There are only a few places in the United States that have truly great skiing, and Nevada is one of those places. Nevada takes great skiing one step further with world-class ski resorts near thriving, bustling cities brimming with nightlife and countless things to do.
The best skiing in the state – and possibly the United States – is at Lake Tahoe. Many Olympic athletes train on the snowy slopes surrounding the lake, and every year hundreds of thousands of visitors come to Nevada find out just what makes this a top ski destination.
The most famous Tahoe ski resorts are Squaw Valley USA, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and Heavenly Mountain Resort, which straddles the Nevada-California state line. But there are actually nearly 20 ski resorts surrounding the lake, and all within a quick drive from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
On the north shore of Lake Tahoe, Diamond Peak Ski Resort has runs that feel like they’ll end in the lake’s shimmering blue water – it’s that close to the lake! Few other resorts have the spectacular lake views that Diamond Peak has, and the resort capitalizes on that fact with a monthly full-moon “Last Tracks” event. During Last Tracks, skiers ride a lift up to the mountaintop lodge just before sunset to enjoy wine and appetizers and then ski down freshly groomed trails as the sun sets over the lake. It is a truly spectacular site to behold.
Nevada’s other north shore ski resort is Mt. Rose – Ski Tahoe, the “locals’ favorite.” Mt. Rose boasts some of the most challenging runs at the lake, the triple-black-diamond “Chutes.” These near-vertical runs test even the strongest skier and boarder. Besides boasting some of the toughest terrain at the lake, Mt. Rose is dedicated to fun and offers special pricing on event days, such as the ’80s Flashback Day, when skiers dress in outrageous clothes from the 1980s, or the celebration of Elvis Presley’s birthday, when skiers and employees dress like Elvis and the whole mountain echoes with Elvis’ famous saying, “Thank you, thank you very much.” And no one does “Ladies Day” quite like Mt. Rose – male skiers who dress up as women (don’t forget the wig and dress!) get a discount.
Other ski resorts on the north and west shores of the lake include Homewood, Alpine Meadows, Boreal, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Soda Springs and Sugar Bowl, all with a little something different to offer, but all with the same great Sierra Nevada snow.
On the south shore of Tahoe, you’ll find the vast Heavenly Mountain Resort, one of the largest ski resorts in North America. What sets it apart from the rest is that it’s right in the heart of the action at Lake Tahoe. Its gondola lifts off from the main street of the city of Stateline, where you’ll find casinos, hotels, nightclubs, shopping and dining. The area surrounding the gondola is called Heavenly Village, and this is where non-skiers can hang out all day sipping hot chocolate, shopping and watching the action, and skiers can warm up after a long day on the slopes.
While the Lake Tahoe region seems created for skiers, let’s not forget about those who would rather keep two feet safely in their own shoes. Many ski resorts, Heavenly included, have a wide variety of activities for non-skiers too. Rent snowshoes to explore the mountainside or jump on a giant inner-tube or sled and slide on the snow just like you did when you were a kid. Or fly down the mountain in the Heavenly Flyer, a 3,100-foot zip-line ride, the longest ZipRider in the continental United States. Nearby Zephyr Cove offers snowmobile tours through the snowy Tahoe backcountry that can’t be beat.
So what happens when the lifts close, the sun sets and it’s time to go back to your hotel room? That’s when the “après ski” fun begins. “Apres ski” is the fancy way of saying “after-hours party,” and nearly every Lake Tahoe hotel, casino and ski resort has its own après ski event. The south shore hotels, including Harrah’s, Harveys, MontBleu, Horizon and Lakeside Inn, put together post-ski drink specials, music, contests and giveaways to keep the party going all night long. On the north shore, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe’s Cutthroat Saloon is always a hot party after the ski resorts close with food and drink specials and giveaways.
Two more things make Lake Tahoe the perfect ski destination: affordable hotel rooms and shuttle service from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Nearly every hotel in the Reno and Lake Tahoe region offers ski-and-stay packages in the winter months. Reserve a room and get discounted lift tickets to your choice of ski resorts. Many packages include transportation, meals and even a spa treatment to help you warm up after a day in the snow.
For visitors arriving from warmer climates and who may not be used to driving in the snow, renting a car can be a bit… overwhelming. But the South Tahoe Express motor coach solves that problem with shuttles running between the airport and Lake Tahoe hotels all day long, year-round. During the winter, stops are made at the various ski resorts, too, so travelers never have to worry about driving.
Skiing, snowboarding, sledding and just playing in the snow are what make winter three months of frigid fun. But a ski vacation consists of more than just great slopes. You need a fabulous hotel, restaurants to fit every budget and entertainment for all ages – all at affordable prices. Lake Tahoe may be the one ski area in the world that has all this, and more.
A good place to start planning your perfect ski vacation is http://ski.travelnevada.com/, where you’ll find information on the ski resorts and hotel-casinos, current weather, road and ski conditions, as well as links to help book your ski-and-stay package.