Winter Fun Extends Far Beyond North Lake Tahoe's Slopes
Believe it or not, black diamond runs and wide-open bowls aren’t the only thing North Lake Tahoe has to offer winter travelers. Whether guests want to enjoy cool, crisp winter air or find cozy refuge indoors, the region’s opportunities for recreation and respite are as abundant as ski lifts.
Visitors can still explore the snow-covered countryside without special gear or strapping on special boots. Bands of Siberian huskies pull guests of all ages and abilities through the backcountry on hand-made sleds. The excursions, which give an exhilarating rush, depart out of Sugar Bowl Ski Resort and the Resort at Squaw Creek.
The Tahoe Cross-Country Center is the ideal place for first-time cross-country skiers, offering free weekly beginning cross-country and skate ski lessons and intermediate skating improvement classes. Located in Tahoe City, the center encompasses 19 trails and more than 65 kilometers with stunning views of the lake, two warming huts and café. Just west of Truckee, the Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort boasts the largest groomed track system in North America and is home to overnight lodges, eight warming huts and three trailside cafes. Tahoe Donner Cross-Country Center offers 62 miles and 51 trails, with a few designated specifically for those donning snowshoes.
Granlibakken Resort in Tahoe City sits adjacent to a number of popular cross-country and snowshoe trailheads. Snowshoers can also head to Northstar, Squaw Valley, Spooner Lake, North Tahoe Regional Park in Tahoe Vista and Sugar Pine Point State Park on the West Shore for exceptional areas for snowshoeing. Local rental shops give great advice and trail maps for those venturing away from groomed trails.
The advent of pedestrian villages and destination resorts in recent years has brought numerous activities. The Village at Squaw offers wine tasting at Uncorked, candle-making at Waxen Moon, indoor climbing at Headwall Climbing Wall and a Sky Jump Trampoline right smack in the middle of the Village. For a complete mental escape, there’s Trilogy Spa, pampering those taking a break from the slopes with Polynesian-inspired treatments and soothing massages.
The Village at Northstar keeps guests busy with jewelry design at the Farrah Rale Bead Design Studio, candle making at the Villager Candle Shop and the new All Fired Up Pottery Painting Place, where you can choose from 500 pieces of pottery to paint. Balance Holistic Health offers Tai Chi, Pilates, yoga (for kids, too) and numerous classes (nutrition, essential oils, crystals and sound bowl meditation), as well as massage, acupuncture, manicures and facials. Two new movie theaters, called The Village Cinemas, recently opened in the Village at Northstar on the lower level.
The new Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe, located mid-mountain at Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort, offers decadent diversions at its 17,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, which opened December 2009. Towering pines and its own private beach surround Stillwater Spa at the Hyatt Regency in Incline Village, and boasts furnishing that are a reflection of Lake Tahoe’s natural environment. Guests choose from more than a dozen treatments rooms, including couples sanctuaries. Those eager for a workout before a massage can use the resort’s snowshoes to trek along the lake.
Both Squaw and Northstar are also home to ice skating rinks. Squaw’s year-round Olympic Ice Pavilion sits amidst the mountain peaks at High Camp (elevation 8,200 feet) along with the Swimming Lagoon and Spa, which opens in early spring. Northstar’s seasonal ice rink (open for roller skaters in the summer and taking on a retro music vibe) sits in the center of the Village and has $5 rentals. The Resort at Squaw Creek’s exhibition ice rink is nestled in the heart of Olympic Valley and is open to the public. The resort also offers cross-country skiing and sleigh rides.
Non-skiers can still fly through the backcountry on one of many snowmobiling tours. The excursions showcase panoramic lake views and give glimpses of popular peaks and hidden meadows. Rental and tour companies can be found in Truckee, Kings Beach and Tahoe City.
North Lake Tahoe is a 45-minute drive from the Reno Tahoe International Airport, two hours from Sacramento International Airport and just over three hours from San Francisco International Airport. Visitor information centers are located at 380 North Lake Boulevard in Tahoe City and 969 Tahoe Boulevard in Incline Village. The North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureaus, Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau and the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, work together to promote North Lake Tahoe as a premier, year-round destination.
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