The Ultimate Guide to Tahoe
This winter, head to the mountains to eat, drink, shop, and ski. Here are the best places to play in Tahoe.
Tahoe has some of the best skiing and snowboarding in America—killer steeps, gorgeous bowls, great views, and fun parks. Plus, all around the lake, we’ve seen a renaissance of cool new shops, fine dining, luxe spas, and hip bars. So grab your down jacket, and head up the hill: Here is the best of the best, put together into one perfect mountain getaway.
“Make sure you get to ‘ski into the lake.’ Almost every mountain has a run that goes towards the lake. Getting a view of the lake while skiing is a must. If it’s too snowy that you never get to see the lake . . . even better!” —Phil Pugliese, gear review editor, pugski.com.
Squaw’s renowned KT-22
You can’t beat KT-22’s West Face for expert skiing. With so many options—Dead Tree, Rock Garden, Chute 75, Moseley’s—the hard part is choosing. But avoid the Fingers, the narrow chutes under the lift, unless you are ready for serious straight lining. squawalpine.com.
“I like to stay skier’s left near and in the trees on my run, KT-22, at Squaw Valley. The whole West Face and Chute 75 deliver sustained pitch and fun features, and the runs face the right direction so the snowis almost always money.” —Jonny Moseley, Olympic gold medalist in freestyle skiing
Run With a View
Ridge Run at Heavenly
Homewood may be closer to the lake (and we do love Homewood’s Rainbow Ridge), but Heavenly has the longest run in Tahoe, with a panoramic view of the lake and the surrounding mountains. At 10,000 feet above sea level, it’s beautiful. skiheavenly.com.
Sugar Pine Glade at Northstar
Ski teams train on gates; the lucky ones race through the trees on Sugar Pine Glade. It’s to the skier’s left of the Washoe and Martis runs off the Martis Valley Express lift. You’ll also find great tree skiing to the skier’s left of Burnout on the Backside or just about anywhere on this lower-elevation, wind-protected mountain. northstarcalifornia.com.
Boreal Mountain Resort
This no-frills resort, with its lack of steeps and crowds, is the perfect place to start with young kiddos. The lifts are right outside the lodge, so there’s less lugging Junior’s gear. Plus, Boreal has a tubing park, a pirate-themed terrain park, and night skiing, so teenagers love it, too. rideboreal.com.
New Acreage, Off-Piste
Sugar Bowl’s Crow’s Peak
Sugar Bowl opened the Crow’s Peak triple in 2014, and we’ve been waiting to have enough snow to go explore. With some deep snow, to the skier’s left is a stash through impressively huge old-growth forests and a sustained 1,100 vertical drop to the valley floor. sugarbowl.com.
“The first run down Rahlves' Run at Sugar Bowl is always the best time. Use the whole width of the run to put all the terrain in play.” —Daron Rahlves, Walnut Creek native—and winner of 12 World Cup victories—who now resides in Truckee.
Hitting the Park
No wonder Shaun White, the legendary Olympic gold medalist, made Northstar his training hill. Northstar has the most serious rails, boxes, pipes, and progression park in California—if not the West. And if you aren’t up for riding the rails or getting a little air, just watch the fun from above on the Vista chair. northstarcalifornia.com.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort in Incline Village
At 4 p.m., hop on the Lakeview chairlift for mid-mountain’s Snowflake Lodge. From there, soak up the view of the lake, enjoy a wine or beer tasting, and ski or snowboard down a freshly groomed run as the sun sets. Saturdays, from February to April, diamondpeak.com.
Ski Mt. Rose’s Slide Bowl to experience wide-open skiing at its best. Its intermediate-to-advanced pitch provides consistent speed, and it has brilliant east-facing sunshine. It even has perfectly spaced trees for great off-piste skiing. Plus, we dig the expansive view of Reno’s Washoe Valley and three mountain ranges, from the bar or the slopes. skirose.com.
Run for Ripping It
The Wall at Kirkwood
It’s steep enough so that it’s almost terrifying. Kirkwood even has a shirt that says: “I Survived The Wall.” It’s a steep fall line and wide open. You can ski it all day. kirkwood.com.
“I have fond memories of Tuesday night downhills at Squaw, [going] from the top of the tram to the bottom when it was chilly cold. We would race the tram so as not to miss one.” —Michelle Parker, X Games freeskier, who got her start at Squaw.
