things to do in tahoe in winter

12 Things to Do in Tahoe in Winter – A Travel Guide

(Last Updated On: April 9, 2021)

You must be planning to visit Tahoe next winter, but have you planned what things to do in Tahoe in winter?  Good preplan will enable you to make a fantastic tour ahead.

Situated within the gorgeous Sierra Nevada mountain vary, South Lake Tahoe is a scorching spot for chilly climate sports activities.

Whereas snowboarding and snowboarding are the go-to actions of this outdoorsy city, there are numerous different methods to spend a day on the slopes to find things to do in Tahoe in winter.

Right here at Expedia Viewfinder, we’re at all times up for several types of adventures throughout our travels, so we teamed up with Tahoe South to showcase must-try actions in South Lake Tahoe this winter.

From snowmobile excursions to fireplace chats, this mountain village affords slope-side sights which might be the excessive thrill and low key.

Things to do in Tahoe in winter

Lake Tahoe is a blissful paradise that straddles California and Nevada, excessive up within the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Most describe it as a Utopian vacation spot. An earthly haven.

A spot replete with solar, sand, surf, wind, and snow. It’s an epic place to go to, both within the winter or the summertime, with lots to do in each season.

However, at the moment, we wish to discuss the magic of Lake Tahoe within the winter.

There may be sheer magnificence in Lake Tahoe within the wintertime. It’s an epic sight to see. Snow-blanketed mountainsides. Shimmering turquoise and blue-hued contemporary waters.

Alpine forests engulfed with Fir and Pine timber that spirals into the heavens. The intoxicating air is replete with crisp mountain scents that provide nostalgia to anybody raised in comparable locations.

In North Lake Tahoe, winters are serene. There’s an upscale vibe. An air that embodies and epitomizes relaxation and leisure.

It’s an opulent atmosphere crammed with a number of the most spectacular mountain cabins, high-end houses, mansions, and resorts. If luxurious is your pace, then North Lake Tahoe is actually for you.

1. The Scenic Beauty

Lake Tahoe affords a world of epic magnificence. It’s actually one of many earth’s most awe-inspiring locations. And it’ll take your breath away.

Most individuals come to Lake Tahoe within the winter merely to witness this heaven-on-earth intoxicating ambiance.

It’s nearly unmatched. Snow-capped peaks and pine tree-engulfed forests beckon you to discover the realm to find things to do in Tahoe in winter

When the skies are blue and deplete of clouds, a stark distinction fills your imaginative and prescient with parts of marvel. How can a spot be so stunning?

On the high of a gondola journey, as you gaze out, you’re hit with a glowing wintry wonderland that spills out earlier than your eyes.

It’s actually epic. Use snowshoe trails on the high of the mountains to hike around and seize all of the scenic magnificence and vistas that unfold out in entrance of you.

Don’t care to attempt to hike round within the winter? Why not discover the realm in a helicopter? There are year-round excursions accessible to the place you are able to do simply that.

2. The Cabins

Lake Tahoe is crammed with unbelievable cabins. In actual fact, the cabins provide one of the crucial alluring causes to pay a go to right here within the winter.

Some provide a country mountain feeling whereas others provide opulence past measure to find things to do in Tahoe in winter.

And in the event you‘re questioning why an enormous house is thought to be a cabin, you may get it when you go to. it is the time period locals use right here to suit the country fantastic thing about the environment.

3. The Journey Sports activities

Lake Tahoe is thought for its journey sports activities. Within the winter, these journey sports activities are sometimes snowboarding, snowboarding, snow tubing and extra to find things to do in Tahoe in winter

On common, you may anticipate round 125 inches of snow per yr in Lake Tahoe. The end result? An epic wintry scene of frost-and-snow-covered landscapes that may heat your coronary heart.

Along with snowboarding and boarding, you may strive your hand at any of those winter journey sports activities widespread in Lake Tahoe:

  • Snowmobiling
  • Wilderness sleigh rides
  • Winter skydiving
  • Snowkiting

In South Lake Tahoe, there’s the wildly-popular Heavenly Gondola, which you’ll journey to the highest and carve up the slopes on the way in which down.

Heavenly has newbie and superior slopes, good for all the group, it doesn’t matter what the talent stage is likely to find things to do in Tahoe in winter

4. Alpine Adventures

Cross-country snowboarding and snowshoeing give outside fanatics ample likelihood to marvel on the spectacular views and break a sweat within the crisp mountain air to enlist things to do in Tahoe in winter.

Open meadows and tree-lined trails are simply accessible, well-liked spots all through the neighborhood. South of the city, Hope Valley Outdoor serves up greater than 60 miles of trails that take skiers whisking by valleys, meadows, and mountain trails.

5. Our high motive to go to? The snowboarding.

Ski resorts throughout Lake Tahoe see enormous quantities of snow yearly, and the 2018-2019 winter shattered information.

