Spring Skiing at Tahoe

Lake Tahoe offers excellent spring skiing at a number of ski areas with super views and excellent snow. Some comments based on experts and intermediates skiing and boarding at Kirkwood, Squaw Valley, Heavenly and Sierra at Tahoe.


Spring Skiing at Tahoe

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 24, 2001

Different areas have different looks and feels. What one person likes turns off another. This truism seems accentuated when skiers get together to talk about their favorite mountains. To truly evaluate the comments, you first need to calibrate the skiers... do they share the same styles and attitudes with you? These comments are based on experiences of two experts who disdain groomed trails and have the attitude that the more rocks, trees and ice the better it is - combined with the thoughts of two intermediates who like that groomed stuff. ${QuickSuggestions} ${BestWay} If you are going to ski anywhere other than Heavenly - and you should - you need a car. The bus from South Lake Tahoe/Stateline to Sierra at Tahoe stops about 40 places before getting to the mountain, the boat across Tahoe to Squaw frequently hosts a bunch of raging drunks during raging storms and the bus to Squaw was running at 10 to 12 mph - no joke, no exaggeration because we were following it for about 10 minutes before it was safe to pass. Rent a car.

Days Inn South Lake Tahoe

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 24, 2001

I got fooled when I booked. First, I remembered new places being built on the lake side of Route 50, the main street through South Lake Tahoe and Stateline. When I used Travelocity to do my bookings, their map showed the Days Inn on the lake side and the blurb on the motel tied the location to the Marie Calender''s restaurant - which is also on the lake side. Unfortunately, Day''s Inn is across the street. Holiday Inn Express, Travelodge, Best Western - these are the newer places you want to check out.

Days Inn has thin walls between rooms, which may not be a problem in the winter when the heat is on full or during summer when you might run the a/c. Spring, when all systems are off allows you to hear everything going on next door.

Days Inn makes a big deal about its continental breakfast but it consists of coffee (no cream or milk, just that dust stuff), an orange flavored juice-like beverage and doughnuts.

All in all, for real skiers - the people who hit the mountain at opening, ski all day, shower, eat dinner, then crash - the Days Inn is acceptable... but there are so many nicer choices available. Go somewhere else.

Bookings are tight Friday and Saturday nights, but you should be able to take your pick of places any other nights during March.

Days Inn South Lake Tahoe
Route 50
Lake Tahoe, California

Kirkwood Inn

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 24, 2001

A different place for a drink or dinner apres ski. Zachary Kirkwood built this place in 1864. Step inside and its dark wood, logs and low ceilings. Friendly staff. Just be aware if you want dinner - the dinner menu doesn't start until 5 pm because that's when the chef starts.... it's hamburgers, chili, salads and sandwiches if you get there earlier!
Kirkwood Inn
Route 88
Lake Tahoe, California

Grand Central Pizza

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 25, 2001

Grand Central Pizza is in a strip mall set back from Route 50 on the lake side near the Y. (This will make sense to you if you've ever been in the area). It seems more a neighborhood place than a tourist spot. While we were there there was one father with his 6 year old son. Shortly after they left another dad came in with his younger daughter. The pizza is pretty good or maybe we were just hungry. I'm recommending this place more for the good skiing information we got from our waiter. When we had some specific questions he couldn't answer he caucussed with the owner and bar tender and gave us some good advice. The generic good advice for you is to stay away from Sierra at Tahoe on weekends.
Grand Central Pizza
Route 50
Lake Tahoe, California

Planet Hollywood

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 25, 2001

If your children are of a certain age or you have an interest in movies, you eventually wind up at a Planet Hollywood during your travels. This one is just like the others, filled with a mix of props and memorabilia on the walls. TV screens and movie screens throughout the restaurant show disjointed clips taken from famous and obscure movies while an occasionally related soundtrack clashes. However, there are dissidents... at the bar one lonely screen showed a NCAA tourney game in silence. The restaurant is hidden in a corner of the Ceasar's Palace casino and is smaller than a lot of the others. There can be considerable waits on weekends.
Planet Hollywood
55 Highway 50
Lake Tahoe, California
(775) 588-7828

Hard Rock Cafe

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 25, 2001

If you have children of a certain age or have an interest in rock music, you probably have been to a Hard Rock Cafe during your travels. This one, hidden in the back of Harvey's casino, is like the rest. Instruments and memorabilia are hung on every wall. Video monitors and tv screens play rock videos one after another at a volume slightly too loud for convenient conversation over dinner. But what the heck, you didn't come here to talk, you came to gawk at the stuff that once was worn by Madonna... or played by Clapton... or something that relates to someone you used to listen to. Hard Rock's food, for a gimmick chain restaurant, always seemed good quality and perhaps even generous. No exception here. I don't need to recommend or not recommend this place. You know what a Hard Rock Cafe is and whether or not you'll like it....
Hard Rock Cafe Lake Tahoe at Harvey's Resort Hotel/Casino
18 Highway 50
Stateline, Nevada, 89449
(775) 588-6200

