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Overview of the Lake Tahoe Area
By Christy Mehrlich

There are a few factors that commonly play into deciding which Tahoe area mountain is best: distance, location, price, terrain, and lodging. For instance, if you are interested in a ski resort that is close to the Bay Area, perhaps for a day trip, Sugar Bowl is a great selection. However, if you are coming from Reno for the day, Mt. Rose is just over a half an hour from the airport. And, Northstar-at-Tahoe is just about 45 minutes.

As for location, a little background information is a must. Lake Tahoe is shared by both California and Nevada, and sits just on the bend of the border. It is more of region, rather than an actual city, unlike what some out-of-towners believe. In fact, Lake Tahoe, the region, has a multitude of towns and cities within its amorphous borders.

Some of the Nevada Options

On the Eastern Nevada side, there is Incline Village to the North with Diamond Peak ski resort right in town. Stateline, which is quite obviously on the state line, is to the South with the famous Heavenly right nearby.

Diamond Peak is a reasonably priced, small mountain known for its spectacular views of the lake. The terrain is moderate in comparison to some of the more famous resorts, which can be a nice change for a slower paced family. The surrounding Incline Village is a picturesque mountain community with lots of cabins and condos for rent.

Heavenly, which is actually in California but close to both Stateline and Zephyr Cove, is the largest California resort with the longest vertical drop and the highest summit in Tahoe… Basically, it is the opposite of Diamond Peak. It is both infamous and challenging. Stateline is just as grand, with high-rise hotels and an exorbitant amount of gambling. But then, everything to the South is opposite in style to that in the North.

Some of the California Options

On the California side to the South, there is South Lake Tahoe which is closest to Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood. To the Northwest, there is quaint little Tahoe City, which is quite close to some of the more challenging mountains, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

Kirkwood has great snow but it is a little out of the way. Overall, it is a popular mountain with more runs, lifts and elevation than Sierra-at-Tahoe. But, Sierra is certainly a decent mountain with plenty of long, moderately skilled runs to enjoy.
South Lake Tahoe has the nightlife, for sure, but is not necessarily the mountain experience that most expect. The North Shore is much more suited for that.

Squaw Valley USA has a gargantuan hill and village. Home to the Winter Olympics in 1960, Squaw has a rich history and understandably more expensive lift tickets. It is worth a visit even if you decide to ski elsewhere. The ice skating rink and lodge at the top of the gondola is undoubtedly a must-see.

Alpine Meadows, while without the Olympic history, is cheaper, closer to Tahoe City and arguably a more enjoyable skiing experience because of its more manageable size. Also, because Alpine Meadows recently bought out Homewood, a smaller, offbeat hill, your family can visit two mountains for the price of one.

Either way, Tahoe City is the quintessential lakeside town with lodging from bed and breakfasts to hotels to cabins. And, they have the cutest, well-stocked outdoor adventure shops on the Lake!

As you can see, there is not one ultimate mountain that will fit all your needs, but instead a variety that will make your family skiing adventure a well rounded one.

Christy Mehrlich is a Lake Tahoe based writer recognized for her work in aviation and travel journalism. Her work has been featured in numerous newspapers and web-zines, as well her website, www.skyfemme.com, which documents her experience flying a single engine Piper Arrow around the country for 21 weeks.