Take a Scenic, ‘Free’ Trip to Lake Tahoe

February 7, 2012

As the popular saying goes, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”  As any vacationer knows, when it comes to taking the family on a trip, all those lunches – and the rest of the expenses – can get rather pricey.

Emerald Bay in Winter

Good thing when it comes to popular winter destinations such as Lake Tahoe, people can feast their eyes upon the incredible natural beauty at no charge.

While most people do in fact come to the Sierra Nevada to go skiing or snowboarding, the alpine scenery is so soothing and stunning, some just sit back and bask in the mountain glory on the back or front porch.

Another popular activity that doesn’t cost anything is simply taking a walk around town or the lake’s shoreline. Since many beaches are public – and some private ones such as Incline Village are open in the winter – there are plenty of great locations to take a stroll along the water’s edge and take in the postcard views.

With so many fantastic stops along the 72-mile Lake Tahoe loop, another superb idea is a sightseeing trip. Places like Sand Harbor, Zephyr Cove, Camp Richardson, Emerald Bay, and Crystal Bay offer such amazing views, enjoying a day out may be as simple as going for a drive in the car.

The Tahoe Basin also provides many fantastic trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or just a picnic. In the shoulder months or years of low precipitation, many of these trails may also be ideal for hiking and mountain biking. Two popular spots for a little off-road north shore fun are the Mt. Rose Meadows and Brockway Summit.

It is a well-known fact that vacations can get rather expensive. Airfare, rental car, rental property, food, and the price tags that come with all the many activities to entertain the family.

Good thing there are places like Lake Tahoe where visitors don’t have to pay anything to feast their eyes upon the incredible natural beauty.

As the popular saying goes, “Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites.”

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Tahoe Traveling: Stop and Smell the Mt. Rose

January 31, 2012

When travelers arrive at the Reno airport for their Lake Tahoe vacation, they want nothing more than to get up the mountain as fast as possible. While the sapphire water of the enormous alpine lake is breathtaking, there are a few gems tourists might want to check out along the way.

There are several avenues one can take when heading to Lake Tahoe from The Biggest Little City in the World, such as through Carson City and up Highway 50 into South Shore or Interstate 80 through Truckee and ultimately into either Tahoe City or Kings Beach. The quickest route, though, is Highway 431, also known as Mt. Rose Highway.

Mt. Rose Meadows

Lake Tahoe is definitely the pot of gold at the end of the vacation rainbow, but there are some other nuggets to see along the 37-mile Mt. Rose journey.

The Summit – OK, so shopping may be the farthest thing from a vacationer’s mind, but the sheer abundance of quality stores and restaurants located at The Summit, warrants mention. Before spending time enjoying the great outdoors, immerse yourself in a little indoor decadence. Stores include Banana Republic, Gap, Hollister, Patrick James, bebe, Ann Taylor, Chico’s, J.Crew, Talbot’s, Sketchers, Bath & Body Works, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, and the always-popular Apple store.. For those looking to eat after hitting the shops and before hitting the road, there is BJ’s Brewhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chocolate Bar, FatBurger, and the omnipresent Starbuck’s.

Galena Creek Park – Nestled at the foothills of the Sierra, right along Mt. Rose Highway, this regional park offers incredible hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. Feel free to inquire about ranger-led expeditions through the park, the exhibits in the old stone visitor’s center, and the campfire opportunities. There is also fishing and a plethora of picnic areas to choose from.

Mt. Rose Meadows – A local favorite for its stunning views of both Nevada to the northeast and the Tahoe Basin to the southwest, there is a myriad of hiking and mountain biking paths to enjoy in the summer – including a single track that leads off the mountain and south down into the Carson City area. To the north is a popular trail to Tamarack Lake. In the winter, this is a favorite locale for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and sledding.

Mt. Rose Turnoff – Yes, just a tiny concrete space on the side of Mt. Rose Highway, but should be mentioned as almost the entire lake can be seen from this vantage point. As far as tiny concrete highway pull-outs are concerned, this one rivals the parking lot overlooking Emerald Bay and the “Tea House” on Fannette Island.

There are many other great options to choose from depending on the season, such as skiing at Mt. Rose Ski Resort, heading east into Virginia City, or playing golf at Arrowcreek Country Club or if you know somebody at the private Montreux Gold Club where the PGA Tour stops once a year.

Considering just how spectacular, though, Lake Tahoe truly is, it’s understandable if most tourists just head straight there. After all, it is a diamond in the Sierra rough.

But for those who want to take their time and enjoy what Mt. Rose Highway has to offer, there are certainly a few pearls to discover.


Let the Tahoe Storm Parade Begin

January 16, 2012

According to the national weather service, a significant storm is finally on its way to drought-ridden Northern California. That is extremely good news to residents and visitors of the greater Lake Tahoe area since it’s been the driest start of the winter season in recent memory.

