The Lake Tahoe area ranks among highest concentrations of major ski areas in the country. Here are ten points to know about skiing and snowboarding around Big Blue.
1. First chore is to pick a shore.
"North or South?" is one of the first questions when visiting Tahoe. The lake's south shore features the nightlife of glitzy high-rise casinos. The north shore tends to be more laid-back and natural.
Of course, traveling between them is certainly possible. The route along the lake's west side is more scenic. The eastside road is more direct and likely to be open during storms. The entire loop around the lake measures 72 miles.
2. Tahoe ranks among deepest lakes.
Lake Tahoe goes deep, really deep, so it never freezes. The country's second-deepest lake (next to Oregon's Crater Lake) reaches a depth of 1,644 feet. To put it in ski-resort terms, the lake has about the same vertical drop as Homewood.
3. 'Ski Nevada' really makes sense.
Nevada first brings to mind casinos, instead of ski slopes. However, both Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe and Diamond Peak are found on the Nevada side of the lake. A third Tahoe resort, Heavenly, straddles the Nevada-California state line.
4. Affordable lodging is safe bet.
Speaking of casinos, the Reno casino-hotels might be the ski world's best-kept secret for inexpensive lodging. The downtown casino-hotels make their money at the tables, rather than on rooms. As a result, skiers can score rooms for less than $50 a night.
5. Put on the Ritz in Tahoe.
On the other end of the lodging price spectrum, the Ritz-Carlton brought serious hotel-brand cred to Tahoe in 2009. Located on the slopes of Northstar California, the hotel offers all the refined amenities one would expect for upwards of $500 a night.
6. Take in the view.
Views of Lake Tahoe are understandably an attraction for skiing in the region. Surprisingly, quite a few of those scenic stock photos are taken from ski areas that visitors may not recognize. Homewood and Diamond Peak may not be Tahoe's biggest areas, but they both have big-time views.
7. Sierra-at-Tahoe offers free shuttle.
Sierra-at-Tahoe is located less than 30 minutes south of the lake. For visitors staying in South Lake Tahoe, a free South Shore Shuttle runs to and from the resort daily during the winter. The shuttle makes a bunch of stops in town and at the major casino-hotels on the Nevada side.
8. Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows connection could be on horizon.
Discussion about linking nearby Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows goes back decades. Both resorts are now under the same ownership, so the dream could be closer to reality. However, nothing is definite at this point.
9. Squaw Valley cherishes Olympic history.
Everyone knows about the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. hockey team in Lake Placid, N.Y. Not nearly as many realize that the 1960 team also won Olympic gold in Squaw Valley.
The resort's Olympic heritage lives on today through local, Julia Mancuso. The skier has four Olympic medals to her credit (a gold, two silvers and a bronze).
10. Your ski buddies aren't on the menu.
A grim part of Tahoe's history goes back the 19th century. Interstate 80 now brings loads of visitors three hours from the Bay Area. Back in the day, travel wasn't so easy.
The winter of 1846-47 claimed the lives of 36 members of the Donner Party. Early snowstorms trapped 81 pioneers northwest of Lake Tahoe in what's now known as Donner Pass. Fending off starvation, some survivors reportedly ate parts of their fallen fellow travelers.