This meant resorts stayed open later, with higher situations. To offer you thought, here is a listing of the time limits for final yr‘s season:

  • Squaw Valley: Sunday, July 7, 2019
  • Northstar: April 21, 2019
  • Diamond Peak: April 21, 2019
  • Heavenly: April 21, 2019
  • Kirkwood: April 7, 2019

Even higher, winter situations in late-season snowboarding imply you could possibly get the advantages of off-peak costs however the prime situations of winter.

Do not miss out on this epic combo. Beneath are a number of houses we predict may very well be good for a March, April, and even Might ski getaway, so long as the snow is anyplace close to what we noticed final year to enlist things to do in Tahoe in winter.

This house‘s stunning, glossy design is obvious in and out, and it is location actually could not be higher.

Situated alongside the slopes of Northstar, you may ski inside toes of your personal outside scorching tub, and be stress-free in it in simply seconds.

With three bedrooms and further sleeping space with trendy pod-style bunk beds, as much as 10 visitors can keep on this beautiful Lake Tahoe cabin.

6. The Spas

So that you won’t be solely concerned about snowboarding or different winter sports activities. Or, in case you are, you would possibly simply want some rejuvenation remedies after an extended day of carving up the slopes.

Both approaches, there are many spas in Lake Tahoe that you would be able to go to for a calming and soothing deep-tissue therapeutic massage, manicures, pedicures, facials and extra. It’s a blissful option to spend the day with a buddy or liked one.

Take pleasure in a scorching stone {couples} therapeutic massage, adopted by a sauna and steam bathe to enlist things to do in Tahoe in winter.

Afterward, you’ll really feel relaxed and revitalized. Cap off the night with a glass of crimson wine in the entrance of a fireside at your cabin.

For those who‘re staying on the Ritz-Carlton, you may be just some steps from one of the many most interesting spas in Lake Tahoe.

Nonetheless, in the event you‘re staying anyplace else within the space, strive both of those choices, that are glorious for InvitedHome’s discerning visitors.

Lighthouse Spa

Sierra Sizzling Springs (It is a quick drive north, however, the hot-springs based mostly spa is value each minute of the drive.)

7. Snowmobile Excursions

Flip-up the pace with a fast-paced romp by the snow. Hop on a snowmobile tour by the mountain trails and snow-covered timber of South Lake Tahoe and Hope Valley.

Zephyr Cove Snowmobile Heart guides adventurers by the back-country trails the place the elevation reaches almost 9,000 toes. It’s an unbelievable vantage level for panoramic views and the right spot for selfies to enlist things to do in Tahoe in winter.

Lake Tahoe Adventures affords quite a lot of excursions for all ages. Tahoe Snowmobiles is the spot for household enjoyable.

8. The Backcountry

There’s unbelievable backcountry in Lake Tahoe. We’re speaking concerning the often-inaccessible routes that most individuals don’t — or cannotjourney on.

And by chance, there are many outfitters and guides that can assist you to uncover all of it. Take a look at this weblog on Lake Tahoe’s backcountry potentialities to enlist things to do in Tahoe in winter.

If you need the consolation of hitting backcountry that is nonetheless accessible through a resort, there’s loads of alpine forest at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows or Homewood.

9. The Casinos

Final, however actually not least within the causes to go to Lake Tahoe within the winter, are the casinos to enlist things to do in Tahoe in winter.

Since Tahoe straddles the state of Nevada, the place gaming is authorized, you’ll discover over 16 casinos right here round Stateline.

Whether or not you wish to pull a number of slots or spend the day or evening enjoying craps or blackjack or roulette or poker, that is the place to do it.

From the Grand Lodge Hyatt Online casino to Hardrock, Harrah’s and past, there are tons of nice casinos right here, just some minutes from the resorts of South Lake Tahoe.

The casinos present a good way to get the comfortable small-town really feel of Tahoe and nonetheless spend a night within the glitz of Stateline.

To study extra about every one of the casinos in North and South Lake Tahoe, try our information right here.

10. Tubing Enjoyable

Typically it’s the best issues that yield essentially the most enjoyable. Spherical up the entire gang for a day of sledding and tubing on the slopes.

Many ski resorts, together with Heavenly Mountain and Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, function hills which might be machine-groomed and maintained particularly for sled rides and tube slides to enlist things to do in Tahoe in winter.

Gondolas and rope-tows transport riders to the highest of the hill the place they will race, journey, and fly to the underside earlier than making the trek again up once more. Journey Mountain Lake Tahoe is a superb machine groomed sledding, tubing and snow play resort for all ages on Echo Summit. Hansen’s Resort has loads of tobogganing and sledding on Ski Run Blvd.

11. Sleigh Rides

If there’s any sound that completes the wintertime scene, it’s the jingling of sleigh bells. Go dashing by the snow on an old-style sleigh journey with the sound of tinkling bells. Highly effective draft horses pull elaborately adorned sleighs throughout snow-covered fields and previous pine-filled forests, creating the last word journey by the mountain panorama.

