Here, in the Bay Area we are having some wet, stormy weather. Some of us even experienced a blackout or two and flooding on our roads. Not too bad, but it’s keeping us on our toes. As my family and I sat in our candlelit, electricity-less house last week watching the rain pelt the deck, we couldn’t help but wonder how Lake Tahoe was faring. California has been in a drought for many years and this has affected the snow levels in Lake Tahoe as well. Last week I heard that some places in Tahoe recorded 9 feet of snow falling during a winter storm. They actually had to shut some ski resorts down (temporarily of course) because of too much snow! The snow making machines will be able to take a much needed break this year.
The Lake Tahoe region is beautiful year round, but I think it really becomes world-class when winter arrives and covers the surrounding mountains in snow. The views, everywhere you look around the lake, are absolutely breath-taking, while the many winter activities keeps everyone coming back year after year. Lake Tahoe is only about a 3.5-4 hour drive from the Bay Area when the roads are clear, very accessible in terms of a weekend getaway or even a day trip if you don’t mind the drive after a long day of enjoying the snow (especially when you break up the drive and stop at Ikeda’s to pick up their famous pie and chocolate covered gummy bears).
We usually stay in the King’s Beach area (northwest Lake Tahoe) where there are affordable motels right along the lake. Let me explain that better, places are affordable as long as you don’t stay Christmas Eve through New Years. The week days before Christmas and after New Years, the motels are affordable. Many are in need of an update, but the location on the lake more than makes up for it. There is a ski rental place, Tahoe Dave’s right in town (King’s Beach) where you can rent skis the night before you hit the slopes, so you don’t have to waste time renting skis at the ski resorts in the morning. King’s Beach is about a 15 minute drive to Diamond Peak Ski Resort and about a 30 minute drive to Homewood Ski Resort. The Hyatt Lake Tahoe in Incline Village is a nice place to stay (heated pool!) and right down the mountain from Diamond Peak (shuttle service), but for the same price or even cheaper you can stay in King’s Beach in a lake front room.
If you’re not staying at King’s Beach, there is a King’s Beach Recreation Area that has a parking lot and a lake front “beach” that you can walk along.
One of our favorite activities in the winter has been skiing in Lake Tahoe. My hubby has been skiing since he was a boy and I have to say he’s pretty good (shhh, don’t tell him I said that). He’s the family instructor, the one we lean on when we need help. I, on the other hand, still have a ways to go, but I do enjoy swishing down a not-so-steep slope. There are many ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area, and the last 8 years since my daughter was 5 years-old, we’ve really liked Diamond Peak and Homewood Ski Resorts. The prices at Diamond Peak are hard to beat, and this ski resort is a great place for kids to learn how to ski. Also, both have incredible views of the lake! When my daughter was first starting out, we spent a lot of time on the beginner slope, and the Lodgepole run at Diamond Peak was perfect for her. If you think you are only going to stay on the beginner slope, then you can even buy a lift ticket for much cheaper ($39 full day vs $79 for a standard adult ticket). I did that once, but I ended up buying the standard ticket the next day because you really can’t miss going down the Crystal Ridge/Lake View Ridge run. However, if you are an advanced skiier without little ones in tow, then the terrain at Diamond Peak may be too small for you. For the same price (this year at least), Homewood has more terrain with just as nice lake views.
We’ve found that the best time to visit Diamond Peak through the years was the weekdays before Christmas and after New Years. However, when there is snow, Lake Tahoe on the weekends is just a popular place pure and simple. The lodge at Diamond Peak is on the smaller side, so finding a table around lunch time is pretty difficult. We’ve found that we are usually hungry by 11 am anyway, so taking lunch early is definitely worth it when it comes to finding a table at the lodge.
During the first hour after the ski resorts open, you usually have the slopes to yourselves, the carefree feeling of flying down the slopes is intensified when you are the only ones on the slope. The quiet solitude you experience only disturbed by the swishing sound of your skis (or snowboard) on the freshly groomed runs is like no other feeling. There’s the adrenaline rush with the have-to-see-it-for-yourself beauty of your surroundings, all mixed in with pure happiness that you are exactly where you are at that moment in time. This is why I painfully get up at the crack of dawn to get my family on the slopes when the resorts open- for that fleeting feeling! So worth it.
Other activities we’ve enjoyed in Tahoe during the winter has been sledding and ice skating. We don’t actually have a favorite spot for sledding, but we’ve carved out a decent sled run at various parks in the King’s Beach and Incline Village area. If you keep a sled in the car, you will always be prepared when you find that perfect sledding hill. We ice skated at North Star’s rink a few years ago and had a blast. People of all skating levels enjoyed going around and around the 9000 square foot ice skating rink that had seating areas with fire pits. Perfect for those days your body needs a rest from skiing (or snowboarding). There are many, many ways to enjoy Lake Tahoe in the winter, but this year’s snow falls already promises to be a special year. With the new snow, this winter season is the time to check out Lake Tahoe for yourselves. Once the roads are cleared and the stormy weather has subsided, Lake Tahoe will be a veritable snow paradise. See you out there!