“For hearty dishes made from scratch, Fire Sign Cafe in Tahoe City can’t be beat. Try the eggs Benedict, Rubicon scramble, or French toast. Top it off with a latte or Bloody Mary, and you’ll be ready to tear it up at your favorite ski resort.” —Amanda Burden, publisher/editor of Edible Reno-Tahoe Magazine
Breakfast off the Slopes
Fire Sign Cafe
Fire Sign Cafe is so popular, it has an annex next door where folks can play board games while they wait for a table. This log cabin–style café dishes out coffee cake, cobblers, muffins, chorizo sausage, and most importantly, a made-from-scratch hollandaise sauce for four different types of eggs Benedict. Tahoe City, firesigncafe.com.
Grab n’ Go Breakfast with a Ski Deal
Wild Cherries in Truckee
Owned by a former Olympic alpine racer, Wild Cherries is tough to beat for a hot bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on the go. While you’re there, pick up a discounted Sugar Bowl lift ticket, which saves you $10. wildcherriescoffeehouse.com.
Inspired by Italian coffee bars, this hipster hang on Jibboom Street serves C1–grade coffee, the highest-grade coffee around. Hit the bakery on Donner Pass Road: It’s one of the only places in town to find delicious gluten-free options. Truckee, coffeebartruckee.com.
Tiki Room Vibe
Get some aloha spirit at this funky joint with a Hawaiian bent. Folks go here for the fish tacos and the loaded-with-everything crunch salad, plus Pliny the Elder on tap. South Lake Tahoe, freshiestahoe.com.
On the Slopes at Northstar
Every day at 2 p.m., Northstar serves complimentary flutes of bubbly on the East Ridge for a toast to the mountains. Select dates will feature live music. northstarcalifornia.com.
Belgian-Style Waffles at Euro Snack
You’ll smell these sweet treats from the top of the hill. At least once during the season, stand in line at Euro Snack to get your fix. At Homewood, Northstar, Sugar Bowl, and Squaw Valley, eurosnack.com.
Le Chamois at Squaw Valley
Decidedly old school, this 45-year-old hang is one of the top-ranked ski bars in the country. Go for a Bud and chili fries, and enjoy this mini museum/watering hole’s vaunted skiing history. (You can even get a season pass for pints and pitchers.) squawchamois.com.
Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co.
Stop by the Truckee brewery located in an industrial park for pours of its award-winning, barrel-aged sours. For a more refined experience, head to the brewery’s pub in Tahoe City, and look out for bottles from the Récolte Du Bois sour series. Tahoe City and Truckee, tahoebrewing.com.
The best s’mores are at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. The hotel’s daily Marshmology experience offers free house-made marshmallows with a host of gooey toppings. The seasonal mint marshmallow made with mint from the chef’s garden is worth the sticky fingers. Cap it off by ordering a decadent S’moretini. Northstar, ritzcarlton.com/laketahoe.
Sure, the cupcakes are mighty good. But go for a Gunther’s ice cream cone. Even in winter, the caramel with salt is to die for. Truckee, caketahoe.com.
The Truckee Tavern and Grill
This is one of the few places around the lake that offers cocktails and entrées made with seasonal, organic ingredients. Try the juicy pork chop grilled on the kitchen’s open-flame wood grill. Truckee, truckeetavern.com.
Restaurant with a Soul
You’ll feel the old Truckee vibe as soon as you walk in the low ceilinged space with 8-foot-long wooden skis by the door. Beg for a table by the window, for a perfect view of downtown Truckee and the occasional train passing by. Highlights of the American food menu include sweet and spicy ribs, a Caesar salad you eat with your fingers, and the French Margarita. Truckee, cottonwoodrestaurant.com.
Plumpjack at Squaw Village
The menu here spotlights comfort food—pasta, stews, and panini—with long breaks between courses so you can relax and enjoy your wine and conversation. plumpjacksquawvalleyinn.com.
Pour House in Truckee
The Pour House, tucked away on Jibboom Street, looks like a run-down shack. But looks deceive: In addition to having the best wine selection on the North Shore, the Pour House has an impressive array of cheeses, and will order in specialty cheeses by request. thepourhousetruckee.com.
