everything from fruit juice to coffee. Bottoms up!

The Après by Rocket Vodka

1.5 oz. Rocket Vodka

2 oz. unfiltered apple juice

1 oz. pear juice

Pinch of nutmeg

Star anise

Thin apple slice

Directions: Combine apple juice and pear juice in a microwave-safe cup and zap until warm. Next, add in Rocket Vodka and stir. Top with a whole star anise, a thin slice of apple and a pinch of nutmeg.

Tahoe Handwarmer by Tahoe Blue Vodka

1.25 oz. cinnamon-infused Tahoe Blue Vodka

6-8 oz. coffee or cocoa

Whipped cream, if desired

Directions: To infuse vodka, add one to two cinnamon sticks to a bottle of Tahoe Blue Vodka and allow to sit at room temperature for 48 hours. Remove sticks. Add vodka to prepared hot beverage and stir. Top with whipped cream and enjoy!

Winter surfing on Lake Tahoe

Wind gusts in excess of 40 mph and bone-chilling water don’t seem like a recipe for a good day at Lake Tahoe.

But for a select group of outdoor enthusiasts, the conditions are ripe for rare winter surfing sessions on Big Blue, such as the outings that occurred during the 2016-17 winter season.

“This past winter, we had a pretty good window,” said Brennan Lagasse, a Lake Tahoe resident who has been surfing the lake for more than 10 years. “It’s hard to put it on quantitative sort of level … but we were able to surf multiple times.”

Lagasse, who holds a master’s degree in environment and community from Humboldt State and a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology from Colgate University, said the more wind the better for winter surfing.

“Wind direction and intensity,” said the 37-year-old Lagasse, who is an adjunct professor at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village. “We got gusts of 40 mph. Once you have gusts of 40-45 mph, there are waves to surf.”

He said riding the waves on the lake is similar to ocean surfing, except the water is a lot choppier, and surfers don’t have to worry about predators.

“You are out in the lake, so there are no sharks … never have to worry about it,” said Lagasse with a wry chuckle. “(Also), the buoyancy of the water … it’s a really different feeling. It’s not a groundswell, it’s a wind swell.”

THE WAVES

Lagasse said another difference between lake and winter surfing is the repetitiveness of the waves, which come in one after other when it’s really pumping.

“It’s a different style of wave. It’s not like it breaks in the same spot all the time … when the next wave comes in, it might be a little to the left or to the right. It kind of keeps you on your toes,” he said.

Fellow winter surfer Scott Gaffney, who has been surfing the lake for about 17 years, agreed with the assessment.

“It’s typically very messy with peaks everywhere, and the energy of the waves are quite different (than the ocean),” said Gaffney, an Ithaca College graduate who grew up in northern New York and works as a producer for Matchstick Productions. “The ocean is kind of like a boat wake. It will peak in front of you, but if it peaks in front of you, it will recede and the next wave builds. People from the ocean will see the difference.”

Both veteran lake surfers also agreed that the best wind for lake surfing is south or south, southwest.

“The more south the better,” said Gaffney, who has surfed the lake a number of times with Lagasse over the years.

Gaffney said they keep a constant eye on the weather forecasts for the lake because when the conditions add up, it’s time to hit the water.

“This is not just a novelty; it’s a legitimate thing,” said the 48-year-old Gaffney, who Lagasse refers to as one of the best skiers he’s ever seen on the slopes.

Fellow skier and surfer Amie Engerbretson said she is waiting for a chance to get back on the lake after surfing the water body a few years ago.

“I did it once. It’s very fun, but very challenging. It’s super cold,” said the 29-year-old professional skier, who grew up in the Tahoe Basin and lives in Truckee.

Engerbretson, who surfed at Ski Beach in Incline Village or North Baldwin Beach in South Lake Tahoe, described the waves as “not smooth” but rideable. She said she lasted about an hour before the water temperature led her back to shore.

“Definitely something to try,” said Engerbretson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in media management from Columbia College.

The EQUIPMENT

Given the water temperature of the lake, which easily hovers in the low ‘40s during wintertime, the surfers said it’s imperative to wear the proper gear.

“I had a wetsuit since 2000. The water would flush through it like crazy,” said Gaffney, who said he once drove home “fairly hypothermic” after a session in the lake.

Gaffney said he has since traded up, and sports a 6/5 wetsuit along with a hood, glove and booties. The 6/5 represents the thickness of the wetsuit in millimeters.

