We decided that we needed some time away from the RV for Christmas. Since we weren’t going to be near any family for the holidays we thought a little ski trip would be nice. So we put some food and water out for the cat, packed the dog and our snowboard stuff into the Scion and hit the road to Lake Tahoe.
Now knowing almost nothing of the area we left at around noon on Christmas eve and didn’t really check the route ahead of time. We did know enough to buy snow chains for the car, but that was about it. We didn’t get close to the mountain until after sundown, I know enough about driving in the snow to manuver the Scion around. Just keep it really slow and don’t make any sudden turns or braking. What really surprised me is that almost no one else around me knew anything, I realized this when out of nowhere we were stuck in dead stopped traffic. It turns out that rather than pull over and put on the chains in the designated areas these wackos were stopping in the middle of the highway.
I’ve never seen so many people ineptly putting on snow chains at once. One guy had his car jacked up and was trying to drape the chains over the free spinning tire. Almost everyone had the instructions out. I was hoping to not have to put the chains on at all, since it was 34 degrees outside and there wasn’t any snow on the ground. But finally we hit the point that they made us put them on. I’m glad they did because there were a few really steep parts that I’m not sure we could have made without them, but then later you have to make the descision of when to take them off when there’s no snow on the roads anymore.
We realized that since we had been driving at about 10mph for the last hour, this drive was going to take a lot longer than we thought so we stopped at a little BBQ shack in South Lake Tahoe. I don’t know if the food was really that good or if it was because we were starving from being stuck in the car all day, but in my memory that BBQ chicken sandwich was like mana from heaven.
After a few more tricky icy slopes we finally reached our destination.
We are not the kind of people that need a lot of luxury, so we chose this small family run hotel just North of Tahoe City. The rooms were basic but clean and best of all had a little kitchenette for cooking. We brought way too much food with us, we had visions of cooking a full four course dinner, but only ended up with some stir fry and steaks. The owners were great, they recommended restaurants and places to see the lake or take a hike. We accidentally left our blender there and they arranged to get it back to us in the next city we stopped in. One of the other guests actually brought it to us since they lived there. They’re good people!
Right behind the Tamarack Lodge is the entrance to Burton Creek State Park. There was some snow on the ground but we decided to try to walk the 5 mile loop up the mountain and back. The first 300 yards or so is pretty uphill so I did not think we were going to make it the whole way, also I’m totally out of shape. Then it leveled off and we started making some good progress. It was so quiet and peaceful up there and you would get little glimpses of the lake every once in a while. There was about 4-5 inches of snow on the ground, but it was mostly packed down. There were a few parts that I wished we had snowshoes and others that would have been really cool on cross country skis. We saw a few tracks that I’m pretty sure were bears, but the trails are well traveled. So we weren’t THAT scared. We ended up cutting off some of the hike by taking some shortcuts and coming back to the Lodge for early dinner. It was a pretty great hike. If you wanted to you could hike for hundreds of miles up there.
The lake is straight up beautiful, I hadn’t really seen anything like it before. Such a large lake with mountains that are right on top of it. With it iced over we couldn’t really enjoy everything it had to offer, it’s one of those places that I’m sure is packed in the summer with boats and people enjoying the water. But in the winter it has a stillness that I really enjoyed. We walked down to a public park near the hotel and took some great pictures
There’s nothing I like better than mountains and beer. This place had that local vibe that you just find welcoming. There’s something about the way the customers don’t have to ‘dress to impress’ and a little bit of dust and grime on all the decorations that just feels like home. The beers tasted even better after our long hike.
Favorite Beer : Mars Hotel
We kind of just chose Squaw Valley on reputation alone. The Olympics were there, it has to be good right? It’s hard to make a review of a mountain based on one day early in the season. I know there’s no way this would ever catch on, but I wish there was some kind of discount for bad conditions early in the season. I know they can’t predict the weather, but it was pretty treacherous out there. The mountain itself was challenging enough without patches of ice. There was one point where they had put up some fences and were warning people that this run was now “Experts only”. I asked why and she said it was because of the ice. I told her I was from the east coast and she just waved me though! I did take a nasty fall on that run later in the day, but for the most part I stayed in one piece all day. We would go back again, I just had these visions of west coast powder in my head.
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