Further drumming up excitement is the fact that experts say the storm expected to arrive later this week is just the first in a parade of stronger ones to come.

“The vigorous winter Pacific jet stream will give weary Alaskans a break and instead will make the entire roughly 5000-mile long voyage to the West Coast, bringing several wet, windy storms into the West Coast beginning midweek,” reported  Jonathan Erdman, Senior Meteorologist with Weater.com. “Each of these storms should bring soaking rain and heavy mountain snow to the Northwest, heavy snow to the northern Rockies, and at least some rain and mountain snow to thirsty northern California.”

While the brunt of the incoming weather will push to the north, this is extremely good news to both water officials and outdoor enthusiasts looking to finally introduce their skis and snowboards to fresh powder.

All in all, three storms are expected to move into the area starting Wednesday or Thursday – all of which are listed as “moderate to strong.” That is three more storms than the region has seen in almost two months.

In the Pacific Northwest the total snow fall will be measured in feet, not inches. The Sierra Nevada won’t rival the Puget Sound or the Cascades, but the amount of rainfall will be significant and mark a huge shift in the weather pattern.

“This should put a dent in the drought worries for at least parts of California, currently plaguing half of the state. Fortunately, California’s reservoir levels are still high from a wet winter/spring 2010-2011, so, there are no long-term water supply worries just yet,” stated Erdman.

With a procession of storms expected to march into the area in the week to come, perhaps the blizzard conditions will finally beat away any long-term water worries. And skiers and snowboarders can once again parade down to the local resorts to enjoy a little fresh, natural snow.


Email More Proof Tahoe is a Special Vacation Spot

January 10, 2012

Dear Sirs/Madams,

Hello! I just wanted to quickly thank you and your entire staff for a wonderful vacation! We always wanted to go to Lake Tahoe and we finally busted the move this past holiday season.

I have to say, that despite the lack of snow, the move was well worth it. I didn’t even know they could make snow in such abundance. Good thing since I don’t think a storm has come to the area in a month. Not that I’m an expert by any means, but the snow seemed just fine to me. It certainly looked, tasted, and smelled like the normal, natural stuff. 🙂

Before we booked our vacation, we seriously thought about staying at a hotel. At the last minute, we decided that staying in a condominium would be better since we wanted to make our own meals – especially dinner. Plus, the kids really like to play catch and explore, so being able to open the door and step outside was much more appealing than the idea of taking an elevator up and down all day.

Also, while my husband and I do enjoy a little gambling here and there, it looks as though the only hotel in the area was also a casino. I’m sure it would have been fine, but we were a bit hesitant on how family-friendly that place truly was.

At any rate, I don’t want to bore you all, I just wanted to extend our thanks.

The condominium was so clean and spacious, it truly exceeded our expectations. Having all the comforts of home – a nice kitchen, living room with a flat screen TV, and multiple bathrooms – is the way to go while on vacation. The fact that we could walk to the shopping center and several really good restaurants was added bonus.

Suffice it to say, we will be back to Lake Tahoe and renting from you again. Most likely this summer as the kids want to swim in that gorgeous blue lake!  (My youngest son actually thought it was the ocean as we took a stroll along the shore.)

The entire family is extremely jealous of all you lucky people who get to live in such a beautiful, peaceful alpine location year-round. I will think of Tahoe often as I stare out my downtown office window at the honking cars and smog below.

Thanks so much again and see you this summer!

Signed,

Shirley (aka Tahoe Daydreamer)



Visitors Have Some Man-Made Tahoe Fun

December 30, 2011

It is reported to be the driest December in the Lake Tahoe region in the past 100 years, but that hasn’t kept skiers and snowboarders from hitting the slopes and wetting their whistle at the respective ski lodges.

Village at Northstar

“The snow is actually pretty darn good,” said one patron as he enjoyed a cold beer after a day at Diamond Peak Ski Area. “I probably couldn’t tell the difference between the man-made stuff and the real stuff. The conditions seem normal to me.”

While the snow may seem normal on the slopes, the conditions are anything but. With pretty much no precipitation since before Thanksgiving, ski resorts throughout Northern California have been forced to make their own snow.

With extremely frigid temperatures, sometimes dropping to the low teens, that has not been a problem.

Yet, the brown panoramic views around Lake Tahoe have almost all locals and tourists wondering when the next storm will bring the white stuff. Outside a few north-side patches,  the only consistent snow that can be seen is under chair lifts.

Or in the case of Diamond Peak – chair lift.

“They only have one top-to-bottom run open, but I am pleasantly surprised at how good the conditions are,” said another skier.

