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.
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.
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.
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.