Dinner on the Slopes
Northstar’s Zephyr Lodge
After the crowds have left, snuggle under a blanket as you take a gondola up to Zephyr Lodge for a Mountain Table Dinner, highlighting California’s bounty. Dishes are paired with wines, craft beers, and seasonal spirits. Select Fridays, northstarcalifornia.com.
Moonlit Snowshoe Dinners
Chalet at alpine meadows
After the mountain closes, snowshoe to the mid-mountain Chalet at Alpine Meadows. It’s a one-quarter-mile trek uphill, but the Alps-inspired menu, with dishes such as potato cheese soup and apple strudel, is worth the hike. Select weekend nights, Alpine Mountain, squawalpine.com.
The Baked Tahoe
This giant, pinecone-shaped riff on the “Baked Alaska” serves four. Thank goodness, or some families might break into fights over the buckwheat brownie, molasses, torched meringue, and French vanilla ice cream deliciousness. Incline, loneeaglegrille.com.
Crystal Bay Casino/Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
On the North Shore, head to Crystal Bay Casino for reggae, local jam bands, and DJs, plus well-known names in rock and roll. Some shows are even free, and New Year’s parties reign supreme. crystalbaycasino.com. On the South Shore, the relatively new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Lake Tahoe hosts big-name performers, as well as local and tribute bands. hardrockcasinolaketahoe.com.
North lake Tahoe Snowfest
Events vary from year to year, but look for Garwoods’ polar bear swim, a dog pull race, Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge’s annual luau, the Bridgetender Rib Fest, a dress-up-your-dog contest, an ice-carving competition at Truckee River Winery, parades, and more at this wacky festival, celebrating its 36th year. March 3–12, 2017, tahoesnowfestival.com.
WinterWonderGrass Tahoe at Squaw Valley
With music on three stages, this three-day event features world-class bluegrass and acoustic roots performances, craft breweries, and local food vendors. (We like the heated beer tents.) March 31–April 2, squawalpine.com.
Find delightful one-of-a-kind jewelry, paintings, and sculptures handcrafted by regional artisans. You’ll spot Pat Blide’s iron Spike People here—and all over Lake Tahoe. Truckee, riversideartstudios.com.
Bespoke Stuff and Things
Bespoke sells such creative, hipster-cool gift items—pottery, notecards, jewelry—it’s fun to go in just to look. Its sister shop a few doors down, Atelier, is the place for all your luxe paper goods and art supplies. You can even take a class—painting, crocheting, leatherwork, and more. Truckee, bespoketruckee.com, ateliertruckee.com.
Native American Décor
White Buffalo in Truckee
Go here for authentic pillows, rugs, paintings, lamps, and turquoise jewelry. Even hot sauce! Whitebufflaotruckee.com
A Nearly 100-Year-Old Clothing Store
Opened in 1918, this well-curated, second-generation shop for men and women specializes in rugged and chic mountain style, including sheer Komarov evening wear. Don’t be shocked when you get a hand-written thank-you note after a shopping spree here—and later in the year, a birthday surprise. Get deals at the outlet on Jibboom Street. Truckee, cabonas.com.
Best Place for Technical Gear
This is where the ski racers—professionals and amateurs—shop. So, you’ll find you’ll need an appointment for a boot fitting. Truckee, starthaus.com
Room With a Lift
Resort at Squaw Creek
Recently remodeled, this ski-in, ski-out resort has its own lift to Squaw (no waiting in line!), an ice-skating rink, sledding hill, dogsled tours, horse-drawn carriages, outdoor pool, hot tubs, fine dining, and shops. Ask for a room with a view of the valley. squawcreek.com.
Boutique South Lake Hotel
Centrally located near Stateline and the Heavenly lift, this Joie de Vivre hotel runs less than $200 a night, which is a bargain for a bed and a Keurig coffeemaker in the mountains. Plus, it’s all eco-friendly and sustainable. jdvhotels.com/hotels/california/lake-tahoe-hotels/968-park-hotel.
The Ritz-Carlton, lake Tahoe
All of The Ritz-Carlton’s rooms are lovely, but if your IPO skyrocketed, the Ultimate Winter Vacation Package is the only way to go. At $10,000 a night, you’ll be living the life, with a mountain guide, in-room spa treatments, dinner at the chef’s table at Manzanita, snowshoe stargazing, and more. This deluxe three-bed residence also includes over-the-top luxe amenities. Four-night minimum. Northstar, ritzcarlton.com/laketahoe.