The 6 represents the thickness of the neoprene in the torso portion of the wetsuit, while the 5 represents the thickness in the extremities, such as the arms and legs.

Lagasse said he used to go out in a 3/2 or a 4/3 wetsuit, but used a 5/4 wetsuit in winter 2016-17.

“It’s mandatory,” he said. “I’ve been out there when its dumping snow … pulling down the visor. It’s kind of a funny scene. You paddle, catch a wave … it’s dumping snow and you’ve got a wave.”

As for surfboards, the specifications are all over the place with some surfers partial to longer boards, while others prefer short boards.

“I’ve seen everything,” said Gaffney, who mainly rode a 6-foot, 8-inch board last winter while surfing at the lake.

As for Lagasse, he was less committed to one particular stick last winter.

“I would change boards all the time,” he said. “A (shorter) board, and then go back to a long board … get a little bit longer paddle, catch the wave, and make the drop.”

Conditions also play a role in determining what board to use, and can be quite different depending on the location of the break.

One of the more popular breaks during the wintertime is in the Agate Bay area on the California side of Lake Tahoe, whose surface area measures a little more than 122,00 acres or roughly 191 square miles.

“Years ago, I would be alone (or) with two or three other guys,” Gaffney said. “Now, there are times when it gets crowded at Agate Bay. Within 10 minutes you can have 20 people out in the water.

“There are days that are legit.”

‘Fire on the mountain’

A massive tour bus heaves and shrieks to a stop outside the Safeway grocery store in Kings Beach, California. Shopping carts halt. Car doors hang ajar. Wide eyes lock on the idling motor vehicle. The bus door flings open. After a beat, a leather boot thuds to the pavement. Then a wave of stylishly unkempt hippies spills into the parking lot.

It’s 50 years ago, the summer of 1967, and the volume in the quiet town of Kings Beach, nestled on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, is about to get turned up by a fast-rising psychedelic rock band from the San Francisco Bay Area.

They go by The Grateful Dead.

“I just happened to be there and I saw this bus come in and the door popped open and out they came,” Rich Schultze, a seasonal resident of Kings Beach at the time, said in an interview with Tahoe Magazine this summer. “Whether it was Jerry (Garcia) or the other guys, I’m not sure; it was a whole mess of them at once. It was like something out of a movie.

“The small-town people … man, when they first saw the Grateful Dead, they didn’t know what to think. People were literally freaking out. I wish I had a camera to capture the look on people’s faces. It was a culture shock. There were hippies around and everything (at Lake Tahoe) … but not to that extent.”

Schutlze was less rock-starstruck than most of the shoppers shuttling in and out of Safeway 50 years ago this summer. After all, he was a member of Simultaneous Avalanche, a crew that performed light shows at North Lake Tahoe for touring bands.

Specifically, the group was tasked with running light shows for bands playing at the Kings Beach Bowl, a new bowling alley-turned-music venue that operated for two years on the site that now houses the North Tahoe Event Center.

In other words, Schultze was looking at his next group of clients.

Bay to the lake

Fast-forward to 2017 — it’s hard to imagine that arguably the greatest American rock band to ever exist had set up shop in little Kings Beach and unspooled their blend of blues, folk and psychedelia inside a renovated bowling alley for three straight nights.

Back then, though, the Bay Area music scene was spilling into Lake Tahoe, and the Kings Beach Bowl became a hub for psychedelic-steeped bands hailing from San Francisco. Notably, the famed Bay Area concert hall The Fillmore was serving as a launching pad for countless homegrown acts cut from the tie-dye cloth: Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service and, yes, the Dead, to name a few.

Serving as somewhat of an extension of the famed Fillmore was Kings Beach Bowl, owned and operated by Dave Jay and Allan Goodall. Jay’s teenage sons, who were friends with Goodall’s son, played in a Sacramento-based rock outfit called The Creators. Simply put, Jay and Goodall converted the bowling alley into a music venue to give The Creators a stage on which to consistently perform.

In addition, they hired a group of Sacramento college students — the aforementioned Simultaneous Avalanche — to perform light shows for the Creators and visiting headliners.

Aside from the Grateful Dead, Kings Beach Bowl’s walls were rattled by other giants of the psychedelic rock movement during its two-year run — featuring everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Janis Joplin-fronted Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Testing the waters

That August of ’67 was the first time the Grateful Dead, playing in support of their debut, self-titled album, unspooled their bluesy riffs and soaring harmonies on the shores of Lake Tahoe. Days before rolling into Kings Beach, Jerry Garcia and Co. rocked the American Legion Hall in South Lake Tahoe.