Despite the lack of precipitation, it seems as if it’s business as usual. Just like all the Whos down in Whoville celebrated Christmas without any presents, outdoor winter enthusiasts are celebrating in Tahoe without the presence of natural snow.

With parking lots full and a huge crowd enjoying all the amenities the Village has to offer, Northstar-at-Tahoe is all abuzz this holiday.

“Wow. It was extremely enjoyable out there on the slopes, but a little bit crowded. Getting through the Village, past all the people at the ice rink and everywhere was quite the slalom course in itself,” said a young skier as he waited in the parking lot for his ride home.

No snow in the month of December is very unfortunate for a variety of reasons, but visitors and locals continue to make the most of it. Still, the dry conditions only continue to whet everyone’s appetite for some fresh powder skiing and snowboarding.


Economic Winter Outlook for Tahoe Remains Sunny

December 6, 2011

Despite the lack of white stuff on the ground and the weather forecast calling for blue skies ahead in the days to come, most Lake Tahoe, tourist-based business owners remain confident they’ll be in the black this winter.

“All of our indicators are pointing toward a very positive season,” Andy Chapman, director of tourism of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, told the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspaper. “We’re seeing a constant increase in growth.”

While a rain dance – or snow dance in this case – surely couldn’t hurt, the very cold temperatures have led to nearly round-the-clock snow making at several ski resorts. In fact, recent overnight lows have been in the single digits in the greater Tahoe-Truckee area and the highs only around 40 degrees.

Because of these frigid conditions, Boreal, Northstar-at-Tahoe, and Heavenly are already open even though there hasn’t been a non-mechanical storm to hit their respective resorts in weeks.

Northstar is reporting a base of 18 inches and Boreal, which opened in late October, is reporting roughly the same. Perhaps it’s because the options are limited at this stage, but skiers and snowboarders seem to be responding well.

“It’s been a strong start for us. If the storms are placed at the right time, we will remain really optimistic,” Jody Church, general manager of Boreal Ski Area, told an area reporter. “The momentum so far is very strong and we’re hopeful it’s going to be another great winter.”

The fact that last year was a near record-setter in terms of snow levels has also enticed many travelers to book their holiday getaway to the Sierra Nevada early. It is also early in the season and most outdoor enthusiasts realize there is no better place to spend the holidays – and other vacation time – than in beautiful Lake Tahoe.

Still, every ski resort and most area businesses rely upon tourism and getting into the black depends heavily on getting skiers and snowboarders into the fluffy white.

Thus, with nothing but blue skies expected for the next week or so, it probably couldn’t hurt to do a little ceremonial, precipitation-inducing  Tahoe two-step just in case.


According to Twain, Tahoe one ‘Bigler’ Lake

September 28, 2011

When one hears the name Lake Tahoe, thoughts of stunning natural beauty come to mind. Supposedly when Mark Twain heard it, he got “disgustingly sick.”

Born Samuel Clemens in 1835, Twain was an avid traveler. He left his Missouri home at a fairly young age and crisscrossed the countryside working as a printer, typesetter, and master riverboat captain on the Mississippi River.

The gold rush brought him west to Nevada in 1861, where he tried to make it as a miner. He failed as a prospector, but soon struck gold as a reporter for the Virginia City newspaper. That is where he first used his pen name, “Mark Twain” in a series of articles.

About that time, in a small cabin in Tuolumne County, he also finished his work “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” which garnered him nation-wide success.

The beauty of the Sierra Nevada – particularly Lake Tahoe – immediately captivated Twain. In his book, Roughing It, he stated:

“We plodded on, two or three hours longer, and at last the Lake burst upon us — a noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feet above the level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks that towered aloft full three thousand feet higher still! It was a vast oval, and one would have to use up eighty or a hundred good miles in traveling around it. As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.”

He ended up not only hiking down to the shoreline, but staying there for quite some time. “Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor,” Twain wrote.

While the alpine scenery of Lake Tahoe overwhelmed him, apparently the name itself had quite the opposite effect. He did believe that most natural wonders and locations should bear Native American-related names, but ‘Tahoe’ was not one of them. To him, it sounded awful to the ear and Lake Bigler was the more appropriate title.

“I hope some bird will catch this grub the next time he calls Lake Bigler by so disgustingly sick and silly a name as Lake Tahoe…They say it means ‘Fallen Leaf’ – well suppose it meant Fallen Devil or Fallen Angel, would that make its hideous, discordant syllables more endurable?” he wrote.

It is true that Mark Twain is one of the most prolific, talented American writers. Just about every child remembers reading Adventures of Huck Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in school. When it comes to his writing about changing Lake Tahoe to Lake Bigler, however, that may be one read better left on the shelf.

To think that the word “Tahoe” makes someone sick to his stomach is just downright comical. But, as one famous American writer once stated — “humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”

Perhaps that’s the big point.