Lake Tahoe. Mark Twain called it the "fairest picture the whole earth affords," after he saw miners and emigrants crossing the Bonanza trail along Tahoe's south shore in search of their fortunes. Today, the "gold" is white and fluffy. Caked high atop the Sierra, Tahoe's legendary snow brings winter visitors to Heavenly and the South Shore communities of Stateline and South Lake Tahoe, California.
It also entices people to come here and stay. Nowhere else can you enjoy such a combination of kick-ass skiing and the variety of nighttime activities-blackjack, slot machines, all-you-can-eat buffets, big-name entertainment, night clubs, and general glittering madness-that only a gambling town can provide.
Younger folks take winter semesters off and migrate to Stateline, where they revel in its party atmosphere, ski the powder at Heavenly, and earn a little cash working at ski areas, hotels, casinos, and restaurants. The less transient can make it long-term in a variety of ways: as real-estate brokers and factory-outlet proprietors, sports-medicine practitioners and restaurateurs, ski-shop owners and building contractors.
These days, the town is going through redevelopment, metamorphosing from rows of condensed small motels into a world-class resort with several major hotel developments. You probably won't even notice the construction, though; it just makes for more dizzying activity in a place that makes any other ski town seem sleepy.
BUSINESS MOST NEEDED: a good bakery.
DON'T FORGET TO PACK: Michael & Me: Our Gambling Addiction...My Cry for Help by Richard Esquinas.