The Dead played two nights at Kings Beach Bowl, making an instant splash at the newly minted music venue along the North Shore. At the time, the Dead were far from the psychedelic — and prolific — rock giants they would eventually become.

To epitomize the Dead’s youth back in ’67, Schultze offers a behind-the-curtain moment he witnessed up close.

“I remember we were there during the day and changing all of our equipment and stuff,” Schultze said. “And they (the Grateful Dead) were in there (Kings Beach Bowl) rehearsing. And Bob Weir had made a couple mistakes during rehearsal and they were chewing him out — and he was literally crying. They were going ‘Bobby, Bobby, you gotta pay attention.’ And he was going, ‘I’m trying, I’m trying.’”

The shows, however, didn’t disappoint, said Schultze, adding that “Kings Beach was really receptive.”

So much so that, just six months later, the six-piece outfit — Garcia (lead guitar, vocals), Weir (rhythm guitar, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart (drums) — migrated back to North Tahoe in the frigids of February 1968 for a three-night stand at Kings Beach Bowl.

Morning Glory, a rock band hailing from Sacramento, served as the co-headliner.

‘Trip and Ski’

The Feb. 22-24, 2018, shows on the North Shore were dubbed “Trip and Ski,” encouraging Dead Heads and fans alike to ski under blue skies — as one does during Tahoe’s snow season — and take a sensory trip (assisted by LSD, for some) with the Dead at dusk.

The concept inspired an iconic concert poster: the Grateful Dead skeleton, donning earmuffs and a scarf, skiing down a snowy mountain.

Hewitt Jackson, a road manager for the Sacramento-based rock band Sanpaku, said their band’s keyboard player, Bob Powell, remembers the gigs because the icy temperatures nearly rendered one of Pigpen’s instruments useless.

“He said the Dead brought their equipment up to play that gig and loaded it in there (Kings Beach Bowl) the night before,” Jackson recalls. “And the owners of the venue didn’t heat the place at night, so the organ in the cold got to be non-operable, and they were panicked about getting it warmed up. There’s a story that they took it outside in the sun (to warm it up).”

According to an anonymous Grateful Dead fan on the blog deadessays.blogspot.com, their first “Trip and Ski” show was christened by members sauntering out individually and tuning their instruments, as many bands do — but this was different.

“Amongst all the tuning, undiscovered and unrecognized, they were already playing a song,” the fan wrote. “Such a smooth transition; the point upon which the tuning stopped and the playing began was impossible to discover.”

According to the set list archives found on JerryGarcia.com, the song was “Morning Dew,” a sprawling epic off of the Dead’s debut album. The post-apocalyptic folk song was originally written and recorded by Canadian folk singer Bonnie Dobson.

Later, the fan added: “This was one of those shows Jerry played ‘to you’ and everyone was close enough so that he would stare you in the eyes and play parts directly to and for you — it was magic.”

The “Trip and Ski” shows marked one of the first times Betty Cantor, an audio crew member of the Grateful Dead, worked on their live recordings. Thirty-three years later, in 2001, two of the Kings Beach shows (Feb. 23 and 24) were released as part of Dick’s Picks Volume 22.

Schultze, who attended the Dead’s opening night, said he remembers the crowd being somewhat light, in-part due to the cold and snow keeping people in their homes.

“I wish something had been really radical that I remember,” Schultze said, “but, to me, it was just another show. But — every Grateful Dead show is a unique experience.”

Calendar of Events, Lake Tahoe-Truckee, Winter 2017-18

NOVEMBER

November 25

Holiday Hop/ Small Business Saturday

Stroll through downtown Tahoe City and enjoy wine and treats while celebrating the kick-off to the holiday season and our annual Shop Local program.

visittahoecity.org

November 30-December 3

Tahoe Film Fest

SWEP’s third annual Tahoe Film Fest will present environmental feature films from the U.S. and Latin America in Incline Village and at Northstar.

tahoefilmfest.org

November 30-December 3

Festival of Trees and Lights

Ring in the holiday spirit at Barton Health’s 9th annual Festival of Trees & Lights, featuring various events and entertainment at MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa.

tahoesouth.com

DECEMBER

December 1, 8 and 15

Festive Fridays

Shops stay open later on the first three Fridays in December in Historic Downtown Truckee. Take advantage of special promotions and stay for dinner.