Chart House

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on May 9, 2001

First, I have to qualify the general classification above, 'fine dining.' The Chart House in Stateline Nev. is a quality place. It's not fine dining like a top of the line, dress up, real special occasion restaurant. It's a national chain so you may already be familiar with it but I consider it a step up from most of the restaurants around Tahoe. The food is good, but I suggest it for the view of the Lake at sundown. Very scenic, up in the hills a bit, with pine trees framing the lake below.
Chart House
392 Kingsbury Grade
Lake Tahoe, California, 89449
(775) 588-6276

Rockwater Tavern

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on May 9, 2001

Rockwater Tavern in South Lake Tahoe, CA is on the right of the road going north out of the Y toward Emerald Bay (that will make perfect sense once you are out there and see a map).

It's an upscale restaurant/bar with a dining area that just flows seamlessly into the bar. The night we went was atypical - there was some sort of promotion going on for a brand of vodka which brought in more of a drinking rather than eating crowd. There was also a jazz trio playing which again seemed more geared toward drinkers rather than diners. But it was an upscale lounge - more cosmopolians and martinis than Lone Stars and Rolling Rocks if you get my drift. The food, however, was exceptional - attractive presentation, adventurous menu choices, well prepared.

Rockwater Bar & Grill
787 Emerald Bay Rd
Lake Tahoe, California, 96150
(866) 544-8004

Heavenly

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 25, 2001

Why does Heavenly leave us cold? For some reason, we just don't care for this place... but it has the most spectacular views of any ski areas I've ever seen. From the top looking out at the unfrozen blue water of Lake Tahoe and the snow capped mountains ringing it... gorgeous! Then on the ridge run over to Nevada side and the view of the parched Nevada country side and the bare brown mountains beyond - it's a view you shouldn't be able to get without being in an airplane. You can't capture it with a camera unless (maybe) you have one of those panorama jobs that gives 180 degrees of view.

Maybe it's the tickets - at $57 adult, they're the most expensive in the region. Maybe it's the people - with a gondola right down to the casinos, the mountain attracts more casual skiers, more dilettantes... people who ski one day, sleep late and hit the casinos the next day, then go on a sleigh ride and go home to write about their ski vacation. Maybe it's the terrain - there is an experts only section, Mott's Canyon, but it seems somehow an afterthought. Maybe it's the lift lines - they were the only lines of any consequence anywhere on our trip, at the Sky Express and Dipper Express, and they were under 10 minutes... but, dammit, at Kirkwood and Squaw there were NO lines. Maybe it's the curse of Sonny Bono, who hit a tree in the Orion trail area... we can take Cher or leave her, but we loved that little guy! Anyhow, intermediates can find lots of long cruising trails on the Nevada side. Experts should be able to find some interesting tree runs after a storm. Beginners get stuck, however, since the mountian is weak on pure beginner areas. In fact, the upper mountain beginner runs - which you need to use in the spring to keep out of the heavy slush - are in conflict with intermediate/expert access to other terrain. The poor beginners try to do their thing, which involves much side to side work and an occasional fall, while the better skiers just blast through hoping to keep up their speed so they can get to wherever they need to go without poleing or walking. This leads to occasional discomfort on both sides.

The grand finale - Heavenly is 'Highly recommended' for a one time visit. Go and take a good look around. You really do have to get up there and check out the scenery. Heck, you may even like it more than Squaw or Kirkwood! It's high on a lot of people's lists, just not ours.

Heavenly Ski Resort
Highway 50 at Ski Run Blvd
Stateline, California, 89449
+1 775 586 7000

Squaw Valley

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 25, 2001

This place is huge. Other places are as big, but there is so much open terrain that the skiable acreage is just overwhelming. To put it in perspective, the trail map doesn't have trails... it has lifts and they're marked beginner, intermediate, expert. We've been here 7-8 times, but didn't really figure it out until after a day and a half. That's when we all had our comfort zones about where we wanted to ski. For spring skiing, you need to get out from the base (at 6200 feet) and up to mid mountain (8200 feet). There are two ways to do this, one good, one bad. The good way is to use the "funitel", a gondola that can take over 25 people. This thing moves skiers! I figure there are about 3 cars per minute. The bad way is to take the cable car. This thing runs once every 15 minutes and holds about 125 people. You do the math.... For experts, Squaw has you choice of terrain. You want steeps? Got 'em. Look around and take your pick. Steeps with rocks, bumps too? Yep, off the KT-22 or Headwall express. Steeps with rocks and trees, find your own trail? Over here at the Silverado lift or the far side of Granite Chief. Intermediates have a batch of places to explore too, although by spring the Red Dog and Squaw Creek lifts are serving slushy trails and most of the intermediate lifts at the 8200 foot level are short. But overall, this area has what you want to ski - it just might take some time before you find it. Anyhoo... if you ski the Tahoe area, you better ski Squaw. A 55 minute drive from So. Lake Tahoe.
Squaw Valley
P.O. Box 2007
North Lake Tahoe, California, 96146
(530) 583-6985

