Ski bums rejoice! It’s the first day of winter — which means it’s officially time to start dreaming of fresh, deep powder frosting the Sierra Nevadas. As the winter storms continue to roll in, California’s top ski resorts are open and basking in all of their dump alert glory. Of course, all eyes are on Lake Tahoe as the Sierra Nevada snow sports mecca is expected to receive 350–400 inches of snow this season. Some areas could potentially reach snow depths between five and eight percent higher than their average.
If you’re headed up to the Lake Tahoe area over the next few weeks during the holidays, you’ll find skiable conditions and a host of attractions to satisfy the snow bunnies in the family. Here’s a list of fun things to see and do while you’re frolicking in this gorgeous winter wonderland.
1. Hit the Slopes at the New Northstar
If you were one of those people who nicknamed Northstar “Flatstar,” you’re going to be in for a surprise this year. Vail Resorts, which took a long-term lease on the resort in 2010, has remade Northstar to attract upscale skiers. There’s plenty of blue intermediate runs — ideal for families with younger kids — and a newly expanded backside with a more off-piste feel and tree skiing. The Village at Northstar also got a total facelift, with new open fire pits, a skating rink, live music, a bungee trampoline, a movie theater, wine bars, a yoga studio and high-end shops and restaurants — more than enough activity to keep non-skiers entertained. L.A. Times recently called Northstar “one of the poshest ski hills in California,” making it worth a visit this season.
On December 22, the resort will host its annual Noel Night on Dec. 22, complete with horse-drawn sleigh rides, complimentary ice skating, s’mores and hot cocoa by the fire pits, special shopping and dining offers and more. There’s also an ice skating performance by the Sacramento Skating Group.
2. Warm up at Tahoe Mountain Brewery
Head to Truckee, considered the central gateway for the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, for some good old fashioned brew pub drinking at Tahoe Mountain Brewery. To start, pair the Hop Dragon Double Imperial ($8), Paddleboard Pale Ale or half a dozen other choices with deep-fried pretzel bites ($7) and cheddar-bacon burgers ($13). Then refill your growler in the Truckee taproom, which has 15 brews on tap, including Hot Pants, a Berlinerweisse, and a new brettanomyces Party Boy IPA. The brewpub is open for lunch and dinner Thursday-Monday at 4 N. Lake Blvd. The Truckee taproom is open Thursday-Sunday at 10990 Industrial Way.
3. Go the Distance with Tahoe Cross Country
Downhill skiing isn’t your cup of tea? Get some exercise on the 65 kilometer trail system that is known as Tahoe Cross Country. Machine-groomed daily with state of the art Prinoth snow groomers, the system includes 21 separate trails leading skiers and snowshoers through beautiful Ponderosa Pine and White Fir forest, into open meadows, and up to stunning views of Lake Tahoe and its surrounding peaks. If you get a chill, don’t worry: there are three trailside warming huts that provide free hot chocolate or tea. Another plus: there are eight kilometers of dog-friendly trails.
4. Celebrate North Tahoe’s Olympic History at Granlibakken Tahoe
If you want a taste of history, go to Granlibakken Resort, located on 74 wooded acres about a half a mile from Tahoe City on Tahoe’s west shore. As the site of a ski area with a history that goes back to the heyday of Tahoe Tavern, the resort is known for a small ski jumping area, once called Olympic Hill. On Christmas Eve from 4-8 p.m., Granlibakken (a Norwegian name meaning “a hill sheltered by trees”) will host a Christmas Torchlight Parade, followed by hot chocolate, s’mores and pictures with Santa.
5. Live on the Edge at Hansen’s Snow Tube and Saucer Hill
What better way to spend the holidays with the family as watch everyone laugh as they sled down the hill? Of course, the Lake Tahoe area is teeming with great choices for snowparks — but Hansen’s Resort Snow Tubing and Saucer Hill is one of the most famous. Spanning approximately 400 feet long, the park is open to all ages and offers a convenient walkway up the side of the run that makes for an easier way back to the top even for the little ones. There’s also an easy-to-view area for parents. The cost is $20 per person for the first hour, and $15 per person for additional hours. Kids aged four and under tube for free when accompanied by a paying adult.
6. Glam it Up at The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe
Maybe you prefer hot toddies and Uggs to teeth chattering on the chair lift. Look no further than The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe. You’ll find a luxe après ski experience at Marshmology and a champagne bar at the fire pit. There’s also a mountainside spa and a vibrant children’s program provides opportunities to connect with our mountain setting in meaningful ways. Bonus: the resort is near shopping, dining and a variety of activities available in the Village at Northstar and historic downtown Truckee. Luxurious accommodations range from two, three and four bedroom Residential Suites for vacation home rentals. For a little family fun from Dec. 18-20 from 4-5:30 p.m., you can also create personalized gingerbread houses with the kids with the help of The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe pastry chef. (Reserve your space 48 hours in advance by calling 530-562-3000 ext. 3051.)
7. Tour Two Must-See Luxury Mountain Homes
If you decide to make your stay more permanent, there are two gorgeous ski properties on the market worthy of a tour. The modern Monte Stella, a former “Extraordinary Home of the Week,” features stunning Pacific Crest views, access to the Timberline Trail leading to the Northstar slopes and the Ritz-Carlton amenities. Call Team Tahoe Now for a tour today at (530) 587-2856.
The elegant Juniper Hills Manor, which was also featured as an “Extraordinary Home of the Week,” rests on 20 beautiful alpine acres in the very heart of Truckee and has all of the refined ski accouterments one would ever need or want. Call The Sharp Team for a tour today at (530) 386-0688.