Straddling California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination. But it really comes to life in the winter, as the go-to spot for winter sports enthusiasts and their friends who are really just going for the hot toddies. Here's why we think you should go this winter...
Lake Tahoe is home to over a dozen ski resorts. Whether you're a passionate beginner or an avid winter warrior, you'll find the right powder here. People looking for an easy day on the slopes can check out the Sierra at Tahoe Resort. If you want something more advanced or downright scary you'll find your challenge on the slopes Mount Rose or Heavenly Ski Resort. Kirkwood Ski Resort is another great choice as it has the highest elevation and the highest annual snowfall of any resort at Tahoe and is sure to please of even the most demanding winter purist.
If skiing isn't you thing, you can take truly beautiful winter hikes around the lake. The Tahoe basin is laced with snowshoe trails and you can find you way to some incredible winter vistas in very short order. Trails range in difficulty from beginner to truly epic and most ski resorts will rent you the snowshoes and equipment you'll need. For a mind-blowing view you can enjoy without the hike, take one of the year-round scenic tours offered by Reno Tahoe Helicopters. They offer all kinds of flights, including an hour-long sunset tour. Be sure to bring your camera.
Tahoe receives an average of 125 inches of snow annually, with the higher alpine regions receiving up to 500. Aside from providing stunning winter panoramas, all that snow creates opportunities for a whole range of winter activities you won't find anywhere else. Dog sledding tours are a unique way to explore the area's breathtaking terrain and some places will even take you out for moonlight dog sled rides. These are generally by request, however, so book ahead. For a less rigorous and more romantic experience, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the glittering winter landscape. And no trip to Tahoe in the winter is complete without Friday and Saturday night ice skating at the Squaw Valley Olympic Ice Pavilion. After it's all over, head down the mountain for beer and outdoor S'mores at Sandy's Pub.
Lake Tahoe offers equal opportunities for getting into the mix of things, and getting totally away from it all. Most resorts in the area have a far-from-civilization cabin feel, but one way to go a bit more off the grid is with a vacation rental. You'll want to skip booking that cabin on the South Shore as that's where most of the nightlife action is. Instead, go for the West or North Shores for maximum peace, quiet, and wilderness. You'll also be close to great skiing at Squaw, Apline Meadows, and Homewood, so you're not too far from prime slopes.
The Hot Springs
If you're from anywhere east of Colorado it's likely you've never seen a hot spring, let alone eased into one on a winter day while surrounded by freshly fallen snow. At Lake Tahoe and you'll be able to visit two. Grover Hot Springs State Park is the closest and will let you enjoy a swim in its hot springs year round. The scenic Travertine Hot Springs are a bit further from Tahoe and more isolated, but well worth the trip. Both springs are sometimes crowded and can be inaccessible at times depending on winter road conditions, so take advantage of the chance to go when you get it. Travertine is a great place to star gaze on a cold winter night, which is when you'll have the best chance of bathing uninterrupted.
Photo credits: Skiing in Lake Tahoe courtesy of Ridge Tahoe Resort/Flickr; all other photos via Dreamstime.com