As you drive the almost three miles off California 267 to approach the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, you’ll see trees. And then more trees. And still more.
But as you round a final curve, the pines and pillows of snow part to reveal the Ritz-Carlton standing majestic in tones of bark and earth —erect and towering against a backdrop of pure serenity.
As it turns out, the trees serve as a fitting introduction — and also a conclusion of sorts. The road you travel to reach the Ritz, Highlands View Road, is a former logging path. The Ritz is surrounded by acres of forested hills, and it’s adjacent to the Northstar California ski resort — a former lumber farm.
In the trees
A theme of trees appears throughout the resort. When you walk into the lower lobby, you’ll find yourself at the base of a grand “tree” — one with multiple functions.
On this level, the trunk houses a cozy fireplace; one level above, its branches serve as the foundation for paths to restaurants, the forest-like sanctuary of the spa and more.
The “trunk” was actually the first structure built on-site, and it took 20 local masons two months to piece together by hand the 200 tons of stone used to support the magnificent canopy above.
The staircase from this lower level leads to the property’s “living room” — though likely nothing like the spot where you ate TV dinners as a child. Picture windows frame resplendent acres of firs and alders.
Overstuffed chairs surround cozy fireplaces, enclaves where you can chat with family and sip a glass of wine or even order a meal.
This level also leads to the terrace, a spot with a year-round outdoor (yes: outdoor) pool. It’s always warmed to 88 F, and even during snowstorms, you’ll spot die-hards doing laps. (I can guarantee that on this trip, I was NOT one of them.)
‘May I have another?’
But what fair-weather swimmers can do on the patio is epic. Nightly, visitors gather around the fire pit for “Art of the S’more,” where they’ll receive housemade marshmallows and tips from the staff marshmologist.
On this particular evening, Jacob Mull, 3, munches on his perfectly toasted snack. “Really good,” he coos, looking hopefully to his father, Sam. “May I have another?”
“He’s been talking about this all day,” Sam laughs. The family is from Los Angeles and here for the first time for a vacation with friends. “He keeps asking, ‘Is it s’more time yet?’”
Hit the slopes
And when s’more time is over, this family may do what many do: Hop an inter-mountain gondola steps away to skate the rink at the Village at Northstar, or perhaps dine on-property at Manzanita, with its French-influenced California cuisine.
(Tip: Don’t miss the hostess stand, a 390-year-old coastal red cedar tree that took 11 men to reach this final resting spot. And be sure to gaze around the restaurant to take in the wood-planked ceilings, recycled from trees that were once on property.)
The Ritz-Carlton provides ski-in/ski-out access to Northstar’s “Big Easy” run, meaning enthusiasts of any level are welcome. And better yet: Visitors can call ahead to the mountain concierge, walk out the door of the resort and be greeted by a ski valet, who will assist you with warmed boots and escort you to your skis and boards, which await you on the slopes.
“This place is the bomb,” Sam Mull adds. “It’s awesome.”
“Awesome” in the truest sense of the word: The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe is a contemporary grand mountain lodge, a truly luxury ski-and-stay experience.
Just don’t forget to bring your swimsuit for a quick dip — even in winter.