Winter Sports, South Lake Tahoe
Kirkwood has been my favorite ski destination for years. Not boasting the longest runs by far in the Tahoe region, but I will guarantee you the best relative snow conditions with easiest access to some back country, mogul riding, gully shooting terrain. This hill is more spread out than others, but with all kinds of off trail paths. You will have your day filled. The extra drive and walk from your car may be worth it.
Compared to some of the other Lake Tahoe resorts, I wasn’t particularly impressed with this one. But then again, I was there will a bunch of non skiers, so I didn’t get a chance to really explore. Still, I believe it is the closest to Reno, at least for a good size mountain, the other which I would recommend a little higher - NorthStar.
But this is a cool picture I got when I was there last… many years ago.
This is a good all around mountain especially if you have a group of people that do not know how to ski or board. It can get crowded for being beginner friendly and being one of the closer spots from the SF Bay Area. (located before the decent down Hwy50 into the South Lake Tahoe – also a popular spot to hit up to ski on your last day, before heading back into the Bay)
Sierra has many slopes facing different direction, and has a relatively high base elevation, so on warmer dayz, if you know how to follow sun, you can always find a good conditioned run.
This place is big. Home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, it still boasts the Olympic Rings to this day. Even though they brag about some of the longest runs in the Tahoe region, (up to about 3 miles), you will spend most of your time from the High Base on up. Taking 1 of the 2 Gondolas to the High Base camp, gives you not only a protected view of the surroundings, but also it is how you get the spa/pool or ice-skating or snow tubing activities – and don’t forget an overpriced restaurant with a fabulous view.
Equipment: check site for different options for shuttle services and local rentals.
This is another one of the big ones, although like Squaw, I bet you’ll be staying in a much smaller area than advertised. For instance, the base is near lake level, so on warmer days, you’ll be staying on top. However, there are base lodges on both California and Nevada sides. (it is split by the state line) And this is the most easily accessible from the South Lake casinos as well.
It is still big… /www.skiheavenly.com/skiing_riding/terrain/facts/ - just not that big.
When I’ve remembered to give a sacrifice to the gods of virginity, this is another of my favorites. It has wide-open faces that can be a playground all day long, and has always been a stronghold for the skier-traditional. This was the last mountain to allow snowboarders; which now only means I can go with my friends.
If it hasn’t snowed for awhile, or it is slightly windy in the forcast, this is the LAST place you want to be. With the open faces, there is no protection from the wind - nor sun. That’s the kicker… The top of Alpine will be the first lift to shut down in the Tahoe region when there’s a low-pressure creep’n on in. but once it leaves… FUN STUFF…
the two closest destination to go play in the snow, whether you prefer 2 planks or 1, are Boreal and Sugar Bowl. Stay on the 80 through Sacramento, (about 80 miles) and Boreal will eventually be on your right, can’t miss it… Sugar Bowl is basically behind Boreal.
Do yourself a favor, don’t go to Boreal. It very much only caters to the day trippers and beginners. Even if you are one, you don’t want to surround yourself with others. Sugar Bowl I like much better, but Sierra (decided at Sacramento – the 50 and 80 split) wouldn’t have taken that much longer…
We rented Ski and Snowboards from Sierra Sport Rentals 775-588-0970 at GREAT GREAT ROCK BOTTOM PRICES. Great Gear at skiis $16 and boards $17! Nicest shop and the best people run the store. They are only a couple of minutes from Heavenly and worth the short drive of all of 5 minutes to SAVE BIG! All I can say is WOW what a deal!!!
Equipment: Ski package $16 a day and Snowboard Package $17 a day!!! WOW WOW WOW
Sierra at Tahoe is one of the 10 resorts surrounding the lake and one of the main 3 at the south end (Kirkwood, Heavenly are the others). Sierra is a small but very decent mountain with a very casual, fun atmosphere and it's only a 20-30 minute drive from town.
It's easy to find a way to play in the snow. Here, while driving along in Tahoe, we saw a family turning a mound of snow in to a small sled-park. Don't have a sled? Use a boogie board!
Equipment: Sled, boogie board, hard-soled shoes...
From about Thanksgiving to Easter, snow skiing is big business here around Lake Tahoe. My personal favorites for downhill skiing are Kirkwood (take Hwy 89 to 88 south of the Tahoe Basin), Heavenly Valley in South Lake Tahoe (great views of the lake) or Northstar-at-Tahoe on the north shore. Squaw Valley is famous, and that's west of Tahoe City. For cross-country skiing there are many places, including my favorite area, Hope Valley. It's south on Hwy 89 - just park well-off the road and go for it!
On the south shore, I'd recommend Kirkwood or Sierra for beginners. Heavenly would be for more intermediate skiers. This is based on the amount and ease of access to the green slopes. Heavenly does have some green runs, but they are higher on the mountain and require access via the gondola to get to the mid-mountain.
On the north shore, I'd recommend North Star for beginner and intermediate.
Equipment: Rentals are cheaper the farther from the resort you go, but obviously the cheapest is if you bring your own.