In full transparency, now may not be the *best* time to venture to Lake Tahoe, especially due to California’s stay-at-home order even though all counties are different. With that being said, it never hurts to plan future trips! I said I’d publish Tahoe’s winter edition, so here we are. I’ll be updating this post as business returns and the environment changes. Right now, the facts are as follows:
- The Greater Sacramento Region of California lifted its regional stay at home order this week.
- California has permitted ski resorts to continue to operate under the state-approved winter operating plans.
- Lodging will be open to California residents only. The State of California prohibits out-of-state reservations when any region within California is within a Stay at Home order.
- In order to create a safer mountain experience for our guests and employees this season, some mountains have implemented several changes to their lift ticket system.
- In South Lake Tahoe on the California side, most retail stores are open with 20% occupancy including Heavenly Village where all the retail stores and restaurants are open, the Heavenly Ski resort is open, Heavenly Village Outdoor Ice Rink is open, and all restaurants are open for takeout and pick up dining all within current restriction guidelines.
- All the Nevada Casino/Hotels with approximately 2,400 rooms, other lodging and hotels are open, as well as 4,000 plus vacation home rentals all fully open, along with indoor dining available with reservations.
How to get there
Flying in? Reno-Tahoe International Airport is the closest commercial airport being only a 45-minute drive away from North Lake Tahoe. Sacramento International Airport is a 2-hour drive away while San Francisco is about 3.5 hours away. The drive from LA takes around 7 hours (psst…think about a Sequoia National Park detour on the way!).
About Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is the clearest lake in the U.S. straddling the California and Nevada state border! Stretching all the way down to 1,645 feet deep and at an elevation of 6,225 feet above sea level, the water clarity rivals some tropical destinations I’ve visited around the world. The Sierra Nevada region is categorized into north and south Lake Tahoe, with the 72-mile drive around the lake taking about 3 hours if you don’t stop (impossible in my opinion – too many photo ops!). This destination continues to be one of my very favorites in all of the United States. I’ve been twice in the summertime and twice in winter, and that’ll never suffice 🙂
So, North or South Lake Tahoe? California or Nevada?
Both? I always wanna do it all 🙂 When you cross into Nevada, it’s a bunch of casinos and strip malls…and that’s never been my thing. But maybe it’s yours! If so, put it on the list. In the summertime, Nevada has some breathtaking scenery on the lake. Don’t miss it. Either way, north and south lake are about an hour away from each other and you’ll want a 4×4 vehicle to get around (Lake Tahoe is spread out) with chains for variable winter weather.
Heavenly (South Lake Tahoe)
Why I love it: It has a great base lodge area that’s located on the border with Nevada – cross the street for casinos! The gondola is located in Heavenly Village (lots of restaurants, shopping, grocery stores and pharmacies), taking skiers and snowboarders to plenty of runs for every level (and has tons of great amenities for non-skiers). Heavenly is California’s largest ski resort and a full 20% of the terrain here is dedicated to beginners. It has the best views of the lake, too! See all non-ski/snowboard activities here. If you’re looking for the perfect non-skiing activity, Heavenly Village Ice Rink is 0pen. Note that the Ridge Rider Coaster, UTV Tours and snow tubing are currently closed.
Eat: While indoor dining is currently closed in California due to the virus, most lodges and cafes on the mountain still offer grab-and-go service with outdoor seating. See a list of Heavenly Village restaurants here.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows (North Lake Tahoe)
Why I love it: Has a combined 6,000 skiable acres across the two mountains. The Aerial Tram travels 2,000 vertical feet to High Camp at the summit where the views of Lake Tahoe are stunning (open to skiers and riders only at this time). Fun fact: Squaw Valley hosted the Winter Olympic Games on 1960 thanks in part to its challenging terrain. See non-ski/snowboard activities here.
Eat: Food and beverage offerings across the resort will remain outdoor only. Food will no longer be required to be served packaged to-go, and outdoor table service may resume at restaurants. No indoor seating is available. Meal packages and outdoor ordering/pickup are available as well. Check out the following during normal business operating times: Terrace at High Camp (top of Squaw Valley pictured above), West Shore Cafe, Uncorked, Christy Hill.
Northstar California (North Lake Tahoe)
Why I love it: Luxe vibe with a family feel sitting on top of Mt. Pluto, an extinct volcano. Travel + Leisure named it the “premier family destination.” Has a peaceful setting hidden amongst the trees. See all non-ski/snowboard activities here.
Eat: Northstar is following the State of California’s guidance for indoor dining within the state’s Purple Tier, and no indoor dining is available. Access to restrooms and grab-and-go food for outdoor seating only.
Sleep: Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, ski-in ski-out family-friendly destination
If you’re planning ahead for Lake Tahoe during the summer, read my guide here.