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The Essential Tahoe

The Essential Tahoe

A first visit to Tahoe can be overwhelming. Case the joint first and you'll come off like a regular.
By Susan Reifer
posted: 05/15/2008

A secret sliver of the past, Homewood Mountain Resort has the folksy charm of a 1960s ski hill with vertigo-inducing views of Lake Tahoe. Locals are nostalgic about the place, and for good reason. Homewood sells lift tickets for the throwback price of $29 on 29 days throughout the season. Though the lodges need some updating and the lifts remain old-school slow—there is only one high-speed quad—Homewood offers varied and excellent terrain. You can cruise groomers nearly two miles from the top to the lake shore, but venture off the corduroy and you’ll find some of the best treeskiing in the Tahoe Basin. Hobbit Land is a secluded tree stand, your turns deep and silent through a canyon. Dutch Treat and White Lightning are steep mogul runs that weave in and out of glades, but hit these early—they’re south-facing and can get crusty. Quail Face is a monster that’s hike-in/hike-out, experts only. You’ll see families skiing together all day, doing laps on the Old Homewood Express, which serves fast and fun intermediate slopes. On sunny days, enjoy lunch outside the warming hut on Rainbow Ridge, spectacularly perched over the lake. Not surprisingly, given Homewood’s intimate feel, it’s almost always possible to find untracked lines among the trees. One drawback? The resort’s lower elevation can lead to less snow coverage and a shorter season. If you’re keen on nostalgia, you want to get to Homewood soon because changes are in store here in the next few years. Bought in 2006 by JMA ventures, a development company best known for rebuilding Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, Homewood is scheduled for a major makeover, starting at the end of this season.

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MUST DO Take a breather at the top of Glory Hole and admire the glorious lake view.

MUST SKI The Glades. There is nothing like it in Tahoe. A moderate yet testy run, it narrows nicely and serves up yet another stunning lake view.

APRÈS The Ridge Pub at Homewood hops with a local vibe. Sunnyside, just down the road, serves superb fish tacos.

DINING Bridgetender, in Tahoe City, is the spot to go for burgers and beers. The West Shore Cafe is upscale, delectable and across the street from Homewood’s North Lodge. For breakfast, the Fire Sign Cafe makes a mean smoked salmon omelet. Head to Tahoma Market for massive sandwiches.

LODGING Sunnyside has beautiful lakefront options; sunnysideresort.com. The suites at West Shore Inn are a bit pricier; westshorecafe.com. Rustic B&Bs, such as The Chaney House, offer reasonable rates, or rent your own cabin; tahoeaccommodations.com.

INFO skihomewood.com

A first visit to Tahoe can be overwhelming. Case the joint first and you'll come off like a regular.

What's terrific about skiing here is that at nearly every hour, there's a different local lifestyle to try on. During your first Tahoe visit, you'll quickly learn that you run out of time before you run out of options.

 

Heavenly, Tahoe's largest resort, rises out of the heart of South Lake's casino district.

 

Stateline, Nev., and South Lake Tahoe, Calif., bookend South Lake's Vegas-style strip.

 

An hour's drive from South Lake, Kirkwood offers a slower pace and a wilderness feel.

 

Homewood boasts the best lake views—along with abundant intermediate skiing.

 

Locals head to Sierra-at-Tahoe's sheltered runs when big snows close neighboring lifts.

 

Handsome and homespun, Alpine Meadows is popular with families because the terrain welcomes all abilities and temperaments.

 

Squaw Valley is the supermodel of the neighborhood: 1960 Olympic host, 4,000 acres, 2,850 vertical feet and the area's best technical terrain.

 

Sugar Bowl skis like a mini-Squaw and is a favorite escape for both Bay Area hipsters and local racers.

 

Donner Ski Ranch offers old-style Tahoe family fun.

 

A former railroad town, Truckee is the heart of the full-time local community.

 

If you've planned a family Tahoe trip, chances are you'll end up at Northstar sooner or later.

 

Tahoe City is the retail hub of the North Shore.

 

Incline Village is Tahoe's swankiest address.

 

Reno residents' favorite, Mt. Rose conveniently serves up surprisingly tough terrain.

 

Intermediate Diamond Peak is minutes from the Hyatt Regency.

 

Lake Tahoe and Truckee-Tahoe airports cater to private flights. Most visitors fly into Reno, 45 minutes away.

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