12. Rest by the Hearth

Think about a crackling fireplace, cozy seating, and hours of dialog at a neighborhood café in South Lake Tahoe.

The Brewery at Lake Tahoe and Revive Espresso & Wine are just some of the native eateries that present the heat and ambiance of wooden stoves and stone-surrounded fireplaces.

Diners can sit again and revel in a scorching cup of cocoa or a mug of mulled cider earlier than heading again out into the winter air to enlist things to do in Tahoe in winter.

Whereas the snowboarding and snowboarding in South Lake Tahoe are out of this world, don’t miss these different actions in between runs on the slopes.

Difficult back-country trails, tubing hills, and alluring fireplaces are awaiting vacationers on the mountain. Pack up your snow gear and prepare to tackle some new adventures this season.

Travel Guide in Tahoe in winter

People who visit Lake Tahoe do so often and tend to assume everyone else does too. Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter. But it can feel incredibly confusing if you’ve never been!

So now that we’ve officially become Those People who visit Tahoe like 12 times per year in every season, we want to let you in on some of the things nobody told us before we started visiting.

Driving from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe is like a giant, communal road trip.

When Tahoe gets snow, the entire Bay Area hops in their cars and caravans out to Lake Tahoe like clockwork. The massive traffic jam out of the Bay Area starts at 3pm on Friday afternoon and lasts until about 7 pm.

If you leave at any point during this time, you will arrive in Lake Tahoe at exactly the same time as a car full of Oaklanders leaving at 8 pm. Facts. We’ve timed it. It’s the weirdest thing.

On Sunday, the traffic flows much more freely throughout the day… until about an hour outside of the city. Then it all piles up again.

Everyone stops at the In ‘N Out in Davis on the way to Lake Tahoe.

The entire Bay Area breaks up their drive at this one In ‘N Out. It is a Lake Tahoe road trip tradition.

And honestly, it’s kinda fun to walk into an In ‘N Out and see it filled with other Bay Area types wearing various levels of ski and snowboarding apparel and talking about the snow conditions (plus a bunch of irritated college kids judging all of us because this is also the UC Davis In ‘N Out).

Lake Tahoe is never as cold as you’d think it would be.

It’s the weirdest thing: it never feels very cold in Tahoe. You can be standing knee-deep in the snow, catching snowflakes on your tongue, and it’ll still be like 50 degrees out. You’ll see people snowboarding in ski pants and t-shirts.

So, no need to layer up like crazy if you’ll be spending the day outside! You’ll be just fine in like, the bare minimum winter clothes. Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

This is honestly great for us Bay Area dwellers for two reasons: 1) none of us own actual winter clothing and 2) we all usually hop in a car to head to Lake Tahoe right after work, and end up on our hands and knees in the snow putting chains on in our work-appropriate flats and flimsy cardigans.

Just a short hike up a hill covered in 6 feet of snow with a unicorn for a quick tubing sesh, NBD

Even though it’s not that cold, the weather can still change on a moment’s notice.

You’re still in the mountains, which means you need to expect mountain conditions. Snow can pile up in the blink of an eye. Driving conditions can change in a minute.

You can be snowboarding on a bluebird day one minute and in white-out conditions the next (which Jeremy has experienced first hand).

Weather changes are far more likely after dark. We recommend staying pretty close to your cabin after about 5pm so that a freak snowstorm feels cozy and exciting rather than scary and nerve-wracking!

There’s always a high probability that you’ll get snowed in and decide the things to do in Tahoe in winter.

Overnight snow dumps happen all the time, and it’s pretty common to wake up to a winter wonderland, and road closures.

The good news is that it usually takes just a few hours to clear the roads so you can be on your way again.

The bad news is that instead of allowing everyone to leave at different times, now everyone has to leave all at once, which means you’ll be enjoying a nice traffic jam all the way back to the Bay Area.

Lake Tahoe doesn’t really have a downtown or cute, walkable area and decides things to do in Tahoe in winter.

Having visited other ski resort towns like Banff, Canada or Park City, Utah or Whitefish, Montana or anywhere in Colorado, I can say that Lake Tahoe is unusual for its lack of a walkable downtown area.

Everything is hella spread out. There’s no strip of adorable little boutiques selling stuff with bears on it, or a picture-perfect postcard view of the town with a mountain rising up in the center of the street a la Banff (although Truckee, near North Lake Tahoe, has a pretty cute little area.)

Instead, it’s like, a Safeway disguised as a cabin. A Walgreens disguised as a cabin. And a whole bunch of actual cabins.

So let me be the first one to set your expectations: you’ll be driving just about everywhere, and you’re going to spend most of your time holed up inside your cabin or outside playing in the snow.

