Do you hate snowsports? The California – Nevada border boasts many couch potato diversions in winter, and at good prices.
Skiers of all ages hail Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in the U.S., for its stunning beauty and stellar slopes. Easily accessible from the city of Reno, Nevada with its international airport, North Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts include Squaw Valley USA, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and Northstar-at-Tahoe, known for its family-friendliness. Yet there’s more to North Lake Tahoe than some of the best skiing in the country. Don’t shy away, non-alpiners, because if I can enjoy the area in a blizzard, you can enjoy it anytime!
Being from the Northeast, I somehow never pictured my first trip to Nevada and California involving mountains and snow. Nor did I imagine that when I learned to ski, it would be in the midst of the area’s biggest blizzard in 90 years.
Despite the nine feet of white stuff, however, North Lake Tahoe turned out to be a great destination for the adult (or child) non-skier and those, like me, who are ready to take the plunge. I highly recommend taking a first lesson at Mt. Rose (800/SKI-ROSE), the closest ski resort to Reno in the Lake Tahoe area. (A blizzard, of course, is not likely to happen to you-that much snow is very rare, and blizzards just tend to follow me wherever I go.)
No-ski Fun at Squaw Valley & Northstar
Is no skiing at all enough for you? Don’t worry. If other family members are skiing at these popular resorts for the day and you’re along for the ride, you will not be stuck at all.
At California’s Squaw Valley, be sure to take the Cable Car up to High Camp-this trip will elevate you 2,000 feet to some truly amazing views of Lake Tahoe and the High Sierra. Up top, fun-seekers of all ages have a choice of several fun activities: ice skating at the resort’s massive Olympic Ice Pavilion, snowtubing in one of two lanes (one easy, one a little more aggressive), browsing the Olympic Heritage Museum, or chowing down at one of three fun restaurants.
It’s no secret that Northstar-at-Tahoe, winner of Family Travel Forum’s “Top 10 Getaways for Family Reunions” award, is an extremely family-friendly ski resort, but downhill skiers are not the only ones to benefit from this reputation. The Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Center offers outfitting and lessons for those who want to stick to quieter, flatter terrain. Fifty kilometers of groomed Nordic trails have picnic tables, warming huts, and plenty of great photo ops. If cross-country requires too much exertion, give the snowshoes a try. Northstar also has snowtubing and for those who are a little bolder, the Action Zone with a variety of unusual snow toys-Snowbikes, Snowfoxes, Snowscoots, and bungee trampolines.
Winter Adventures Around Truckee
Who says that non-skiers can’t be adventurous?
For a change of scenery, you may want to check out these exciting activities available near the funky town of Truckee, California, less than 50 miles from Reno, Nevada.
Sierra Sled Dog Adventures (530/412-3302) will allow you to meet some enthusiastic mushers and their Alaskan Huskies for a four, seven, or 18-mile sled tour through the peaceful Sierra backcountry. The tour includes an introduction to the dogs, who are bred to be ready and willing to run. Once inside the sled (which can fit up to three adults with some degree of smooshing), you will be strapped in, warm, and prepared for your beautiful and relaxing journey. The trip is surprisingly smooth as the dogs glide you across the snow (with a musher in control, of course). Children are welcome and the littlest have been known to fall asleep in the warm, peaceful sled. Tours are available by reservation, leaving daily from several locations in the Truckee area.
If you prefer to be more in the driver’s seat for your winter adventure, Eagle Ridge Snowmobile (530/546-8667 ) provides guided snowmobile tours for licensed drivers (and passengers at least 6 years of age). Newcomers are welcome and, depending on your experience and endurance, you may reserve a two, three, four, or six-hour trip. Operating with U.S. Forest Service Permit, company guides will take you on groomed trails weaving through Tahoe National Forest. You’ll leave from Eagle Ridge’s headquarters, located on Little Truckee Summit, 14 miles north of Truckee on Highway 89.
Cruising & Dining
Another option that requires less physical activity is taking a cruise on the astoundingly gorgeous, emerald green Lake Tahoe. This may sound like a very cold winter activity, but you don’t have to stand outside — ships have climate-controlled, spacious interiors with plenty of large windows to see the breathtaking scenery outside. Lake Tahoe Cruises (800/238-2463) offers trips year-round on its Tahoe Queen or M.S. Dixie II paddlewheers. The Tahoe Queen offers a Family Fun Cruise with a scavenger hunt for kids and the Tales of Tahoe Cruise with the “ghost” of Mark Twain.
This popular tourist area also has some great floating and land-based dining adventures. The handicap-accessible M.S. Dixie sails on narrated cruises at breakfast, lunch, dinner and a Sunday champagne brunch. Lake Tahoe Cruises even offers an after-skiing shuttle package with buffet dinner for those heading to the South Shore after a day at the North Lake Tahoe resorts. If you’re looking for some quieter food options after a day outdoors, check out Moody’s Bistro (530/587-8688) in downtown Truckee. The place has a lot of class, with everything from warm dÃ©cor to live jazz to a cool type style used on the menu, and it’s a great place to savor a substantial dinner. Paul McCartney has even been known to show up there! It’s not too pretentious, though, and plenty of children dine there. Seafood, meat, and vegetarian options are available.
Between dog sledding, snowmobiling, lake cruising, tubing, snowshoeing, cable car-riding, ice skating and more, there’s plenty to do in North Lake Tahoe for non-alpine skiing family members.
Your days of waiting in the lodge are over!
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