Usually when one talks Tahoe, a skier mentions Heavenly or Squaw. They are both great resorts and I’ve skied at both of them. But on a recent trip there with my friend Jan I decided to try a few of the less well-known resorts. And I’m so happy that I did.
Jan had rented a condo at Incline Village on the North side of the Lake - only a forty minute drive from the Reno Airportâ€” and less than a half hour’s drive from three ski areas - Mount Rose, Diamond Peak and Northstar.
We started off at Mount Rose - only a 20-minute drive. Wow, is it convenient. There’s a gigantic parking lot directly adjacent the road with the lodge right next to the lot. Park, slip on your boots, buy a couple of lift tickets and you are right on the slopes in no time. The resort is also only 20 minutes from downtown Reno.
Jan and I started on a long blue cruiser named after Kit Carson, the famous American Frontiersman. The resort is on the Carson Mountain Range. Slopes are easily accessed on the front side of the mountain by a high speed six pack lift. The trail traversed the top of the mountain ridge and connected to a bowl.
Skiing along the traverse for my first run of the season offered an expansive view of snow-covered peaks. Mount Rose has a base of 8,260 feet and a top elevation of 9,700 feet. A layer of powder covered the trail which had been groomed overnight.
Jan and I re-boarded the lift and took another spin down the same slope. Mount Rose has a total of sixty-seven slopes, three terrain parks and eight lifts. Over fifty percent of the terrain is advanced and expert rated - with numerous extremely steep chutes dropping though the trees on the front side of the mountain. Most of these had not yet opened during our early season trip there. And for a first day of skiing, there was no way I would have been ready for any of them.
Jan and I continued to another blue run, Silver Dollar, that accessed the back side of the mountain. It too was service by a high speed six pack lift. From this vantage point one could see down into the desert below the mountains.
We made a few more trip down the back side, including a couple on steeper trails and then grabbed a hot chocolate at the Winter’s Creek Lodge. With twenty foot high glass windows, the stunning and modern lodge also features an amazing view of the arid Nevada landscape. The lodge had a cafeteria in addition to a bar. Neither of us were that hungry. And after warming up with the cocoa, we returned to the front side and tried a few of the easy green trails that meandered through the woods. We took the three person Lakeview Lift that did indeed provide a view of Lake Tahoe.
I always try to get in at least twenty runs. And by 3 p.m. we had hit that number. Jan and I were both a little tired so we called it a day - but a very good first day of skiing for the season.
The next morning we drove a short ten minutes to Diamond Peak. The Peak is really two peaks - an upper one and a lower peak. The base is at 6,700 feet with the lower peak at 7,400 feet and the upper at 8,540. The majority of the twenty-eight runs are black diamonds. While smaller in number of trails, it felt to be about the same size as Mount Rose.
A quad lift whisked us up to the top of the lower mountain and we zoomed down the corduroy on some intermediate terrain - making several quick laps on the 700 foot vertical drop. A green connecting run led us to the high speed lift to the top. From the top of Diamond Peak the view of Lake Tahoe was the best I had ever seen. It appeared as though a few of the wide open, snow-covered trails leapt straight into the clear waters.
Jan and I made several runs down to the mid-mountain lift. The sun was high and the sky blue, and the skiing effortless. We then alternated between skiing all the way to the bottom of the mountain and skiing only the top half. I lost track of time and noticed that it was after one o’clock in the afternoon. So we stopped at the cafÃ© overlooking the lake on the lower peak.
Even though the temps were in the mid-thirties, the radiant sunshine made it feel like springtime and we dined on the outdoor deck. Afterwards we moved onto a few of the advanced runs on the lower mountain. Jan called it quits at 3 p.m. and I went on skiing the upper terrain for another hour - getting in 25 runs for the day. I found Jan at the bar at the base lodge and cheered the close of our day with a whiskey sour.
For the final day we drove a whopping twenty-five minutes through the town of King’s Beach to Northstar in California. With 100 runs, it was by far the largest. And it is a full-on destination resort with lodging and a village-type setting at the base.
Jan and I were both a little lost as we arrived and then wandered around the various shops and restaurants looking for the lift ticket office. There’s a skating rink and fire pits and outdoor seating. We eventually got our tickets and booted up in one of the locker rooms.
A gondola transports skiers and snowboarders from the village to the primary ski area. There are actually two gondolas and a few slopes at the very bottom part of the mountain. We rode the gondola and then took a six pack lift up to mid-mountain to explore a variety of intermediate trails. The base is at 6,330 feet with a summit of 8,610 feet. The runs cut through forests of pine trees giving it the feel of a New England ski mountain.
A quad chair lift took us to the peak, which had more blue slopes on the main face and a variety of advanced runs on the back side. Despite the lower elevation, the snow was as light as at the other two resorts. It would have been easy to get lost with numerous peaks and connecting runs. However, each chair had a map of the resort on the safety bar.
On one of the rides up we met a couple who told us about a daily champagne toast at 2 p.m. So we grabbed a quick lunch at noon-thirty and coordinated our skiing to arrive at the toasting area (called Tost) on the East Ridge trail at 1:45. At 2 p.m. sharp we raised our glasses with a motley group of skiers and riders and made a toast to a beautiful day. A glass of bubbly while skiing â€” what could be more civilized?
After imbibing, Jan called it a day and I skied for ninety additional minutes. And then joined her, of course, at a bar in the main village.
On the drive back to the condo we stopped at a small, sandy beach in King’s Beach just as the sun began to set. It was the most amazing sunset either of us had ever seen - with vibrant reds and yellows and purples reflecting off the mirror-like surface of the lake - an absolutely perfect way to end three days of wonderful skiing in gorgeous Lake Tahoe.
Matthew Graham is a skier as well as a hang glider and paraglider pilot, SCUBA diver, cavern diver, equestrian, polo player, sailor, hiker, biker, rock climber, paddler, and skater. He's also yoga teacher and certified personal trainer and has dabbled in just about every other sport, even stunt car driving and bull riding! He has written for the Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, USA Weekend Magazine, Hooked on the Outdoors, Richmond Magazine, Chesapeake Life Magazine, Metro Sports, American Fitness, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Recreation News and numerous other outdoor and travel publications.
Nice article glad you checked out my hill Diamon Peak - shhhhhhhhhh!!! keep it under wraps. i've been on travel since Jan 3rd hope to be back soon. Hope you were able to hit Big Water Grill right nearby on Skiway Road - if not and you are back check it out outstanding deck and food - good Happy Hour. Also next time try to visit Homewood on the West side - really good, inexpensive place with lots of good tree skiing.
BTW like your bard-hopping style - sounds like you are my kinda folks!
Homewood has some really great views of Tahoe as well. It has a real Blue Knob type of feel to it. Pulling in was right off the main road and there was the main lift - just a couple hundred yards from the lake shore. Kinda felt like turning into a 7-11.
I'm an "off the beaten path" type of guy as well and love these smaller resorts. I enjoyed the read and hope you and others post more of these lesser known resorts.
There are some beautiful photos in this report Matthew!