Sierra at Tahoe

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 25, 2001

Sierra at Tahoe has a few problems. One, it's the first ski area people from Sacremento and San Francisco reach driving east. This means it gets a bit more crowded on weekends. Two, it has a gimmick called "Club Vertical" that you can join for a little more than the cost of a lift ticket. You get reduced price tickets but you also get a little electronic gismo that fits on your wrist and tracks how many times you go on each lift. This translates to how many vertical feet you've skied. There are prizes for accumulating vertical, ranging from free food in the cafeteria all the way up to a new snowboard. Now what this does is to provide an incentive for people to scream top to bottom at top speed all day long on the groomed intermediate trails. Does this idea seem flawed to you? On the positive side, there are reduced ticket price opportunities for this mountain. Some ski shops have signs out front for Sierra discount tickets - buy at the shop and save $5. Eat at Chevy's Mexican restaurant and get a $10 off coupon. Look around and save a few dollars. Our experts found interesting runs off the Grandview Express lift. Steeps, bumps, and where the snow was right some tree skiing. The intermediates were not happy though. They didn't find the mountain that interesting and were bothered by the speed merchants careening by. It might be a good place to take intermediates after a storm to get them some powder skiing/tree skiing on terrain that isn't too steep. The West Bowl area seemed to have a couple of places that would work.
Sierra at Tahoe
1111 Sierra at Tahoe Road
Twin Bridges, California, 97535
+1 530 659 7453

Kirkwood

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 24, 2001

We love this place. Far left side has the Sunrise lift, serving intermediate trails and giving access to serious double diamonds. There's a real beginner area to the far right which keeps them away from the rest of us. True expert trails are in the center. They actually have a sign at the entrance to one of the lifts - Wagonwheel/The Wall - that says "Experts Only" with a skull and crossbones... and they mean it! Bumps, jumps, chutes, rocks, steeps, narrow gullies... its great! And lower grade skiers can enjoy some adventure too - there are a couple of gullies down low on the mountain that a beginner/intermediate can enjoy. Just porpoising from one side to the other, riding up, riding down, finding little jumps - the gullies are natural half pipes. An instructor was taking his little kids in one over by the beginners area, told them they were entering THE DITCH OF DOOM... they cruised through back and forth, up and down and came out looking like someone gave them bags of candy on the way...

Crowds were minimal with no meaningful waits on weekdays or weekends. It's about a 50 minute ride from South Lake Tahoe - and avoid Route 50 in and out of the Lake area. Use Pioneer Trail to get around the stop lights and congestion when going to and from Kirkwood.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort
1501 Kirkwood Meadows Drive
Kirkwood, California, 95646
(970) 496-4475

Alpine Meadows

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 24, 2001

We didn't have a good experience at Alpine Meadows. The mountain has a lower elevation than some of the others in the Tahoe area and we had a warm and sunny day. The mountain slushed up big time real early. For spring skiers, if its going to be warm and sunny, go to Heavenly, Squaw or Kirkwood - all these have higher elevations. For instance, Alpine Meadow has two peaks that max out at 8300 feet and 8600 feet, while Squaw has a whole set of lifts that START at 8200 feet. Heavenly has most of its California side trails starting at 8200 feet and Kirkwood's peak is about 9700 feet. Midwinter it probably doesn't make a difference, but it is important for spring. I have good felings about Alpine Meadows from a previous visit, but this note is specific to spring conditions - so I only rate it 'somewhat recommended'. About 55 minutes from South Lake Tahoe via Route 89.
Alpine Meadows Ski Resort
2600 Alpine Meadows Road
Tahoe City, California, 96174
+1 530 583 4232

Harrahs

Member Rating 1 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on March 24, 2001

There are a bunch of casinos available at Stateline NV, just across the border from South Lake Tahoe, CA - Harveys, Harrahs, Bills... and there are more an hour's ride away in Reno or a half hour away in Carson City. They're interchangeable. If you feel the need to drop in and pay the Stupidity Tax, go ahead. I'm suggesting a new philosophy, a new strategy, if you need to gamble: Take the amount you are going to gamble with - the amount you will allow yourself to lose, worst case - and plunk it all down on one hand of blackjack. If you win, pick up your chips and cash'em in. Lose and just walk away. Hey, you've got better things to do than sit around a smokey room full of sheep being fleeced. As my kid said, seeing a sign over a slot machine that bragged "97% Payout at this machine last week", that means every time someone put a buck in, they kept 3 cents... its a guaranteed loser. And people are supposed to be happy about that? And if you want to get him going, ask him about the sucker odds on Keno. But then he's had a course in statistics recently and you probably haven't. Well, it's your money, but you're better off getting new skis and boots.
Harrah's Lake Tahoe
Highway 50
Stateline, California, 89449
+1 775 588 6611

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