historictruckee.com

December 1-31

Winter Wonderland

Watch as the Beach Retreat transforms into a holiday play land with twinkling lights and holiday decor at Tahoe Beach Retreat & Lodge in South Lake Tahoe.

tahoesouth.com

December 1-2

‘Line of Descent’ Film Screening

The lineage of mountain lifestyle continues in Warren Miller Entertainment’s 68th full-length feature film, “Line of Descent,” which screens at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.

tahoesouth.com

December 1

Community Christmas Mixer

Community Christmas Mixer at Raley’s Shopping Center in Incline Village includes live music, raffle prizes, local shopping discounts and more.

northernlightstahoe.com

December 1

Holiday Tree Lighting

Get in the holiday spirit and enjoy a winter tradition with the annual Kings Beach Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony at the North Tahoe Event Center.

northtahoebusiness.org

December 1

Pray for Snow Party

Join us for live music, prizes, food and friends at the annual Pray for Snow Party at Hacienda de la Sierra in Incline Village.

northernlightstahoe.com

December 2-10

Heavenly’s Winter Ignite

Hit the slopes, enjoy Heavenly’s high-energy DJ Cat, and then start the party at Tamarack Lodge with Unbuckle, Tahoe’s hottest après party. Free Cold War Kids concerts wraps this year’s event.

skiheavenly.com

December 2

Full Moon Snowshoe Tour

Enjoy a guided snowshoe adventure by moonlight starting at 5:30 p.m. at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center, followed by hot chili and drinks at Trailside Bar.

tahoedonner.com

December 7

Alpenglow Winter Film Series

The 12th annual Alpenglow Winter Film Series will showcase big-name outdoor athletes. This year’s kick-off features Adrian Ballinger & Cory Richards at the Olympic Valley Lodge.

alpenglowsports.com

December 9

Brunch with Santa

This family event at the Chateau in Incline Village features activities, brunch, magic show, arts and crafts, raffle prizes and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

yourtahoeplace.com

December 9

Messiah presented by Toccata

The Toccata-Tahoe Symphony will present “Messiah” and other winter favorites at Cornerstone Church in Incline Village.

toccatatahoe.com

December 9

Tahoe Adventure Film Festival

Barton Health’s Tahoe Adventure Film Festival is the annual gathering of the who’s who of outdoor adventure at MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa.

tahoesouth.com

December 15

Diamond Peak Kick-Off Party

Join Diamond Peak and the community for a kick-off season party celebration, featuring live music, raffle prizes, season passes, food and fun.

diamondpeak.com

December 16

Santa Crawl

As part of the Northern Lights Community celebration, join the fun of the Santa Crawl to some breweries, pubs and wine bars in Incline Village/Crystal Bay.

northernlightstahoe.com

December 16-31

Merry Days & Holly Nights

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows transforms the holiday season with its new Merry Days & Holly Nights. Enjoy festive cheer on the slopes and in The Village.

squawalpine.com

December 17

Messiah presented by Toccata

The Toccata-Tahoe Symphony will present “Messiah” and other winter favorites at St. Theresa Church in South Lake Tahoe.

toccatatahoe.com

December 18-31

Heavenly Holidays at Heavenly Mountain Resort

Ice sculptors, DJs, Santa and more, ending with a NYE celebration, concert and countdown with fireworks starting at 9 p.m.

skiheavenly.com

December 23

Messiah presented by Toccata

The Toccata-Tahoe Symphony will present “Messiah” and other winter favorites at the Squaw Valley Lodge.

toccatatahoe.com

December 24

Torchlight Parade

Follow the athletes of yesteryear down Granlibakken’s historic ski hill with LED torches. Followed by gifts, hot cocoa, and snacks with Santa.

granlibakken.com

December 25

Christmas Dinner at Granlibakken Tahoe

Christmas dinner buffet is included for all lodging guests and is available to non-lodging guests for an additional fee.

granlibakken.com

December 25

Christmas Day Pancake Breakfast with Santa

Breakfast starts at 10 a.m. followed by a half day of skiing and riding with Santa at Tahoe Donner Downhill. The ski lifts will open at 11:30 a.m.

tahoedonner.com

December 29-31

SnowGlobe Music Festival

Three-night outdoor music festival featuring Zedd, E-40, Dillon and more at Lake Tahoe Community College in South Lake Tahoe.

snowglobemusicfestival.com

December 31

New Year’s Eve Light Parade & Fireworks

A free night event for intermediate skiers and riders ages 10 or older at Tahoe Donner Downhill. Fun for participants and spectators. Music and refreshments available.