Lake Tahoe is not known for its food.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have a few good food spots! We really like Himmel Haus, for example.

But … again, set your expectations: nobody visits Lake Tahoe for the food.

But that’s probably a good thing because you’re on a budget, right? So do what we do: pick up groceries and cook a cozy meal in your cabin!

Sometimes Lake Tahoe has no snow at all. And sometimes the bathroom at Spooner Summit is nearly buried. Honestly, a winter snow warning in Lake Tahoe is a good thing – it means the powder is gonna be so chill, bra *insert shaka sign here*
There’s almost always a winter storm warning. Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

This used to scare the heck out of me when I was a baby Bay Area resident!

Every time we’d schedule a trip to Lake Tahoe, we’d get these horrifying messages on our phones like WINTER SNOW WARNING, 26 FEET OF SNOW EXPECTED, USE EXTREME CAUTION.

Y’all, it’s fine – the storm is usually concentrated to higher altitude spots like ya know, mountaintops. In fact, that just means it’s gonna be a great powder weekend!

On the weekends we’ve gone to Lake Tahoe WITHOUT a winter snow warning, it was sad and snow-less and 50 degrees all weekend.

Which was great for hiking, but terrible for skiing or snowboarding and things to do in Tahoe in winter.

That said: in order to get down into town, first, you have to go up & over the mountains. So you are actually driving through a higher altitude spot before you get to a lower altitude spot.

That’s typically the spot on the drive that takes a while to clear up during a winter storm, which can mean traffic backups for hours while everyone waits it out, or just snow & ice during about 30 minutes of your drive. Which is also why.

You need either chains or 4-wheel drive to enter Lake Tahoe in winter and things to do in Tahoe in winter.

This is non-negotiable and, during most winter weekends, a legal requirement. And yes, there are checkpoints, and no, they won’t let you in without either chain on your tires or a 4-wheel drive car.

I know, it’s inconvenient. But it’s also absolutely necessary. Because it doesn’t matter if it’s sunny and warm this week, there could be a winter storm tomorrow and then you’ll need them to get out of town.

It doesn’t matter if you only have to wear them for a few feet on that one high-altitude spot on your way in you still need them!

If you find yourself chain-less and you aren’t sure if your car has 4-wheel drive (tip: all Suburu’s do!), pick up a set and learn how to put them on. Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

Or, just rent some on your way in. Lots of places along the side of the road offer chain rentals.

They’re not super cheap, but if you won’t be driving your car to Lake Tahoe 5x a season for the next 10 years, rentals are the way to go!

Plus, they’ll usually put them on for you, which is WELL worth the price, in my opinion.

For views like this, you’ll want to head to South Lake Tahoe and pay a visit to the South Upper Truckee River.

North Lake Tahoe or South Lake Tahoe?

First things first: Lake Tahoe spans the border between California & Nevada. And not to sound incredibly conceited, but … listen, we’re just gonna say it: the California side is the best side.

Nevada: The minute you cross the border in Lake Tahoe, it’s all like, casinos and strip malls and it’s just not the same outdoorsy vibe. So for the purposes of this blog post, we’ll be focusing solely on the California side.

If you’ve never visited Lake Tahoe before, you may not realize that there are two different places to visit in Lake Tahoe on the California side: North & South Lake Tahoe. What’ will be the different things to do in Tahoe in winter?

Honestly, not much. They’re both cute little towns with tons of cabins to stay in, a giant lake, plenty out opportunities for outdoor fun, and a few resorts. And that, my friends, is the difference: the resorts.

Whether you stay in North Lake Tahoe or South Lake Tahoe depends entirely on which resorts you’ll be visiting. We’ve got a complete breakdown of budget-friendly Lake Tahoe ski resort recommendations below.

If you’re really into skiing or snowboarding, each resort has its own pros and cons. We typically visit South Lake Tahoe because we like Sierra, which is the cheapest Lake Tahoe resort – more about that later!

South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe are about an hour’s drive away from one another down the western side of the lake and things to do in Tahoe in winter.

In the summer, it’s an absolutely beautiful drive and the best camping and hiking can be found here, in D.L. Bliss State Park and Desolation Wilderness.

In the winter, that drive is a little bit less doable. Sometimes the road is totally snowed or iced over, sometimes you need chains, and sometimes you can do it with no problems – but you’ll still want to do it well before dark!

Stunning views on the drive between North & South Lake Tahoe in the winter!
How to Get to Lake Tahoe

Unlike some places where the slopes are less than an hour away.

Lake Tahoe isn’t exactly super easy to get to. But you wouldn’t know that considering how common it is for Bay Area residents to take day trips on good powder days.

But you don’t need to do all that. Whether you live in San Francisco or Oakland like us, or you’re planning your trip to Lake Tahoe from afar, you have a bunch of options for getting into Lake Tahoe!

