An Old-Fashioned Love Affair
A Cabin in the woods, your true love, and some cross-country skis are all you need
Whoever said love is a many-splendored thing must never have married. After a few years—and I don’t care how lovey-dovey you started out—the "happily ever after" becomes routine. You could throw money at the problem, but while mind-blowing retreats are great, long flights and rooms that cost four figures a night don’t always add up to long stares, a rush of conversation, and rekindled passion. I say keep it simple. Head for a place that first and foremost is about quiet and uninterrupted time together. Head for the woods. Head for Sorensen’s Resort in Hope Valley.
A short drive southwest of Lake Tahoe—and what seems like a million miles from its crowds—Sorensen’s has 29 year-round cabins that, in the quiet of winter, are blanketed by an extra layer of romance. There are big cabins and tiny cabins, but the best for tête-à-têtes and heart-to-hearts have to be the three just-right log classics (Snowshoe, Creekside, and Sheepherder) or the two little A-frames (the Chapel and St. Nick’s) rescued from Santa’s Village in Santa Cruz. Each has a wood stove, a fridge, and a couple of burners for making tea or hot chocolate, but no phones or TVs to distract. During the colder months, these hideaways envelope you like a favorite blanket, easing away the tension of everyday life from the moment you walk in the door—especially if you luck out and get snow falling softly among the village’s aspens. You could read books all day, toes mingling on the quilt-covered bed.
For some people, the mention of a quilt on the bed raises visions of cutesiness run amok. But this isn’t a fake stab at home sweet home. The cabins are simple, and so welcoming they’re hard to leave. Plus, the family of owner-innkeepers are genuinely nice: They’ll bring dinner to your cabin, and make you a nice cinnamon hot chocolate anytime you like. They also have a hits-the-mark restaurant, Sorensen’s Country Café, which means you don’t waste any precious quality time hunting for a place to eat. The signature beef stew is so addictively herby and chunky it makes sense that you can get it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The rest of the menu is equally enticing, from the risotto to the prime rib, and the wine list is pretty swell for such a homey little spot.
But the cozy lamp-lit dinners (and a stretch in the wood-fired sauna) are even better crowning a day of cross-country
skiing. The sport is made for sharing vistas and moments.
There are miles of trails within shouting distance of Sorensen’s, and a short drive brings you to many more, including Kirkwood’s groomed, view-filled loops.If you want the same privacy outdoors as your cabin affords, head to one of the pullouts off Highway 88 to the west of the resort. From here you can take off into alpine meadows where few tracks, other than those of deer or long-tailed weasels, interrupt the snow.
The landscape is dramatic: the peaks that form Carson Pass dive down to smooth, white expanses pierced by the blue shadows of pines. You can cut your own trails, and finding a long-dead tree, you can pop off the skis, sit back, and eat your lunch as the sunlight glitters on the snow.
Cross-country skiing, for all its peacefulness, is also one of the great workouts in the world. For the deskbound, it never fails to wake up dormant muscles something fierce. Which just means you’ll have to give your significant other a massage or two.
Yes, love can seem pretty ordinary when you know your partner in crime
is going to leave his dirty socks on the floor or talk—again—about the
Raiders’ woes. But the quiet and uninterrupted peace of a crisp winter
break re-awakens you to why you fell
in love in the first place. Head for the woods, I say. At Sorensen’s, you can get splendored again. n
When to Go: Sorensen’s (14255 Hwy. 88, 800-423-9949, www.sorensensre
sort.com) is open year-round but fall and winter shine. The resort’s
aspens make the foliage fire from mid-September to late October
famously impressive. Winter’s beauty turns on the snow-filled meadows
and their vistas. The Snowshoe, Creekside, and Sheepherder cabins run
$175–$225; The Chapel and Saint Nick’s $185–$250. The rates are per
night, with a two-night minimum on weekends.
Getting There: Sorensen’s sits just off Highway 88, about a mile east of the junction with Highway 89. On the way up, pick up 88 heading east from Stockton, which allows a stop in Jackson. The Rosebud Classic Café on Jackson’s historic Main Street is in the process of becoming a full-blown Irish pub, but its hits-the-spot-and-then-some Orson burger is not going to change (26 Main Street, 209-223-1035). To come home, take Highway 89 over Luther Pass to Highway 50. The ride back on 50, although not as picturesque, can be up to 30 minutes faster than 88. Total drive time ranges from three to four hours depending on driving style, traffic, and weather.
What to Do: With nearly unlimited access to public lands and no charge to use them, cross-country skiing in Hope Valley and vicinity is some of the best in the state. If you’ve got the gear, all you really have to do is pull off to the side of the road. The Sorensen’s-affiliated Hope Valley Outdoor Center (Highway 88, 530-694-2266, www.hopevalleyoutdoors.com) has maps of the more established runs on public land ($2). The center rents skis for $18–$20 a full day. Kids’ and half-day rates are less.
If you prefer groomed runs, Kirkwood Cross Country Center (Highway 88, 209- 258-7248, www.kirkwood.com) has some for every skill level. Intermediate skiers who like long sweeping views will enjoy Outpost Loop. Full-day adult trail passes are $21. Kirkwood rents and has lessons; $46 gets you the gear, trail pass, and instruction.
If you’d rather rent before you go so that you can pull over and ski
on your way up, several options include friendly advice. Marmot
Mountain Works in Berkeley (3049 Adeline St., 510-849-0735) is serious
about backcountry endeavors. The gung-ho staff can be intimidating, but
they know what they’re doing. Marmot’s cross-country ski equipment
packages start at $30 for a weekend. Hayward may seem out of the way,
but Action Sports Limited (27365 Industrial Blvd., Unit F,
510-786-1025) has a fellow named Pete who can let you in on the choice
destinations. Skis, boots, and poles run $40 for a weekend. Sunrise
Mountain Sports in Livermore (2455 Railroad Ave., 925-447-8330) rents
skis and poles for $20–$24 per day. Ask Phil for favorite destinations
before you head out.
Where to Eat: Sorensen’s restaurant is a no-brainer. Don’t miss the mixed-berry cobbler: Some folks won’t drive past the place without stopping for it. But if you want a little variety—and local color—the Kirkwood Inn and Saloon (Highway 88, 209-258-7304), next door to the Kirkwood Cross Country Center, has a fine chili. Speaking of good chili, if you turn right out of Sorensen’s, you’ll get to Woodfords Station (290 Old Pony Express Rd., 530-694-2930, www.woodfordsstation.com). Its tuna melt is also a good eat.
What to Bring: Novels, playing cards, wine, candles, massage oil, snowshoes, tea, and hot chocolate—and whipped cream. Sorensen’s has the jigsaw puzzles.