tahoedonner.com

December 31

New Year’s Eve at Granlibakken Tahoe

Ring in 2018 at Granlibakken Tahoe. Dinner is followed by music and dancing, kid-friendly activities, and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight.

granlibakken.com

December 31

New Year’s Eve at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Ring in the New Year at Squaw Valley. With live music, fireworks, kid’s parties and the 4th Annual Squaw Valley Prom, there’s something for everyone.

squawalpine.com

December 31

New Year’s Eve Celebration at the MontBleu

Check out three unbelievable New Year’s Eve parties featuring live music, go-go dancers, body painting and more at the MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa.

tahoesouth.com

December 31

New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade

A long-time Kirkwood tradition, the torchlight parade includes a spectacular fireworks display in the village, with the mountain providing a dramatic backdrop against the dark winter sky.

kirkwood.com

JANUARY

January 13

Team USA WinterFest

Team USA will be celebrating the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Fans can interact with athletes and share excitement for the upcoming Winter Games.

squawalpine.com

January 20

Camp Richardson Snowshoe Cocktail Races

Race with cocktail trays in hand, through obstacles, in this annual event on the beach in front of the Beacon Bar and Grill in South Lake Tahoe.

camprichardson.com

January 27

Tahoe Mountain Sports Nachtspektakel

Enjoy a guided skin up the mountain, followed by a 3-course dinner and drinks at Snowflake Lodge and ending with a private nighttime ski down.

diamondpeak.com

January 27

Jim Breuer at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe

With over 20 years of stand-up comedy experience, Jim Breuer remains one of today’s top entertainers. Check him out at Harrah’s at Stateline.

tahoesouth.com

FEBRUARY

February 1-3

9th Annual Ullr Fest

A fundraiser for the Diamond Peak Ski Team, Ullr Fest culminates in a torchlight parade, bonfire and live music on Friday night at Diamond Peak Ski Resort.

diamondpeak.com

February 2-3

Tower of Power at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe

Legendary Bay Area “soul” band and Northern Nevada favorites Tower of Power return to Harrah’s for two nights in the South Shore Room.

tahoesouth.com

February 9

Full Moon Community Snowshoe Hikes

Join our guides for an interpretive snowshoe hike to Diamond Peak’s Snowflake Lodge by the light of the full moon. Light fare and drinks available.

diamondpeak.com

February 10

Beth Hart’s Fire on the Floor Tour

Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Beth Hart rides a creative tidal wave of sultry blues, jazzy tunes and touching ballads into the MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa.

tahoesouth.com

February 11

Tahoe Donner Family Challenge

A treasure hunt on skis at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center. Participants ski to checkpoints to earn prizes. Event starts at 9 a.m.

tahoedonner.com

February 14

Valentine’s Day Sunset Snowshoe Tour

Bundle up with a companion for a special Valentine’s Day guided snowshoe tour from 5:30–7:30 p.m. at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center.

tahoedonner.com

February 17

Camp Richardson Snowshoe Cocktail Races

Race with cocktail trays in hand, through obstacles, in this annual event on the beach in front of the Beacon Bar and Grill.

camprichardson.com

February 17-24

Kid-O-Rama

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows comes alive in February with a week-long kid’s extravaganza. Kid-O-Rama offers non-stop fun for kids of all ages.

squawalpine.com

February 17-25

Alpenglow Sports Mountain Festival

This annual winter event features several backcountry excursions, film screenings, yoga sessions and more across North Tahoe-Truckee.

alpenglowsports.com

February 18

Dark Star Orchestra at Harrah’s

Dark Star Orchestra, the legendary Grateful Dead tribute band, returns to Lake Tahoe for a concert inside the Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore room.

tahoesouth.com

MARCH

March 1

SnowFest! Kickoff

Ten days of fun with SnowFest!, North Tahoe’s annual winter carnival, begin with the kickoff party and queen coronation at Gar Woods in Carnelian Bay.

tahoesnowfestival.com

March 2

Full Moon Community Snowshoe Hikes

Join our guides for an interpretive snowshoe hike to Diamond Peak’s Snowflake Lodge by the light of the full moon. Light fare and drinks available.

diamondpeak.com

March 3

SnowFest! Tahoe City Parade

The biggest parade of the spring, the annual Tahoe City SnowFest! parade, kicks off a day of unmatched fun in downtown Tahoe City.

tahoesnowfestival.com

March 3

SnowFest! Polar Bear Swim

Join hundreds of spectators at the pier at Gar Woods in Carnelian Bay as competitors brave the cold waters of Lake Tahoe in this annual SnowFest! event.

