Lake Tahoe is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts and wealthy families year-round. In the summertime, boaters, water skiers and bathing beauties stake out their place on the lake. During the 1900s, an elite group of millionaires from the Bay Area notoriously spent their summers here. But come the first hint of freezing temps today, everyone heads for the hills—literally. Lake Tahoe’s 22,000 acres of world-class skiing and snowboarding have historically drawn everyone from first-timers to Olympic champions to its sculpted mountains—apropos since Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games, the first ever to be televised.
In the last few years, however, California’s drought has stifled the Sierra Nevada mountain retreat’s beloved ski culture. This year, thankfully, it’s different. Very different. Because of El Niño, many of Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts have already surpassed or were nearing surpassing their snowfall totals for all of last year. On the north side of the lake, ski resorts like Squaw Valley have seen some form of accumulation nearly every day since opening, with more than 200 inches of snowfall. Squaw Valley is but one of the area’s renowned ski resorts, outnumbered only by the luxury hotels and upscale dining options, for those who prefer their ski trip with a minimum of chair lifts and a maximum of steamy drinks, crackling fires, and tasty meals. We asked Robb Report’s savvy travel editorial director, Bruce Wallin, to let us in on a few secrets for getting the best out of a Lake Tahoe trip this winter.
Hotel: “The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe is one of the best ski-in/ski-out resorts you’ll find anywhere,” says Wallin. “Be sure to ski back for lunch for great barbecue at the slope-side outdoor grill.”
Eat: “For breakfast, head to the Fire Sign Café, a locals’ favorite across the street from the wildly popular (and also good) Sunnyside Restaurant,” he advises.
To Do: “Now that Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are under the same ownership, you can buy one pass and ski both mountains in the same day,” says the first-class traveler.
Luxe Tip: “The famed Cal Neva Lodge has been undergoing a multiyear, multimillion-dollar renovation,” he says. “Scheduled to reopen in 2016, it promises to be one of the very few luxury options on the Nevada side of the lake.”