With the world’s largest alpine lake at its center, beautiful Lake Tahoe is a wonderful family destination offering plenty of mountain sports and activities for kids of all ages, with a “winter” season that begins around Thanksgiving and lasts through early summer.
Our family resort hopped across Tahoe starting with the massive Squaw Valley, which got a $24 million facelift in 2012. The terrain has endless expanses of trails and family friendly options, with beginner, intermediate and advanced trails often using the same chair lifts. The view from the 1960s Olympic skating rink at the top of the tram is a sight to behold, and skating costs just $12 an hour for adults and $6 for kids, including rentals.
Diamond in the Snow
At a gem of a resort, Diamond Peak, our family took a private ski lesson together. With expert instruction, our five year-old son progressed at an amazing rate from snowplowing to paralleling. The resort has lots of wide open trails that families can ski together. Diamond Peak’s owners also own the Incline Village Recreation Center about a mile from the base lodge. The huge complex features a pool, sauna, basketball and other sport facilities, along with a massage therapist on site.
The aptly named Heavenly features vast terrain for skiers and riders of every ability and preference, including a Roundabout trail that that winds around the mountain and is a better thigh burner than any Suzanne Somers contraption.
Children’s ski lessons at Heavenly are impressively streamlined with kids quickly placed in groups by skill level and whisked off to the slopes. Despite my son’s initial separation anxiety, by lunchtime he was downing hot chocolate and cookies in the lodge with a new gaggle of friends. By day’s end he conquered intermediate runs with full confidence. Highlights of the lesson were captured digitally courtesy of EpicMix, a very cool photo service that snaps pics on the slopes that you can access and buy online.
Skis In, Skis Out
We rented skis through Black-Tie Rentals. They brought our skis to our hotel for fitting and picked them up at the bottom of the slopes when we were done. Our high performance equipment was in tip-top shape, and the service was outstanding.
A private snowmobile tour by Zephyr Cove Resort was a highlight of our trip. Our guide led us over the hills and through the woods atop of our ultra-powerful luxury snowmobiles, outfitted with hand warmers. The tour was complete with a break for hot chocolate, made from melted snow.
The Lone Eagle Grille at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casinois one of the area’s finest dining establishments with a wonderful ambiance and blazing fireplaces. The menu includes delectable dishes like Durham Ranch Bison Tenderloin, pan seared California Sturgeon and the fabulous Baked Tahoe dessert.
Local favorite Azzarra’s at Incline Village serves up authentic Italian cuisine in a relaxed family friendly atmosphere. The generous portions of seafood paella, swordfish over an awesome risotto, and traditional spaghetti with meatballs were all superb.
Another Incline Village locals’ favorite is Austin’s, a tiny 13-table restaurant with great down-home Tahoe charm and mountain country cooking. Popular dishes include chicken fried steak, classic meat loaf and a legendary rib eye steak.
South Lake Tahoe’s Riva Grill offers stunning views and décor of polished wood, just like Milan’s famed Riva sleek wood boats. The artful menu consists of gourmet comfort foods like pork ribs with a pomegranate glaze, rib eye char grilled with rum peppercorn sauce and a wonderful bread pudding with Callebaut dark chocolate.
The Other Side of Cal-Neva
Our family stayed at Cal-Neva Resort, Spa and Casino, located in North Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada borderline, divided down the middle of its banquet hall, swimming pool and grand fireplace with a painted stateline. The hotel was once the hangout of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pak who used its famous network of underground tunnels to escape fan mobs.
The Cal-Neva is past its glory days, but the beds are comfy, and the housekeepers kept our room impressively clean and neat. Best of all, it is very affordable with spacious rooms.
For Kids Only, and Their Parents, and Everyone Else
On our way out we stopped at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum. Our son had a blast exploring the hands-on Nevada-themed interactive science, nature, history, math, music and art exhibits.
Tahoe’s majestic mountain peaks seem a world away from home, but Tahoe is just an hour flight from Los Angeles. Though we were sad to leave, the good news is that in a few more months we can discover a whole different Tahoe in summer.