Lake Tahoe Ski Trip – Part 1: Northstar

Hi folks, I’m sorry for the lonnnnng delay in posts.  It’s been a little busy.  I actually drafted these while I was on my ski trip awhile back, so I hope you enjoy.

As you might have read in some previous posts, I was getting ready for a ski trip to celebrate my sister’s 30th birthday.  Well, we looked into going a few places, but ended up settling on Lake Tahoe, CA.  Now I had read about the resorts surrounding Lake Tahoe in skiing magazines and online articles, but I have to be honest, I was a complete Colorado snob.  There was just no way that these resorts were going to stack up to my beloved Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek and Telluride.  You’ll notice that I use the past tense, because I am a convert.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love my Colorado mountains, and they are truly world class, but so is the stuff here in Tahoe.

We are staying outside of Truckee, which is on the north side of the lake.  It’s a fairly easy drive from the airport in Reno, and there are plenty of option for accomodations.  My sister arranged for us to stay at a nice rental house complete with hot tub, which has been AMAZING after long days of skiing.

Our first ski day lead us to Northstar.  Northstar is one of the Vail resorts, and the base certainly has that familiar upscale feel to it (complete with very upscale parking costs of $25).  But I don’t go skiing to sit in the lodge and drink hot coaco, I’m there to hit the slopes.  And Northstar does not dissapoint.  It took us a gondola and two chairlifts to get us to the top, but from there, you can reach anywhere on the mountain.  Because the weather had been unfortunately lacking in snow, we started off on some cruisers in the area known as “The Backside”.  I’d insert my own joke here, but I’m sure you’ve come up with some already.  We warmed up on “Castle Peak” and “The Islands”, which are both nice, long cruisers.  From there, we started venturing into some of the more gladed areas.

I am not a big glade skier.  Quite frankly, I think I’m just too big for it.  Also, with telemark turns requiring (generally) a bit more room than normal turns, it’s just not a lot of fun lunging from one side to the other in the desperate hope of not wrapping myself around a tree.  But here in Tahoe, it’s a bit different.  I can’t put my finger on the exact cause, but the glades here are a little bit looser.  I think it might have to do with the positively enourmous trees.  Whatever the reason, I found myself venturing into the glades where the snow was a bit softer.  And it was a blast!  You still need to be heads up to not hit a tree, but there is enough time to react.  And it brought back some of the memories of being 6 or 7 years old when I used to head into the trees every time I could.  Of course back then I was about 1/3 the size am now, and weaving around the trees was a lot easier.

We spent most of the morning skiing “The Backside” (snicker snicker) and took our lunch at the Zephyr Lodge.  The food is your typical Vail fare, pretty good, but mighty exspensive.  But the accomdations are nice, and they give you plenty to eat.

After lunch, we decended to the portion of the resort called “Lookout Mountain”.  It’s mostly blacks, with one blue (“Washoe”) that’s a lot of fun.  All of it suffered from lack of good snow, but there were a few groomed runs that allowed you to rip top to bottom with some real speed.  But remember kids, always stay in control.  They even had signs reminding people that trees dont move, but they do hurt.  Good advice.  Also in this area is the summit of Lookout Mountain where you can take in the epic scenery of north Tahoe.

After we had skied our fill, which wasn’t hard given the almost complete lack of lines despite being a Sunday, we decended to the base around 3:00 pm.  And there we got to take advantage of the fact that Northstar is a Vail resort.  Freshly made smores were being circulated, and let me tell you, that tastes good after a long day of skiing.

After that, we piled back in the car and headed for home, tired, sore, and with great big smiles.

Pros: Vail-quality ammenities, decent variety of terrain, great scenery, glades, smores
Cons: Smaller resort, not a lot of real challenging terrain, expensive

Bottom Line: Worth a trip if you’re staying in Tahoe, particularly if you’ve got a Vail resort pass.  And did I mention free post-skiing smores?

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