San Francisco, California
August 9, 2001
Be prepared for some pretty intense winter driving - unless you have a 4WD car/truck, you're going to need chains for your tires to get there (they set up roadblocks and inspect, so be prepared). The traffic jams driving up there in the wintertime can be horrendous, and often the interstates are shut down due to hazardous conditioins. And leave some time to dig your car out in the morning - unless you're taking the shuttle busses provided by the ski resorts (hotels have copies of the routes), which is a convenince - you're dropped off right at the base lodge, for free!
Ski season can start as early as November, but it's at it's best from January until about early March. This is light, fluffy snow - and gets really, really deep at times.
A basic rundown on the resorts:
Squaw Valley (North Shore) is the most luxurious, and hosted the 1960 Olympics. Big, and some bowl skiing up top. They don't name or designate trails here: the chairlifts are simply ranked by the terrain it serves.
Heavenly (South Shore) is by far the biggest. It straddles the stateline too, so you can ski in both Nevada and California. The view from up top is incredible on a clear day. Several huts sprinkled around the mountain.
Other great, yet smaller resorts on the north shore are: Northstar (beware of traffic jams around this one!), Mt. Rose (nearer to Reno, but you need to drive over Mt. Rose pass, which can be hairy in a snowstorm), and Sugar Bowl. Even smaller resorts on the North and West shores are Boreal (hint: great snowboarding lessons here - and cheap!), Donner Ranch, Homewood...Further south of Lake Tahoe is Kirkwood, a mid-size, splendid resort.
And it's not just all skiing/boarding. There's plenty of opportunities for nordic skiing, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, etc. Pick your pleasure, slather on the SPF and have fun.
From journal 4 seasons of fun in Tahoe