tahoesnowfestival.com

March 4

The Great Ski Race

The Great Ski Race, where XC skiers race from Tahoe City to Truckee, is the main fundraiser for the nonprofit Tahoe Nordic Search & Rescue Team.

thegreatskirace.com

March 10

Kings Beach SnowFest! Parade

Location: Highway 28, Downtown Kings Beach

Join in the fun with the Kings Beach SnowFest! Parade. One-of-a-kind floats, live music, participant prizes, and more are scheduled.

tahoesnowfest.org

March 11

I-Did-A-Run at Tahoe Donner

Dogs of all shapes and sizes compete in this entertaining, timed dog pull race at Tahoe Donner Downhill, which raises money for the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe.

tahoedonner.com

March 11

The Skogsloppet ‘Citizens’ Race

This 15km or 5km event is organized by local school cross-country ski teams at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Area. Lunch and raffle prizes.

tahoedonner.com

March 16-30

Spring Loaded

Activities on and off the slopes at Heavenly, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood, competitions, live music, entertainment, March Madness and more.

tahoesouth.com

March 17

Camp Richardson Snowshoe Cocktail Races

Race with cocktail trays in hand, through obstacles, in this annual event on the beach in front of the Beacon Bar and Grill.

camprichardson.com

March 17

Banana Split Extravaganza

Help devour an incredible 200-foot banana split at 1:30 p.m. at Tahoe Donner Downhill for free! Grab some spoons because this will be one tasty monster.

tahoedonner.com

March 24

Underwater Egg Hunt

Come join us for some underwater egg hunt fun at the Incline Recreation Center. The Easter Bunny will also make an appearance!

inclinerecreation.com

March 25

Tour D’Euer

The annual cross-country spring tour of beautiful Euer Valley followed by barbecue and live music. Tour starts at 10 a.m.

tahoedonner.com

March 25

18th Annual Dummy Downhill (PHOTO: Calendar5)

Participants build dummies that get launched off of a big jump. Spectators watch as unique characters crash hard. Diamond Peak’s biggest party of the year.

diamondpeak.com

March 31

Luggi Foeger Uphill/Downhill Festival

Race to the top of the mountain and back using whatever human-powered method you prefer: skins, snowshoes or running shoes. Après party at the finish.

diamondpeak.com

APRIL

April 6-8

WinterWonderGrass Tahoe

WinterWonderGrass Tahoe returns with world-class Bluegrass/Acoustic Roots music on three stages alongside California craft breweries, all under the snow covered peaks at Squaw Valley.

squawalpine.com

MAY

May 18

Amgen Tour of California

The start of Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race, and the Men’s Stage 6 finish, will take place at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

tahoesouth.com

Love gift us up…

The gift-giving season is here. If you are spending your winter at Lake Tahoe, then you may want to get going on your holiday shopping before you get snowed in. Fortunately, there are options all over the lake to get the perfect present for any type of person.

Here are some gift suggestions that share a special connection to Lake Tahoe:

For the food and drink lover…

• Truckee River Winery varietals: With its tasting room located at 11467 Brockway Road in Truckee, the quaint Truckee River Winery shop offers all sorts of locally made gifts, but it is most noted for its “highest and coldest” wines. Established 27 years ago with the vision to bring quality-sourced grapes to Tahoe to help slow the barrel-aging process, TRW now offers at least 11 wines ranging from Red Barn Red Table Wine to a special edition 4-pack vintage vertical box, with varietals aged from 2007-2010. Visit truckeeriverwinery.com to learn more.

• Tahoe Teas: Using quality, certified organic ingredients for its loose-leaf herbal infusions, this family-owned business strives to translate the spirit of Lake Tahoe into a pure and natural product that is nurturing to the body and soul. Tahoe Teas are sold all over Truckee, Tahoe City, Squaw Valley, Northstar California, Zephyr Cove, South Lake Tahoe, and Reno. For a full list of locations or to shop online, visit tahoeteas.com.

• Alpen Sierra Big Blue Tahoe Blend: Serving its first cup of coffee out of a log cabin in South Shore over 20 years ago, Alpen Sierra has expanded its selection and is served in coffeehouses around the lake and in other parts of the world. The Big Blue Tahoe Blend should get a special mention — it is a multi-roast with a rich, nutty taste, silky sweet notes, and a lingering finish. Check out alpensierracoffee.com for more.