For either North or South Lake Tahoe, the best and easiest way to get around is by car. Public transit in the area is limited – here’s a complete rundown – and activities tend to be fairly far apart.

Plus, there’s not much in the way of a walkable town, like you’d find in Banff, for example.

But if you would rather just stick to the resort loop, you can use shuttles–see more on that below! Most of the major shuttles in Tahoe run shuttles around the resort and between resorts, including Heavenly, Sierra, Squaw, Northstar, Homewood and Diamond Peak.

If you do drive to Lake Tahoe, you can catch views like on the drive – this one of Emerald Bay! Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

By Transit

South Lake Tahoe

You don’t have to drive to get to South Lake Tahoe, but it will require some maneuvering. You can get to South Lake by taking a train from Sacramento and then a bus ride, which totals $59 and will take you about 5 hours.

North Lake Tahoe

There are several options for getting to the Lake Tahoe region without driving. If you’re leaving from the Bay Area, there are both trains and buses.

They take a while but bring a good podcast to listen to you and you’ll be fine!

There’s a lovely train from the Emeryville Amtrak Station to Truckee called the California Zephyr. The prices vary but are usually between $40 and $50.

It takes about 5.5 hours but it’s scenic and beautiful! This is by far the most enjoyable way to get to Lake Tahoe by transit.

You can also take this 5-hour Greyhound Bus to Truckee for about $40.

Once you arrive in Truckee, there are several transit options to take you to your final destination, including plenty of free ski shuttles: here’s a complete list.

Sports Basement, our beloved local one-stop-shop for rental gear and even lift tickets, offers a bus directly from Sports Basement stores to Squaw Valley Resort!

The buses pick up at the multiple Sports Basement locations around the Bay Area, including in SF and Berkeley, and cost $75 including coffee, beer, wine, and some other perks.

The buses don’t stop between the stores and the resort, so it’s a more direct option than the train.

If you plan on driving to Lake Tahoe, be aware that you’ll need to either bring chains or have all-wheel-drive.

things to do in tahoe in winter

By Car

If you rent a car in the Bay Area, it’s a pleasant 3.5-hour drive to either North or South Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

That said: please, please please don’t do this drive late at night in the winter! You will be safer and happier if you go before dark.

HOWEVER, we have said it before and we will say it again: Don’t forget your chains! If you don’t have a 4-wheel drive car, you will need them for safety AND you will get turned away or stuck if you don’t have them.

Unfortunately, many rental car companies don’t allow chains because they can damage the car. Soooo … do your best to get a 4-wheel drive car (like any Suburu, which is what we have) or cross your fingers for luck.

When it’s super snowy, you can usually find a place to rent chains on the drive in – just look for entrepreneurial folks on the side of the road. They’ll usually put them on for you, too!

By Plane

The closest airport to Lake Tahoe is Reno-Tahoe. You can fly into Reno-Tahoe directly from a few cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

Once you arrive, the easiest way to get to your final destination is to rent a car from the airport. North Lake Tahoe is about an hour away from the airport by car.

If you are flying in and don’t want to rent a car, you can take the North Tahoe Express shuttle from Reno-Tahoe to the town of Truckee, which is considered the “gateway” to the north side of the lake. From there, you can take transit to your final destination.

Although the Reno-Tahoe airport is closer to North Lake Tahoe, it’s still doable to get to South Lake! You can fly into Reno and rent a car: it’s about an hour a half drive.

If you’re heading to South Lake and you’d rather take transit, many ski resorts have their own shuttles which will bring you from the airport. Or, you can book a ride on the South Tahoe Airporter for $60 round trip.

What to Do in Lake Tahoe if you Don’t Ski or Snowboard

I know, I know: thus far, we’ve focused a TON of skiing and snowboarding. But y’all: only one of us snowboards (Jeremy). Lia doesn’t. And we still go on a Lake Tahoe winter trip several times a year, and have for 6 years now! So rest assured: there is plenty to do in Lake Tahoe for non-skiers.

Or like, you can just get cozy in your cabin, watch the snowfall and drink some hot cocoa while your friends get cold and wet on the slopes. Lia does a lot of that.

Tubing or Sledding: Listen, there is really nothing better in the world than sliding down a big snowy hill in an inflatable donut. Or a dragon. Or a unicorn. (Ahem: you can buy the one pictured above online here – we love them!)

Tubing and sledding are super fun–just make sure you are dressed warm and you will have a fantastic time.

There are a ton of places to visit, from snow parks at the ski resorts to random hills you’ll have to climb up on your own – here’s a great list!

You can buy a sled or snow innertube online, at stores around the lake and even at some supermarkets, or you can rent them at tubing hills.

The photos above are from Spooner Summit, which is a great tubing hill.

Go Snowshoeing or Hiking: Depending on the snow conditions, you can snowshoe and hike around the Lake Tahoe region year-round, but you should do some research before you embark on your adventure to see what conditions are like.

