Lake Tahoe, California is known for having amazingly warm and mild winter weather while offering deep snow drifts and spectacular scenery, combined with technically challenging ski terrain. We decided to spend our Spring Break during March of 2018 in Lake Tahoe, and we weren’t disappointed.
You may be thinking: “Wouldn’t you want to spend spring break somewhere warm?” While somewhere warm might be enticing, Lake Tahoe, California is a Spring Break destination sure to win winter activity die hards all around.
1. It Can Be So Sunny, Your Face Will Burn To A Crisp
Since Lake Tahoe is in the mountains, you may assume the weather there is always cold. But, it’s spring and California mountains have some of the most bipolar weather conditions. Let me put this in perspective for you…The first two days we rode at Northstar and Heavenly. Those days were about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, with bluebird skies at the peaks, and rain at the bottom.
Our third day at Heavenly reached over 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and that was at the PEAK of the mountain! By that third day, we were all riding in minimal layers: Basically just sweatshirts and snow pants. At one point, I was so warm, that I did a run in my sports bra (This has definitely been on my bucket list for a LONG time)!
If it’s predicted to be sunny and warm during your visit to Lake Tahoe, definitely invest in sunscreen, especially if you plan on hitting the slopes! Goggle tan is a real thing, and a lot of us suffered from it throughout the trip. If you’re riding and it’s predicted to be windy and cold, I would even invest in some sunscreen. I got crazy burnt during the trip because I neglected to wear sunscreen, and I don’t want anyone else to make that same mistake.
Lake Tahoe’s warm weather was great while it lasted, but it wouldn’t have really been a Lake Tahoe trip if they didn’t get dumped on with snow, would it?
On the fourth night we were there, it had snowed at least 12-13 inches. We rode our fifth day at Kirkwood and we got free refills of powder all day — over 12 additional inches while we rode.
It was such an amazing experience!
The snow didn’t stop there. The snow Gods continued to be good to us for the rest of that week, with our last day of riding being in over two feet of snow. The accumulation of snow during our stay reached a total of about four feet of snow, which is a lot more than the east coast resorts in our area sometimes see in an entire season!
2. WARNING! The Skiing/Snowboarding Is EPIC
We had invested in the Epic Local season pass this year since we also spent a lot of time riding in Colorado. I highly recommend this and any other season pass if you are planning on traveling and riding a lot of mountains in the course of a year. Lift tickets get expensive, at about $100-130 per day. Riding just 5 days out west usually pays for itself, with every day after being free, essentially.
During our trip to Lake Tahoe, we rode at Northstar, Kirkwood, and Heavenly since they were included in our Epic Local passes. Here’s some of our opinions about each, in case you don’t have a season pass and are curious which mountain to go to:
We both found Northstar to be catered more towards the beginner/intermediate rider/skiier. Their trails weren’t super difficult and they didn’t have a ton of backcountry trails to offer. We’d also recommend it to a rider/skiier who prefers to stay away from trees and stick with groomers. It was the smallest mountain we went to during the trip, but offered a decent amount of black diamond trails towards the right side of the mountain.
Northstar is also known for their terrain park. While I stay away from that kind of stuff, David and the rest of the people we rode/skiied with would definitely agree with this.
Kirkwood was one of my favorite mountains. However, it definitely isn’t as challenging as mountains such as Mammoth or Squaw, which are areas renounced for their advanced terrain. Despite this, it still offers beginner friendly (and by this, I mean something that I am capable of doing) and challenging chutes, bowls, and really fun back country terrain. It’s also a local mountain and is great for finding pow stashes or avoiding lift lines on a great pow day. It offers a great variety of terrain that can cater to many different riding levels, beginner to advanced, as well as some easy-hike terrain with challenging lines. If you don’t mind slower lifts, Kirkwood is definitely a place to check out if you’re interested in hitting a more “locals spot” that doesn’t have long lift lines.