• Tahoe Moonshine: After founder Jeffrey VanHee graduated from the UC Davis American Distilling Institute, he soon migrated to South Lake Tahoe to open his own distillery that creates spirits with a twist. Handcrafted with the finest herbs, spices and organic ingredients, Tahoe Moonshine Distillery (tahoemoonshine.com) selections include a Peanut Butter Vodka, Jagged Peaks Gin, Jug Dealer Rum and Stormin Whiskey.

• Tahoe Truckee Jerky: Served out of a caboose on 11401 Donner Pass Road in Truckee, the Jerky Junction orders the highest quality beef in the U.S. and dehydrates it down into delicious dried meat. Tahoe Truckee Jerky has even expanded its collection to include buffalo, elk, venison, Hawaiian-style pork and ahi tuna. Learn more at www.tahoetruckeejerky.com.

For the beach lover…

• Lake Tahoe map beach towel: There are several versions of Lake Tahoe towels around the lake, but the map towel is the perfect size to lie on. It is sold in several places (including grocery stores), and it helps bring back fond memories of places you enjoyed around Big Blue.

• Tahoe Timber sunglasses: Do you know people who always seems to lose their expensive sunglasses in the lake or rafting the Truckee River? Then check out this stylish, wooden polarized eye gear that floats. Made of sustainably harvested timber from the Tahoe National Forest, these sunglasses are the perfect gift for the beach lover. Visit tahoetimber.com for more.

• Tahoemade hoodies: Crafted to pay homage to the environmental beauty of Lake Tahoe, the signature design of these zip-up hoodies from Tahoemade are cozy and comfortable, which is the perfect thing to wrap yourself up in when you get a little chilly at the beach. Check out tahoemadeattire.com for all sorts of Tahoemade attire.

• bigtruck hats: Years ago, a couple of guys started stitching hats in a small shop in Truckee, and it seems like overnight the hats’ designs became an international sensation. What started out as simple trucker hats with unique patches and limited edition designs inspired by Shane McConkey and the High Fives Foundation, other iconic images now give an immediate association to Lake Tahoe. Visit bigtruck.com for more.

For the games, puzzles and art lover…

• Freel Perk Coffee Shop adult coloring book: It’s been proven that no matter what age you are, zoning out and unleashing your inner creative spirit helps you relax and relieve stress, which is why adult coloring books are all the rage. Along with Alpen Sierra coffee for sale, Freel Perk Coffee Shop at 3141 U.S. Highway 50 in South Lake Tahoe sells Tree-Free Greetings calendars and coloring books that feature Tahoe images and outlines of Emerald Bay, sunbathers on what looks like a Donner dock, and wildlife that allows you to fill in the blanks.

• A New Home for Toby – The Lake Tahoe Bear: Written by Incline Village local Jean Eick right around the time of the Angora Fire in the summer of 2007, this is the story of a black bear cub forced out of its home when the forest erupts in flames. Young readers have the chance to learn about the struggles that bears face while living in the basin as they follow Toby and his mother around Lake Tahoe in search of a new home. Available at several locations.

• Lake Tahoe jigsaw puzzles: To prepare for being stuck indoors on a powder day, consider giving a loved one a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that the whole family can enjoy featuring photographs of some of Tahoe’s most epic views. Available at several locations.

• Tahoe Wood Map: Regularly called a “favorite piece of décor,” these 3D wooden maps act as a timeless work of art that feature lake depths and historic landmarks/hiking trails around the lake. Accenting any Lake Tahoe home, the timber maps are sold in interior decorating shops around the lake.

For the yogi/health & wellness lover…

• Locally mined crystals from Well Being Massage & Skin Care: Not only does this Kings Beach wellness shop offer workshops and events with themes around yoga, meditation, massage and natural health, it has a storefront that sells locally mined crystals from Hallelujah Junction, Verdi, Lake Tahoe, Black Rock City and Yosemite in smoky quartz, agate, citrine, geodes, amethyst and clear quartz fluorite to bring a sense of wellbeing into your space. Check out wellbeingtahoe.com for more.

• Lather & Fizz soaps: Sold in Squaw Valley and Tahoe City, Lather & Fizz Bath Boutique (latherandfizz.com) offers a unique variety of handmade soaps, bath bombs, sugar scrubs and massage bars that smell good enough to eat and leave your skin feeling smooth and refreshed. Made of high quality glycerin and essential oils, find soaps sold by the pound with names like Aphrodisiac, Black and Tan Beer, Skinny Dip Summer, and of course Tahoe Blue.