A good rule of thumb: Look for lower-altitude hikes down in the valley rather than higher altitude hikes, which are better suited for summer visits.

Never snow-shoed before? We wouldn’t recommend going on your own – you might lose your way and that has, historically, not ended well.

Instead, book a snow-shoeing tour like this one so you’re safely led by a guide.

Lake Tahoe is not reliably snowy, so sometimes you can go for a hike in the valley without needing to bring snowshoes! But be prepared and bring crampons just in case.

Cross-Country Skiing: Head to Truckee to check out Royal Gorge, the largest cross-country ski area in North America, and try out skiing on flat terrain!

Or, just rent a pair of cross-country skis and go to towner, wintry forest – like a true Nordic explorer.

Drive between North Lake to South Lake, if you can: driving from the North to South Lake is a beautiful drive with stunning views, but it’s important to check the snow report to make sure that it’s going to be passable.

Snowmobiling: If you want to see the natural winter wonderland that Tahoe is famous for, but you’re not exactly athletically inclined, snowmobiling is a great (and similar priced) option.

Companies around the lake offer snowmobile tours (this one is highly rated). You can ride alongside someone else or pilot your own vehicle. See some options for snowmobile tours to check out here.

things to do in Tahoe in winter

Learn About the Donner Party: Listen. I’ve been casually mentioning this the entire post, but in case you haven’t gotten sucked into a research hole.

The Donner Party was a large group of pioneers (about 80 total people, all families) who got trapped in the Sierra Nevadas in the late 1840s after a series of incredibly unfortunate events and bad decisions.

They spent a horrific winter holed up at Truckee Lake – today known as Donner Lake – and, most notably, were forced to resort to cannibalism to survive.

It’s not one of California’s happiest stories, but it is fascinating. The real story is not one of gruesome, hardy frontier-people-turned cannibals, as pop culture might have you believe, but a gut-wrenching tale of families forced to make unthinkable decisions to ensure the survival of their loved ones.

I had never heard of the Donner Party before moving to California, and it GRIPPED ME in the way that only horrifying disaster/adventure stories do.

If you are interested in learning the Donner story, we highly recommend reading the well-researched and well-written book The Indifferent Stars Above and/or listening to the Donner Party episode from Last Podcast on the Left, which is one of our favorite podcasts for research reasons (not because they often make annoyingly off-color jokes).

Once you’ve learned their story, you can head to Donner Lake to visit the memorial erected there for the Donner Party. Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

Relax in your cabin: You came to Tahoe to get away from it all, so why not hide in the cabin and get some serious hygge on?

You can read, soak in the hot tub (they’re common in Lake Tahoe), maybe watch a Hallmark movie or two..hey, we don’t judge.

When is the Lake Tahoe Ski Season?

The season typically begins in early December and lasts through May. But that totally depends on the year’s Sierra Nevada snowpack. Some years, it starts snowing as early as October and can last as long as July.

Which is fantastic for skiing and snowboarding, but not so great if you happen to be a frontier group of 80+ adults and children attempting to push your wagons up the Sierra Nevada Mountains on one of the snowiest winters in recorded history.

Which Lake Tahoe Resorts to Visit?

When it comes to planning a Lake Tahoe winter trip, the big question is: which ski resort should you visit? Lake Tahoe ski resorts are world-famous for good reason – it’s some of the best terrains in the United States.

And we’re super biased, but it’s also some of the most beautiful. And has the best weather. Just saying.

But not all Lake Tahoe resorts are created equally. Some are luxurious and expensive, like Northstar Resort, which is home to a Ritz Carlton on the mountain, like Lake Tahoe and Disneyland’s glamourous love child.

We don’t typically go to those kinds of resorts. Since you’re reading this post, we’re gonna assume you probably don’t, either.

Instead, let me tell you about the wonderful world of budget-friendly Lake Tahoe ski resorts! These are the ones that we – and all of our friends – typically go to.

Cuz most of our friends, like me, are teachers. And Bay Area rent is absolutely insane. But I digress.

How to Buy Discounted Lake Tahoe Lift Tickets

Listen, you can totally buy a ticket directly from the ski resort. That’s fine. No problem with that!

But if you’re really trying to pinch a few pennies, there are a few tips and tricks we’ve come across in our years as Bay Area residents who plan Lake Tahoe winter trips multiple times per year, and we’re going to. let you in on a few locals-only secrets!

Buy Lift Tickets from Undercover Tourist: This handy-dandy website sells discounted lift tickets, season passes, lodging, and even the Epic Pass – and it’s all totally legit!

We actually discovered them because of our Disney obsession – they sell authorized discounted Disney tickets, too.

They offer deals for Squaw Valley, but the best deal by far is a deeply discounted lift ticket for all 3 Vail resorts in Lake Tahoe: Heavenly, Kirkwood, and even luxurious Northstar, for as low as $100.