While in Lake Tahoe, we rented a house through airbnb. Since the house was only 5-10 minutes from the mountain, we spent most of our days riding at Heavenly. I loved Heavenly for many reasons and also hated some things about the mountain. The mountain had a few catwalks, which made navigating the mountain a little difficult. We hit a lot of catwalks because between them, there are a lot of powder spots. If you want to avoid catwalks, there are plenty of groomers that go lift to lift. Despite the catwalks, this mountain made it really easy to access these powder spots while other mountains may require you to take an extremely slow lift or take over a 15 minute hike after the lift.
Hint: Try looking for those pow stashes AWAY from the lifts.
Out of all the mountains we went to, Heavenly had the best view. On any day, the view was absolutely breathtaking and you couldn’t help but be in awe every time you were riding/skiing down the mountain.
We stuck with these mountains because they were on our pass and we were trying to stay in a budget. However, there’s TONS of fantastic mountains in the Lake Tahoe area that were not on our pass, including Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl, Sierra at Tahoe, Mount Rose, and Homewood.
With any mountain in either South or North Lake Tahoe, ALWAYS check for road closings when it’s snowing! There is nothing worse than driving an hour and realizing that the pass is closed, forcing you to turn around and waste most of your day.
3. The Biggest Mistake You Can Make Is Not Going Shopping
South Lake Tahoe has so many shops to make anyone happy! It’s hard to go into the town and NOT spend your money at one of these stores. Especially if you’re a skiier or rider…it’s so easy to remember the gear that you want when you’re surrounded by it in a store! One of my favorite stores was called The Boardinghouse. Here, I bought a brand new pair of Oakley Flight Deck XM Prizm Sapphire goggles. I am absolutely IN LOVE with them! David has a pair of Prizms as well, and would agree that these goggles work in all types of conditions. I decided on transition lenses because I always struggled with being able to see out of my goggles in different types of conditions. I didn’t want to have to worry about bringing different types of goggles with me during my trips. For example, David went from bringing 4 pairs of goggles around on every trip to only bringing 1, his Prizms.
We also purchased snapback hats from here from a local company called bigtruck. They’re a California mountain company that is aiming to celebrate the adventurous lifestyle through the beautiful artwork that they design on their products. I fell instantly in love with my hat!
4. Don’t Leave Your Camera Behind When Sight-Seeing In Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe, California has to be one of the MOST beautiful places I have ever been to. Each day felt like there was something new to see. Every time we were driving, I was in awe by the trees, the site of the lake, and the mountains. Unfortunately, with the lack of sun while we were there, we weren’t able to do much sight-seeing. Luckily, we did get to go to Emerald Bay, and it was absolutely breathtaking.
5. How Good Is Your Luck At The Casino?
Oh…the casino. A wonderful place to lose money that you didn’t really want to/could not lose. But, when in Lake Tahoe, you gotta do a little betting, am I right? We took a chance with roulette at Harrah’s, but you can assume roulette won. Nonetheless, if gambling is your thing or you just want to do it for the experience, like myself, Lake Tahoe is the place! There are multiple casinos around the area as well as night clubs, where you can have a night of fun and drinking with your friends.
The real reason you’ll want to go to Harrah’s casino is for the MILKSHAKES at Fatburger. At about $5, they’re a little on the pricier side, but they’re really good. We got them twice while there, both of which were Cookies n’ Creme flavored.
6. The Mexican Food Is SO Good You’ll Want To Bring It Home With You
California is known for their Mexican food and I just couldn’t not share with you a wonderful place that can be found by King’s Beach, which is located in North Lake Tahoe. Unlike South Lake Tahoe which is catered to tourists, North Lake is filled with a lot more locals. As a result, there’s a lot of really good food that isn’t as expensive as food found in the South Lake area.
La Mexicana is a super small, local spot that I’m sure not a lot of people know about. Nonetheless, their food is GOOD and reasonably priced for what you get! I ordered the Wet Burrito, which came with your choice of meat, rice, beans, onions, tomatoes, your choice of salsa, and melted mozzarella or jack cheese for $8.99. David got tacos and a Tostada.