• Tahoe Mountain Soap Company lotion: Manufactured in South Lake Tahoe, these ultra-moisturizing lotions are handcrafted in small batches and made with a unique blend of natural oils and butters. These mild, softly scented lotions are paraben-free and perfect for the face and body. Check out tahoemountainsoap.com for more.

Winter wine stops around Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is not what you’d call wine country. But the area does boast a smattering of wine bars and shops dedicated to the craft. And there are few seasons better to enjoy these cozy hideouts than winter.

Below are Tahoe Magazine’s lucky seven spots that are sure to satisfy your urge to imbibe:

SOUTH SHORE

Nepheles – South Lake Tahoe

The quaint South Shore refuge celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. Billed as “creative California cuisine,” Nepheles is perfect for visitors looking for a quiet upscale escape. The menu includes fresh dishes like New Zealand rack of lamb and scaloppini. Nepheles is widely known for its wine selection and perfect pairings. Wine Spectator Magazine gave the establishment and Award of Excellence for its discerning tastes. After dinner, try Nepheles’ dessert or take a dip in one of its private spas, available for hourly rentals.

Paint and Sip Studio – South Lake Tahoe

Not into just sipping? South Lake Tahoe’s Paint & Sip Studio adds some color to your evening glass. Each night, aspiring artists gather to enjoy some time in front of the easel. Typically, painters focus on a theme, like “Secrets of Tahoe” or “East Shore Sunsets,” but there are no rules in art. The 2-hour sessions include everything from aprons to brushes and canvas. Wines include selections from larger California vineyards. Paint & Sip also has a few beers on tap and non-alcoholic beverages. Prefer to bring your own bottle? The corkage fee is only $15.

Revive Coffee and Wine – South Lake Tahoe

Nestled in the pines in South Lake Tahoe’s Al Tahoe neighborhood, Revive is one of those hidden gems. On snowy days, cuddle up on the shop’s couches and sip from its ever-changing selection of reds, whites, rosé and sparkling wines. Looking for something warmer? The barista-trained staff serves traditional and specialty coffee drinks. The simple food menu has a selection of paninis and tasty appetizers like bacon-wrapped dates. For breaks in the weather, Revive’s outside area has a few fun games to play with the family, or walk over and enjoy a winter view of the lake from nearby Lakeview Commons.

The Cork & More – South Lake Tahoe

A one-stop shop for fine delicatessen, the South Shore market has everything from hundreds of the latest vintages to charcuterie. Owners Karla and Jeff Brennan bought the store in 2006 and have carried on its tradition for quality foods and interesting retail items. It’s a great place to stop if you’re searching for a new favorite glass or a specialty kitchen item. In addition, The Cork & More has a selection of cheeses and tasty made-to-order sandwiches, perfect for a to-go lunch on the mountain.

NORTH SHORE/TRUCKEE

Uncorked – Tahoe City

For a truly impressive variety, winos must visit Uncorked, which has locations in Tahoe City, Squaw Valley and Historic Downtown Truckee. The North Shore franchise has dozens of bottles of high quality vintages. Uncorked has daily tastings and a posh interior that’s ideal for quiet relaxing after a day of snow play. Winemakers frequently visit Uncorked, the calendar of events for which is available online. For devoted drinkers, the company’s wine club offers a way to try different selections. Members receive two bottles a month.

Glasses – Incline Village

The Incline Village stop knows its wines, but the fun twist here is that owners Rob and Kathleen Martens let machines do the pouring. With state-of-the-art wine dispensers, guests are free to pour as much or as little as they prefer, all based on a token system. Glasses usually has 16 wines available in its two dispensers, and another eight wines behind the bar. The selection changes often. To keep customers entertained, the owners have stocked a handful of board games and a small library of books. Light snacks and a few beers and non-alcoholic beverages are available. On special occasions, the wine bar books local musicians.

The Pour House – Truckee

Truckee’s favorite wine shop, located just behind downtown on Jibboom Street, keeps a dynamic assortment of more than 350 fine pours. The Pour House keeps its list of wines, arranged lightest in body to heaviest, online for everyone to view. Staff works hard to stock bottles for every budget, from $50 Napa zinfandel to $10 pinot grigio. The little shop also carries a bevy of cheeses for a perfect aprés snack. The Pour House’s wine club has two levels — a $30/month option (the Poor House) and $50/month option (the Big House). Or, for those who aren’t into commitment, stop in for a tasting.