Hit Up Costco: If you or one of your friends has a Costco membership hit up one of the several Costco locations in the Bay Area or, if you flew into Reno, in Carson City on the eastern side of the lake.

Around ski season, you’ll usually be able to find you’ll find at least one resort offering a deeply discounted lift ticket, only available at Costco.

This deal isn’t advertised online, but we’ve found it reliably every year since we started skiing 6 years ago. Most years we’ve been able to find Sierra-At-Tahoe discounted tickets, but when we checked in December 2019 the only one we found was Homewood.

If you’re not particular about your resorts, this is one of the best ways to get a discount lift ticket in Lake Tahoe!

Sports Basement, which has a few locations throughout the Bay Area, sells lift tickets that are discounted compared to what you’d find buying from the resort directly. Stop by to rent your gear & pick one up!

Find a friend with a season pass and use one of their guests passes: if you’re lucky enough to have a friend who has a season pass (this will be our first year with deeply discounted Sierra season passes!) you can use a guest pass from them and ski for much, much less. So find a friend who’s a ski bum!

Jeremy snowboarding in Banff. We don’t actually have any pictures of Jeremy snowboarding in Lake Tahoe because all Lia ever does in Lake Tahoe is sit in a cabin and relax (true story).

Where to Rent Your Skiing & Snowboarding Gear

No skis? No problem. There are lots of ways to get the equipment you need for a great ski getaway! Here are the 3 best options:

Rent in the Bay Area: Sports Basement, located in Berkeley, rents out high quality, well-taken care of the equipment that will serve a variety of needs whether you are a hardcore winter sports junkie or more of a bunny slopes type.

Basement has generously long rental windows for equipment – Thursday and Monday are free if you rent for the full weekend.

However, it’s not the cheapest option. That said, the convenience of picking up your rental gear on a Thursday night and returning it on a Sunday or Monday night is WELL worth the extra expense. This is always our pick for rentals.

Rent at the Ski Resort: Renting at your resort saves space in your car so you have more room for important things like snacks, but it can also be pricey and the lines tend to be really long.

What that means is that you’ll be standing in line during the best powder hours of the day! We recommend picking up your rental the night before rather than the morning of your snow day.

Powder House: Powder House is an equipment rental company with a bunch of locations around Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

You can rent from Powder House the night before you actually want to ski, leaving more time for you to actually hit the slopes.

Then, you can return your gear before you head back home so you don’t have to lug it around.

It’s also the cheapest option, but you get what you pay for: Powder House equipment isn’t as nice as other rental options, and it takes a long time to get through the rental process.

There is a distinct Lake Tahoe cabin vibe that we’ve come to love: lots of wood, lots of stone, lots of cozy throws, lots of references to Lake Tahoe and California and bears, and lots of big windows to let in light. Oh, and hot tubs.

Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want a more relaxed experience and to be able to cook, renting a cabin is a good call. But it’s cheapest with a group!

Bring a large party and share the cost–and the experience–with friends. We usually go with about ten people, and it’s never more than $100 a night. Most cabin rentals in Tahoe are equipped for large groups.

We typically find cabins to rent a place on Airbnb or VRBO, but you should be aware that new laws have recently gone into effect regarding short-term cabin rentals, and many of them will be banned in the next few years as a result of large groups of millennials descending on Lake Tahoe every weekend and doing things like cooking large meals together and enjoying hot tubs after midnight.

For now, you can still rent law-abiding rentals on Airbnb, but you might find funky things like fees and minimum night requirements.

Also, if you try to book too far in advance you’ll find many winter dates are totally blacked out – that’s because the owners are waiting until the snow predictions finalize to see how much to price their rentals for the season!

In any case, know that there is a little bit of tension between locals and visitors, and be mindful not to exacerbate the situation by being loud or rude.

Cabin rentals

South Lake Tahoe: The Lake Tahoe Chalet in South Lake Tahoe is a perfect example of classic rust log cabin Tahoe style at budget-friendly pricing.

Stuff made from wood and stone, leather couches, big windows, and sequoia trees are all part of the Tahoe charm. The only thing missing? A hot tub!

Also, note that this cabin is about a 15-minute drive from town. But for that price, it’s still a fantastic option.

This cute little cabin is located right in South Lake Tahoe, walking distance – if you’re up for it – from the lake and a few shops and restaurants.

North Lake Tahoe: This charming cabin is gorgeously furnished, has a hot tub, and is conveniently located right in the middle of town close to the lake, stores, and restaurants – and the price is fantastic.

This rustic cabin has all the Lake Tahoe hits, including room for 6 and adorable cabin decor, and is similarly located in town.

Truckee: If you’ll be skiing at Boreal or nearby Sugarbowl Resort, you might want to base yourself in Truckee rather than North Lake Tahoe. If that’s the case, this gorgeous Scandinavian cabin is FULL of hygge and charm.

