The Deep Blue Waters of Lake Tahoe

I will remember my time in Lake Tahoe not for the skiing, but rather for the relaxing feeling of staring into the lake. Everyday produced clear blue skies and a warm sun. Consequently, the snow became very dense and slushy and the skiing was not all that good. Especially compared to the powder skiing of Utah I had just come from. But I was OK with that.

Even though I was still skiing everyday, I felt like I was on vacation from winter. I wore shorts, a tee shirt, and flip flops when I wasn’t skiing. I took long lunch breaks, just sitting back end enjoying my surroundings. I had a really nice room in the Grand Sierra Resort. And the NCAA tournament started. It was a great few days.

I began my Tahoe trip at Diamond Peak, on the shores of the east side of the lake. This is a relatively small family oriented ski area. There were tons of kids and not many others. The ski area did have some good terrain, particularly Solitude Canyon. The glades were wide open. And the views were amazing.

The lake is prominently visible from many locations on the mountain.

There was lots of snow and great trees.

There were good views looking east towards the great basin as well.

Despite the abundant snow, the warm temperatures quickly turned ungroomed snow into a sticky mess that was very difficult to turn in. Therefore, after a few tree runs in the morning, I just stuck to cruising groomers for the majority of the day. And since most of the mountain is west facing, even the groomers became too slushy to deal with by the afternoon and I called it quits by 3. This was a little disappointing, because I really liked the ski area and wish I could have explored a little more. But I couldn’t really complain, because the warm sun felt rejuvenating and I needed a short day after all the powder skiing in Utah.

I then headed to the Grand Sierra Resort to check into my hotel room. I bought a lift ticket deal online that included two nights of a hotel in a casino. I assumed it would be a really crummy casino because of how much I paid, but the casino turned out to be really nice. It was definitely the best room I had gotten on my trip thus far. And the comfort of the room was amplified by the fact that I had just slept three consecutive nights in my car.

I woke up well rested on Thursday and headed for Mt. Rose. Mt. Rose and it’s ski area dominate the horizon looking southwest from Reno. In particular, “The Chutes” are prominently visible. I had met a couple people from Tahoe, and when I brought up Mt. Rose, they strongly recommended that I ski The Chutes.

I parked at the Winter Creek Lodge and began my day with a few runs in the Slide Bowl. Unlike Diamond Peak, the snow was in great shape to start the day. The small trees and wide trails in the bowl were a great way to start the day.

Slide Bowl

Slide Bowl also offered up great views of the Great Basin desert.

Despite the fun in the bowl, once ski patrol opened up The Chutes I dropped in. The Chutes did not disappoint. They were perhaps the most consistently steep runs that I had ever done. The Chutes also face due north, this fact combined with the steepness produced the best snow I would find in Tahoe. The snow in the actual chutes was firm and perfect for an east coast skier. The snow in the trees was still soft, and while not quite powder, it was not slush.

The glades in Miller Time are great.

Miller Time.

El Cap is supposedly the steepest chute. It certainly felt that way.

Overview of The Chutes.

I skiied The Chutes for a while, then took a lunch break. After lunch I headed to the other side of the mountain. I found some groomers and moguls, but nothing that warranted time over The Chutes.

The Lake is visible only in the distance from one trail at Mt. Rose.

So after a few runs on the front side, I headed back to The Chutes. I skiied The Chutes until they closed for the day. The snow did get heavier as the day wore on, and the flat area at the bottom became a slushy mess. But I greatly enjoyed my time in The Chutes, and I hope to ski there someday on a powder day.

I closed out the day in some slushy glades over on Slide Bowl. Now, while the snow was heavy, the elevation of Mt. Rose allowed the snow to maintain enough firmness to be enjoyable.

Some cool looking trees in Slide Bowl.

Since it was St. Patrick’s day, I stopped and picked up some beer. I got some Great Basin Icky IPA. Great Basin is Nevada’s oldest brewery, and Icky is a great refreshing beer. I then drank some beer and enjoyed the NCAA tournament, particularly the PC game.

Mt. Rose had fun with the lift ticket. It was also nice to see a wicket out west.

I slowly checked out of my hotel room Friday morning. I then headed for Homewood. I took the long route, driving along the shore of the lake from Incline Village to Homewood. It was a most enjoyable drive.

When I mentioned I was visiting Homewood to most people, they thought it was a tiny 500 vertical foot mountain. However, it is more than 1000 acres and 1500 feet. The mountain was certainly big enough and had some great terrain. There is even a cliff strewn double black face open to ski.

However, Homewood is located lakeside at a low elevation, and therefore the snow was particularly heavy. Skiing ungroomed runs was possible, but not much fun. Therefore I just stuck to skiing the groomers. This was OK though, because Homewood offers the best views in Tahoe.

Notice the reflection of the mountains in the water. Spectacular!

Heavenly looks great.

You feel you can ski into the lake.

I pulled over here on my last run, sat on a rock, and enjoyed the view.

I do have to gripe about the lifts at Homewood. They were the slowest lifts ever. Very annoying. But overall it was a great time at Homewood. A beautiful ski area with a great vibe.

After skiing, I headed to Truckee for dinner. I went to Burger Me, a restaurant featured on that diners, drive ins, and dives show. The Burger was fantastic and the fries were phenomenal. I didn’t drink any beer there, but they did have a good selection for a burger joint. I would recommend this place.

I had initially thought I could find a room close to the lake. But I underestimated how much the bay area population invades the area on the weekend. I then retreated to Reno looking for a motel, and not finding any good options I decided to just crash in a casino parking lot. I also popped into the casino and won a little money playing craps.

I woke up Saturday and headed to Truckee for some breakfast. I went to Wild Cherry Coffee House. I am a big fan of coffee, bagel, and a muffin in the morning. And it was nice to get this from a quality coffee shop for the first time in a while. I was headed for Boreal to ski, and I took the long way via Donner Pass. The views of Donner Lake from the pass were breathtaking.

The Donner Party camped at the far end of the lake.

Amazing backcountry lines in Donner Pass.

I got to Boreal and felt out of place. Almost everyone was a boarder. Almost no one was wearing traditional ski gear or a helmet. It was like a skater boy fashion show on the slopes. The only skiers there were beginners who just pulled off the highway to give skiing a try.

Overall, the skiing experience was pretty bad. The mountain was so small, if I bombed a run I was down in less than 30 seconds. There was tons of snow, but a freeze the night before left frozen heavy snow that was like skiing on cobblestone. Therefore the ungroomed trails were off limits. So I stuck to the groomers. Although I did ski through the half pipe and boarder cross course. When in Rome you know.

Although the skiing stunk, I realized it is still awesome to be on a mountain. The views are always good and the air always crisp. Also any skiing is better than sitting at a desk.

The Sierras as seen from Boreal.

Great views of Sugarbowl. The terrain looks sick there.

I then headed back to Donner Pass for lunch. I had a great picnic, basked in the California sun, and enjoyed good conversation with other folks there. One of the best roadside lunches I’d ever had.

I then trekked across the Great Basin once again. I stopped in Winnemucca at The Pig BBQ to catch the Spurs Warriors clash and the PC UNC letdown. The food was great and I got to try the Great Basin milk stout. A great beer for a weary desert traveler. I then drove into the night. I stopped in Jackpot NV on the border with ID to crash in a casino lot for one last time.

I woke up and headed for Driggs Idaho. I will be staying at the base of Teton range and will be skiing Grand Targee for three days. I will let you know how it is in my next post.

The Teton Range from the West.

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