A Family Winter Wonderland in Lake Tahoe
By Margot Black
Lake Tahoe is such a beautiful vacation destination for nature-lovers, no matter what season they decide to visit. Our recent getaway to South Lake Tahoe was our first winter experience in this picturesque resort city, and it certainly left more to be desired. The second you leave Lake Tahoe, you want to plan exactly when to return to this quintessential winter wonderland.
Tahoe South encompasses the southern side of the lake in Nevada. I would highly recommend this particular region to families for an outdoor winter adventure since it's far more manageable and much more value-oriented than other destinations. South Lake Tahoe is a superb place for kids to learn how to ski or snowboard for the first time. You really can't beat the rustic outdoor vibe you'll find at North America's largest alpine lake.
Before and during our trip, we consistently checked the Sierra Safely website for updates on the current state of roads and weather and local advisories so we could adhere to the guidelines they provided for safe travel. It's important to stay up to date on current health and safety regulations, and Sierra Safely ensured that we were traveling responsibly.
We flew from Burbank to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport on JSX Flights, a new hop-on jet service that was super easy to navigate. You can check in 20 minutes before your flight and sit in an outdoor area 6 feet away from other passengers before boarding the plane. It was crowd-free flying, just as advertised. Next we picked up our immaculate Toyota Rav4 rental car with minimal hassle and hardly any human contact. Our rustic lakefront cabin offered absolutely stunning views that will be etched into my memory forever. Usually booked for conferences, Zephyr Point Cabins were at a rare moment open to the public and perfect for families. I felt so aligned with nature during our stay in that cabin, and we had ample sleeping spaces in addition to the kitchen where we cooked our own breakfast. And most importantly, during this pandemic time I felt like we were very much able to isolate ourselves away from other people during our cabin stay. We were truly in our own space, which allowed us to be effortlessly socially distanced.
That evening we enjoyed a dinner from Lake Tahoe Aleworx. They had amazing wood-fired pizza, salad, chicken wings and a remarkably creative cocktail selection. I savored an Empress gin and tonic cocktail that was gloriously purple and mixed with elderflower gin. We took our food to go and ate it in our cabin. It was super-casual family food to perfection that seamlessly fit the natural atmosphere.
The highlight of our trip was undoubtedly snowboarding and skiing the next two days at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort. We went midweek, which I would highly recommend for any family whenever possible. It was exemplary for family introductory learning because they have their lessons down to a science with smaller mountains and classes for beginners. It was also manageable and accessible since there were hardly any lines on the slopes and it was easy to space people out.
Both my son and I took private lessons each morning at Sierra-at-Tahoe. It was exceptional to have some interactive one-on-one snowboard lessons for him while education is currently all distance learning. Embracing the opportunity to learn something new in the great outdoors was a really special treat. We loved our instructors, Caz and Erin. They were patient, capable and delightful. Having that time with the private lessons enabled us to understand what to do and also to safely explore the mountain. I eventually got to go on a somewhat bigger mountain, which I never thought I would conquer. They made a skier out of me, and it felt like we all got to master the mountain while wearing masks and traveling safely.
One night we headed to dinner at Capisce Lake Tahoe for some Italian cuisine that hit the spot after all of our skiing and snowboarding. This charming family restaurant served up some generous portions of delicious Caesar salad, pasta Bolognese and marinated flank steak. I'm not exaggerating when I say that all plates were clean. There wasn't a single morsel left.
My husband has described the Heavenly Mountain Resort as the most beautiful place on Earth to ski, but there just wasn't enough snow for us to ski there on a beginner level. Only the intermediate and expert slopes were open during our stay. Instead, we checked out Van Sickle Bi-State Park for some great hiking trails and sightseeing at Heavenly Gondola.