Winter in Tahoe is pretty wonderful. On average Lake Tahoe gets around 215 inches of snow in the winter, that’s 18 feet! But weather is unpredictable and climates seem to swing to extremes so some years are obviously better than others. That being said, the snow sports in Tahoe are epic, from world-class ski resorts to tons of public land open for exploring by snowshoe or backcountry skis. There is a world of fun to be had in the winter in Tahoe.
Here are some awesome outdoor adventures to have in Tahoe in winter to get your blood pumping and adrenaline going!
1. Ski/Snowboard Resorts
Tahoe is known for its world-class ski resorts, and chances are if you are coming up to Tahoe in the winter it’s for skiing or snowboarding.
There are 14 ski resorts around the lake and in the Tahoe area so you have plenty of choices in where to ski depending on where you are staying, your skill level, and price point. Each resort has its own unique qualities and advantages, for instance, you can ski with epic views of Lake Tahoe at both Heavenly and Homewood. Squaw Valley was home to the 1960 Olympics and has some of the most famous runs in the world. Retorts like Boreal and Soda Springs are great for beginners and kids. For more info about all the ski resorts in Tahoe, check out my Guide to Tahoe Ski Resorts.
2. Cross Country Skiing/Snowshoeing
If you enjoy hiking, running, or simply walking in nature, cross country skiing and/or snowshoeing is for you. There are designated cross country ski areas at resorts like Kirkwood and Squaw Valley, but you can also just head out on to what are regular hiking and walking trails in the summertime. Some of my favorite places are Van Sickle Bi-State Park (better for snowshoeing as it has a lot of elevation gain), Hope Valley, and Spooner Lake. If you are at one of the resorts you can rent gear there, but many shops in town have fairly priced rentals, I’ve rented from Rip’n Willies before.
3. Backcountry Skiing/Snowboarding
Skip the lift lines and get some fresh tracks in the backcountry. Backcountry skiing and snowboarding is sort of a combination of cross country skiing, hiking, and downhill riding. If you enjoy hiking as well as downhill skiing or snowboarding you’ll enjoy backcountry-ing. The basics are simple, skin (ski uphill) to your desired destination then ride down. Riding in the backcountry does come with a certain amount of risk, there is no ski patrol, marked runs, and you need to be aware of avalanche hazards.
If you are interested in getting into the sport there are a few intro to backcountry type classes you can take through Tahoe Mountain School and NASTC. You can also opt for a guided tour through Alpen Glow where you’ll have a guide show you the best routes and give you all the info you need.
Looking for an easy way to get outside and have a ton of fun? Sledding is the easiest and cheapest way to have a blast in the snow. All you need is a sled and a hill. Sledding might not be the most extreme snowsport around but it is a ton of fun and a great way to get outside on those days when you are maybe feeling a little tired and sore from all the other snowsports you’ve been doing.
Try something completely different than the usual human-powered snowsports with a snowmobiling tour. See parts of the lake and Tahoe basin that you’d never get to see otherwise by snowmobile. Tahoe has a ton of tour companies that will take you out and about on a snowmobile. Tours are designed for every level, from beginners to advanced so whether you’ve never even seen a snowmobile or if you’ve raced around plenty of times before, there’s a tour for you.
When you are driving up to Tahoe have you noticed the signs for Sno-Parks off the side of the highway? Sno-Parks are designated access to public lands for recreation, and they are located throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
There are around 13 Sno-Parks in Tahoe, each one is a little different and offers trails for different snowsports depending on the park. Some allow snowmobiles while others are just for snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and backcountry skiing. The great thing about these Sno-Parks is that they have designated and (usually) cleared parking so you don’t have to park on the side of the road to access the awesome nature around. One thing to note is that you need to buy a Sno-Park permit to park in the parking lots, it’s just $5 for a day pass or you can get a season pass.
Snow Adventure Essentials!
A Hipster’s Guide to South Lake Tahoe (in winter)
The Best Restaurants in South Lake Tahoe
A Guide to Tahoe Ski Resorts
The Best Happy Hour in South Lake Tahoe
A South Lake Tahoe Brewery Tour
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