Lake Tahoe is known as one of the most beautiful places in America in the summer, with its pristine blue water, winding mountain trails and never-ending sunsets.
Cover that landscape with a few feet of snow and it turns into a powder paradise.
While forecasters say this winter in the Sierra Mountains is expected to be closer to normal than last season’s historic snowfall of 47.6 feet, there should be enough precipitation to keep skiers and snowboarders happy well into spring.
A trip to the iconic region — from the north shore’s Incline Village to the south shore’s Stateline — will present more activities than can be fit into a week. The possibilities are limited only by the amount of snow and the cash in your wallet.
There are 10 major ski resorts in the Tahoe area and a handful of smaller ones. Some are seemingly at the top of the world (Mount Rose), some are secluded from the lake (Squaw Valley and Kirkwood) and others make you feel like you are skiing right on the water (Diamond Peak, Homewood and Heavenly).
What’s the best skiing in Tahoe?
For affordable but breathtaking views: Diamond Peak on the north shore, run by the city of Incline Village, is known for a convenient drop-off area, youth lessons and black diamond runs.
If you like people-watching with your skiing: Heavenly is your spot. It’s part of a resort at South Lake Tahoe, California, on the Nevada border. Those staying at one of the resort’s many condos only need to walk through an outdoor shopping mall to get to a gondola.
If history’s your thing: Try Squaw Valley, which hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. Landmarks are plentiful, short-term residences are abundant and the hills are as awe-inspiring as they were during the Games — along with some easier ski runs for the rest of us.
For snowboarders, it’s not always about the best snow or the wonderful views — it’s the challenge and the terrain that provides the best big air.
Northstar, 15 minutes north of Kings Beach, caters to snowboarders with a terrain park created by the company that makes X-Games’ competitive runs. Northstar also offers Burton Snowboard Academy, with more intense lessons for intermediate snowboarders.
Boreal Mountain Resort, 30 minutes west of the lake, is the area’s best for quickie tutoring. If you hit the schedule right, you can rent a board, clip in and start a lesson within a half hour.
Advanced snowboarders love Mount Rose, which sits beside the highest pass open year-round in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. With a base elevation of 8,600 feet, the snow is lighter and easier for snowboarders to maneuver on.
This might be the best way to experience winter in Tahoe. Many golf courses encourage snowshoeing on the links until the snow melts. (Check online for each course’s guidelines.)
Perhaps the best way to experience this is through one of many moonlight snowshoe tours.
Northstar’s stargazing tour: Includes an astronomy lesson and telescopic tour. Starts at $63.
Tahoe Adventure Company: Moonlit three-hour tours offered about once a month through April. About $70 per person.
Squaw Valley Events: Snowshoeing ($79) to a lodge where you’ll dine on an Alps-inspired meal. You can rent shoes, poles and other gear.
If you prefer a more relaxing trip through the snow, how about a sleigh ride? There are lots of opportunities, especially along prairies near the south shore. Expect to pay between $35 and $150 per person, per hour.
Sleighride.com: The Borges family has been offering sleigh rides off Highway 50 near the Montbleu Casino for 50 years. The family, which also offers rides near Sand Harbor, has carriage rides during the summer and spring months, too.
Camp Richardson Corral: Includes hot cocoa, cider and blankets for sleigh rides along the lake. Private rides are available for those seeking a more romantic trip.
Sierra Adventures: It will send a shuttle to pick you up before your sleigh ride. Sierra also packages the sleigh ride with other outdoor activities such as snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
If you’re not into scurrying over snow in any form, there are four great shopping areas.
Heavenly: This south shore skiing village has top-notch dining and shopping, with a mix of high-end retailers and local craft shops. It is the densest shopping experience on the lake. If you tire of shopping, there are many casinos down the street and across the Nevada state
Squaw Valley and Northstar: These ski resorts feature a shopping village that borders on a high-end experience. Major winter sports retailers have shops in each center and feature additional experiences such as ice-skating.
Truckee: Step back in time 50 years while shopping in this city of 16,000. Check out the eclectic Bespoke store, discover unusual jewelry at the Buffalo Store, or find something fashionable at Cabona’s or Mo, Jo & Zoe. Then stop in for a treat at Bud’s Ice.
After shopping, consider pampering yourself. Spas are as much a part of Lake Tahoe as are paddleboats and parasailing in summer. Some of the best spas are inside resorts.
Stillwater Spa: Inside the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort in Incline Village. Before or after treatment, check out the selection of spa accessories, personal products and apparel.
The Spa at Squaw Creek: Part of the Resort at Squaw Valley, this spa gets high marks for amenities such as its heated pool and sunbathing areas. Conde Nast Traveler rated it as one of the top five resort spas.
Elements Spa: The Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge spa has earned a reputation for its massage treatments with individual and couples therapies. The south shore spa makes customer service a priority while offering reiki energy work and microdermabrasion treatments.
You won’t miss the Christmas spirit if you spend the holidays in the Tahoe area. A number of events are scheduled from Truckee to Reno that involve Santa and his helpers.
Noel Nights:, Northstar resort, Dec. 8. A Christmas town set around the outdoor skating rink. The picture-perfect setting is a great place to take a photo.
Santa Ski Day: Mount Rose Ski Area, Dec. 9. Hundreds head down ski runs in Santa robes.
Santa Pub Crawl: Reno hosts the Dec. 9 event, which benefits local schools. As the website says, “1. Dress up, 2. Buy cups, 3. Buy a few gifts (to give to strangers). 4. Be nice.
Santa and Penguin Pete: The characters visit Diamond Peak, Dec. 24 and 25, posing for pictures with skiers of all ages.