Things to do at Tahoe when snow is low
When the powder level isn’t optimal for much Tahoe snow play, what can you do there this winter? Most resorts around the lake have the machinery to keep their runs covered, and skiers and boarders happy.
There are many ways to keep entertained at the lake this winter off the slopes, with or without a hefty blanket of snow.
Here are several ways to enjoy the season and leave your snow gear behind.
Take in the culture
Donner Pass, Donner Summit — how about taking in the tales that inspired these geographic points’ monikers? In Truckee, the Donner Memorial State Park Visitors Center and nearby Pioneer Monument pay tribute to the native Washoe tribe that populated the Sierra, plus California’s mid-1800s emigrants, including the legendary Donner Party and the Chinese migrant workers that constructed the railroad. Geographic history of the region can also be explored in the park, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
In Tahoe City, the Gatekeeper’s Museum is a reconstruction of the original water master’s cabin home, who controlled Tahoe’s exodus from basin via the Truckee River. The original structure was destroyed by fire, and today’s reincarnation is perched next to Fanny Bridge and the site of the original dam built to control Tahoe’s outflow in the late-1800s. Inside, visitors can explore the history of the lake and its native and emigrant populations, as well as its prevalent industries like logging, mining and tourism over the centuries through memorabilia and photographs, works of notable Native American weavers, maps, oral histories and clothing. The museum also sells copies of historic photos. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
Diamond Peak celebrates skiing and the region’s history with its free Retro Film Series in Incline Village, taking place Thursdays from Feb. 15-March 15. Starting at 5 p.m., speakers will talk about the area’s history before guests watch one of Warren Miller’s Tahoe-focused films from the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s. Drinks and popcorn are available for purchase at this all-ages event.
At the Heavenly Village Film Series, night owls can support area nonprofits by heading to the 9:30 p.m. monthly screenings, through June, of adventure movies produced by Red Bull Media House, many featuring Tahoe locals. For a $10 donation, spend two adrenalin-pumping hours with the big screen watching flicks like "Tracing Skylines" and "McConkey."
Sidling up to a brewpub bar is easy to do pretty much anywhere around the lake. On the south shore, head to Lake Tahoe AleWorx and try pours like Bretted Belgian Pale and Cali Common, as well as pub fare and pizzas. In Tahoe City, the family friendly Tahoe Mountain Brewing Company pours globally inspired and artful ales crafted in nearby Truckee, where it has another imbibing outpost, along with offering pub fare. Incline Village touts the dog-friendly Alibi Ale Works Brewery and Taphouse, which solely serves up their brews, but invites guests to bring in their own food or order from surrounding restaurants. Alibi’s Truckee Public House often has live music, along with an array of nachos with ingredients from around the world.
Serenity is the specialty at Stillwater Spa and Salon, located in the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino in Incline Village. Individuals or couples can escape to this sanctuary that features treatments, products and décor inspired by its natural surroundings. Upon arrival, guests are given a robe, slippers and private locker before setting out for any of the treatments offered, specialty relaxation rooms, couple’s rooms with either a fireplace or infinity tub, the dry cedar sauna or the eucalyptus steam room. Stillwater provides all the pampering services one might expect from a full-service spa, with treatments like the Incline Altitude Adjustment, which is intended to lessen the effects of altitude changes. It also offers salon services and a fitness center.
Channel your inner Olympian
Even if the snow isn’t falling, temperatures can still be conducive to keeping things icy. Heavenly Village and the Village at Northstar both feature ice-skating rinks that provide a winter wonderland feel, even without the powder. Rent skates, take your turns around the rink, then thaw out with cocoa at the nearby fire pits.
Revel in the wintertime at several seasonal events, no matter the size of the snowpack. From Feb. 17-25, the Alpenglow Mountain Festival hosts more than 75 events around Tahoe’s north shore. From learning avalanche survival skills and cast-iron cooking, to a bevy of backcountry experiences, a full calendar of mostly free events keep mountain-lovers entertained, fed, educated and in top form.
For anyone that’s ever been inspired to jump in the lake in mid-winter, Tahoe Snow Fest gives the brave an opportunity. Also on Tahoe’s north shore, 11 days of snowy celebration runs from March 1-11, with events like the 30th annual Polar Bear Swim, a parade, fireworks and many a competition and eating adventure.
When spring looms, the WinterWonderGrass California Music and Brew Festival in Squaw Valley bids adieu to the snow in style. From April 6-8, local, regional and national bluegrass and acoustic musicians get toes tapping while attendees taste craft beers from 20 different brewers.