Hotels.com asked us what we would do in Lake Tahoe in the winter and it was surprisingly easy to answer. When you think about a lake vacation you almost certainly picture warm weather, swimsuits, and water activities, are we right? While that’s true of most lake destinations, there are so many Lake Tahoe winter activities that the area is just as popular in the snowy season as it is in the summer.
Lake Tahoe is a massive lake that straddles the California-Nevada border. Not surprisingly, the Nevada side tends to be more about casinos and nightlife. Whereas the California side attracts those looking for a slightly more peaceful getaway with an abundance of nature-based activities.
To complicate matters, even more, the area is also split into North and South Lake Tahoe.
Both sides have their highlights and there are plenty of accommodation choices in Lake Tahoe regardless of what area you choose. However, as we tend to write more about adventure, nature and cultural travel we will mainly be referring to Lake Tahoe, California in this post.
Top Lake Tahoe Winter Activities
Skiing & snowboarding
Skiing is understandably the number one Lake Tahoe winter activity. There are 12 ski resorts to accommodate the thousands of skiers that flock to the area as soon as the snow starts flying.
Heavenly Mountain Resort is the largest, highest, and most popular of the ski hills. It’s unique as it also straddles California and Nevada in South Lake Tahoe. Despite the fact that it gets really busy, with 28 lifts, 97 trails, and 4,800 acres there’s more than enough room for all the skiers and snowboarders that arrive.
Squaw Valley ski area is the 2nd largest in Lake Tahoe and was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics. Visitors will find 3,600 skiable acres with 29 ski-lifts and 170 trails catering to all levels of skiers and snowboarders. There’s also a charming European-style village with restaurants, bars, and shops for all your apres-ski needs.
Other ski resorts to check out are the family and snow-board friendly Northstar, the challenging and beautiful Kirkwood, the Sugar Bowl which is the closest option to the San Fransisco Bay Area, and for a less busy, easy-on-the-budget option go to Sierra-at-Tahoe.
Cross country skiing & snowshoeing
Lake Tahoe in winter isn’t just about downhill skiing, it’s also a mecca for cross country skiing and snowshoeing with the gorgeous landscapes and perfectly groomed trails. The Resort at Squaw Creek has over 11 miles of trails offering stunning views and different levels of challenge.
Royal Gorge, near the Sugar Bowl, is North America’s largest cross country ski resort. There are 8 trail systems covering over 6,000 acres so you can literally ski for days without repetition. They also have lessons for beginners.
Kirkwood Cross Country and Snowshoe Center has 49 miles of interconnected trails that allow you to ski or snowshoe for many hours without the need to repeat a trail or return to a trailhead.
Other great options for cross country skiing or snowshoeing are the high altitude Tahoe XC, the breathtakingly scenic Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center and the Mountain Sports Center at Historic Camp Richardson.
Winter Sports Park
Can’t decide which winter activities to do in Lake Tahoe? Pack up the family and head to Tahoe City Winter Sports Park. This fabulous park has a lodge close to all the activities with a restaurant and bar to warm up and rejuvenate before, after and during a day of snowy fun.
Kids and adults can choose to slide down a safe and fun sledding hill, go skating on a large ice rink, cross country ski over 4 km of trails, enjoy the snowshoe loop, go Fat Biking on designated trails, or make snowballs for the dogs to chase…yes the park is dog-friendly!! You can even watch the youngsters play hockey or sign up your own kids for the Youth Hockey Skills Clinic and League.
If you can make it to Lake Tahoe late February/early March you can join in SnowFest! This snow-loving event was started in the early 1980s with the aim of attracting visitors at the cusp of the off-season. The event was a success and continues to draw crowds annually.
SnowFest! Includes an array of fun events including fireworks, parades, snow sculpting contests, and a snow golf tournament. There’s also plenty of great food and drink to sustain you. There’s even a pancake breakfast and a hot wings eating contest.
Relax & Revive
All these Lake Tahoe winter activities can leave you tired, sore and hungry. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to relax, unwind and rejuvenate.
Refuel with a hearty meal at one of the hundreds of restaurants and bars. Explore the shops and galleries in one of the resort villages. Ease your aching body with a massage at one of the spas. Or simply sip a hot drink by the fire in your cabin or resort.
Have we convinced you that a lake vacation doesn’t have to be about warm days and water activities? If you like to bundle up and play in the snow then these Lake Tahoe winter activities should have you planning a trip soon!
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Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.