Lake Tahoe may not be known for its food, but the ambiance is pretty amazing, like here at Cottonwood Restaurant in Truckee near North Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

Where to Eat in Lake Tahoe

I’m gonna just be super honest with you: nobody goes to Lake Tahoe for the food. It’s not known for food and there’s nothing particularly special about the food there.

We honestly tend to buy groceries and cook a meal in our cabin during Tahoe winter trips (which also saves us cash).

But if you’ll be hitting the slopes or doing anything even mildly active, you’ll need some fuel, so here’s what we can recommend.

Himmel Haus is a cozy little spot in South Lake Tahoe located at the foot of a Heavenly ski run that serves delicious, authentic-enough German food.

Plus, they’ve got a fantastic German and Belgian beer selection! This is our favorite post-hike or snowboarding spot to get an appropriately heavy, comforting meal.

For dessert, pick up some fresh cobbler a la mode at Aloha Ice Cream and Dessert Spa, and then head across the street for an incredible view of the lake at sunset in South Lake Tahoe.

For funky Americana charm (think old-timey portraits on the wall and the occasional moose head for good measure) check out Wagon Wheel Coffeeshop in Truckee, near North Lake Tahoe.

It has a killer breakfast! We recommend ordering a big stack of pancakes.

Dine with a beautiful view of the lake at Sunnyside Restaurant and Lodge in Tahoe City, near North Lake Tahoe. They serve upscale American/California favorites, including yummy burgers.

They open from 4 pm through winter and from 11 am through the warmer months.

Lake Tahoe is nowhere near as cold as you’d think. Like, check us out: we’re just hanging out being adorable in the snow without coats on. This is what we wear at home in Oakland in 60-degree weather. Weird, right?!

What to Pack for Lake Tahoe

Ever heard that saying, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing?”

In addition to keeping you warm as you explore, weatherproof clothing is especially important if you’re going to do outdoor activities like snowshoeing, skiing, or snowboarding.

That said: Lake Tahoe is nowhere near as cold as you’d expect. There are fresh powder days where it’s 55 degrees and sunny on the slopes. Or it will be snowing like crazy in the valley and feel like a balmy 50 degrees out. It’s very odd.

But the good news is that you don’t need much more than the basics for your Lake Tahoe winter trip.

Here are our tried and true travel essentials for winter travel. Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

Winter Sports Gear: If you’re planning to go skiing or snowboarding on your trip, bringing a few things can easily be packed in your suitcase will save you cash on rentals.

Adorable Snow Tube: Because there is nothing funnier than careening down a snowy hill on a fire-breathing dragon.

Chains: If you take nothing else away from this post, let it be that if you are planning to drive to Lake Tahoe.

You may not need to buy them unless you’re planning to visit Lake Tahoe multiple times, or tacking on a winter visit to Yosemite too.

You can usually rent them on the side of the road in your way in and out. But if you’ll be making several trips, it will be cheaper to buy.

Warm Winter Boots: We recommend boots that can withstand ice or snow, are weatherproof and waterproof, and are comfortable enough to go snow-shoeing in.

Wool Socks: Make sure you don’t just have run-of-the-mill acrylic socks – they won’t keep your feet warm while you’re out in the snow! Instead, bring socks that are primarily made of soft, heat-regulating wool, like these or these.

Water-Resistant Pants: Our favorite pants for playing in the snow are also our favorite hiking pants.

Merino Wool Base Layer Shirt: We wear a merino wool base layer underneath our clothing on very cold trips – it stays warm when wet, it naturally regulates both heat and moisture, and it doesn’t get smelly even after a long day on the slopes.

Merino Wool Base Layer Leggings: these comfy 100% wool leggings function just like long underwear. They’re made of soft, super-luxurious wool and make your legs feel like they’re being hugged by an extremely soft sheep. Jeremy has this pair.

Warm Flannel Shirt: It’s stretchy, it’s cozy. Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

Sweatband Headphones: These amazing Bluetooth headphones are sewn into a sweatband and lie totally flat, so you can listen to music without uncomfortably squishing earbuds into your ears or letting cold air into your helmet.

It’s important to dress appropriately for snow frolicking so that you can frolic freely without worrying about, like, how much snow you’re going to get down your shirt (yikes). Practice safe frolicking, y’all!

Lined Leggings: If you’ll be doing hiking or snow-shoeing, these are the perfect thing to wear for comfort and warmth! They’re also great for layering under water-resistant pants.

Warm Hat: A warm hat is an absolute necessity. It also doubles as a super cute accessory!

Packable Down Jacket: Packable down jackets are perfect for active days in cold weather! Lake Tahoe has some great things to do during travel in winter.

Gloves: Don’t play in the snow without gloves on! Jeremy and I both have these wool gloves that work with touchscreens because let’s face it, I have a hard enough time using my phone without wearing gloves.

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