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Where in Tahoe for a level 3/4?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I am looking to take my girlfriend up to Tahoe for her birthday the weekend of March 4.  After reading this thread http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/76813/lake-tahoe-for-beginners  I was all set on checking out Mt Rose (and maybe Diamond Peak because she has an ex-boss that lives in Incline Village) and staying at the Cal Neva.  However ...


She is a level 3/4 (according the Alpine Meadows ski school video http://www.skialpine.com/lessons/adult-packages  ) and we have spent 4 days now at Snow Summit at Big Bear Lake, CA.  At Snow Summit she is comfortable on the runs off chair 9 (right side of the mountain) and she is able to comfortably navigate Miracle Mile down the middle of the mountain (see map http://www.snowsummit.com/images/snow_summit_trailmap_big.jpg ).  I took her over to chair 10 to run the top of Log Chute and down Perfect Pitches and she was not comfortable and very nervous, so we went back to do laps down Mainstream and Miracle Mile.  The conditions last weekend were lows in the 20s and highs in the uper 50s, with 12 hours of snow making each night, leaving a machine groomed hard pack that softened up into nice spring corn and then full up wet 7/11 slurpy by 1:00pm.


After reading this thread http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/87666/tahoe-tips-for-a-midwestern-skier-needed indicating the steepness of Mt Rose's blue runs, I am second guessing my plan.


I intend on us both taking either group or a half-day private lesson and I would like her to progress to a level 5 so we can get off the crowded green runs and so that we can both confidently cruise the blues together.


I am leaning towards Northstar, but it is the most expensive and looks to be the most crowded. 


I am military and can ski Alpine Meadows and Homewood for FREE, (Squaw is free for me everyday but Saturday and Northstar is free for me on Sundays).  Homewood would be HUGE bang for buck, but I am concerned that there might not be enough low-intermediate terrain.


Other info:  We intend to ski Thursday, Friday, Saturday, don't mind a little drive to the resort, ages 28 & 30; like to enjoy a few cold ones and good food apres; and of course, views of the lake!


I would like to try at least two different resorts to scout out possibilities of a season pass for next year, but depending on her comfort, we may just stick with one.


Sorry for the long-winded question, but what resort will fit us best and allow us to progress to some low-intermediate trails?



post #2 of 17

I had a good time with a beginner-low intermediate girlfriend at Homewood. She can go all the way to the top, and ride the green back down, with blue shortcuts to try steeper sections. I got her a 1-on-1 lesson as well. Also, its cheap, is less crowded, has good views of the lake, and use the free dial-a-ride so you can have as many apres beers as you want. 

post #3 of 17

I have no idea what the numbers mean, I'm guessing that she is a beginner, trying to get to intermediate. I would go to Northstar if you are staying at the Cal-Neva. It is easy to get to  from that area of the lake. Saturdays are a train wreak though, busy as hell everywhere this time of the year. Diamond Peak isn't steep and is easy to get to from Cal-Neva. Mt. Rose isn't that steep really, except in the chutes and you aren't going in there, it doesn't sound like.  


As for places to drink, well they are everywhere. In King's Beach which is just down the road from where you are staying is Jason's ($$) it is right on the lake. Good beer and nice views, also Steamer's Pizza ($$) place, I haven't been there in years, heard it isn't as good as it once was. In Incline take her to the Lone Eagle Grill ($$$$) for awesome views and good food, or go to a place called Bite ($$$)for good food, but no views.

There is a place in King Beach called the Grid, that used to be an awesome dive bar called The Tradewinds, but has been redone and I've heard good things about. I go to the italian place called Lanza's ($$) in King's Beach just east of the Safeway, good food and nice bar. 

That should get you started.

post #4 of 17

We just did your trip, military from SoCal and everything :D Northstar Northstar Northstar, get gas in Merced along the way or another Shell station that is offering the two-fer-one deal on lift tickets (google it for a list of stations.) Then go to Homewood on Saturday where it will be less crowded, because yes, Northstar will be a zoo on the front side green and blue groomers on the weekend. They were pretty busy last Friday when we were there. But the terrain on the front is just so easy and fun for a greenie or aspiring blue.


Alpine is tons of fun and the free lift tix is AWESOME, but the terrain there is a little steep even on the blues. Do Homewood and get a freebie for you at the least. If you were married, you could get hers for 1/2 off ;)


We stayed in a condo in Incline Village, which was an easy drive to Northstar, longer to the west shore, but doable. We ventured out to eat at more expensive places not in Incline, except the above-mentioned Lone Eagle which was VERY VERY expensive. (We're talking $45 an entree.) We ate at Gar Woods in Carnelian Bay, which is not as pricey but is fantastic quality, but part of the reason we ate there is we had our wedding rehearsal dinner there 13 years ago, so it was sentimental. We also ate at Gar Woods sister restaurant, Caliente, which is right on stateline in what I guess would be considered Kings Beach, and it was fantastic with entrees in the mid-teens price-wise.


I also recommend, if you are not already planning this, taking 395 up the back way at least one direction if there is no fresh snow on the roads to deal with. It is a spectacular drive and will take approximately the same amount of time as driving up I-5.


Enjoy yourselves! It is my favorite place on the planet, and I had missed it dearly after a 13 year hiatus thanks to the Air Force sending us east for 13 years! We got married there then moved to Ohio 4 days later and hadn't been back til last week. I hope you get some blue skies to really enjoy the beauty of the lake in winter. It is spectacular!

post #5 of 17

I agree with the above, go with Homewood for a freebie and try to stay away from Northstar on the weekends. Northstar really did a good job with their village and also the mountain layout. However, over the past few years its become super crowded and good sized lift lines, whereas some of the other areas don't have the village, they also don't have the lift lines.


Homewood has some excellent views of the lake as it sits very close to it, so be sure to bring your camera.


If it snows while you are in Tahoe, then stay close to Incline & ski Mt Rose, Diamond Peak or Northstar or get up early and beat the traffic to Alpine or Homewood.

post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all of the inputs!



Ske-Bum, I know there is no standard, but this is something to give perspective for "what the numbers mean":  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8LviTBdwz0&feature=player_embedded


That said, I think I am going to see what I can put together between Northstar and Homewood.



contesstant, I am coming from Vandenberg, so 395 is a bit too scenic (also spent 5 years at WPAFB).


If I end up going with just Homewood, I may look for something closer than Cal Neva.  



post #7 of 17

Yeah, going from the CalNeva to Homewood is a haul, especially if there is snow on the roads. 

post #8 of 17

Vandy, you are so lucky. Must feel like heaven compared to Wright Patt. My husband is at LAAFB and I can't wait to leave. He's close to the retirement zone. I am gunning for C Springs as our final FINAL move. He's out there today but can't take an extra day to go skiing--bummer. And you're right, 395 would be quite a long way out of the way on the drive to and from Vandy! Check the Shell two-for-one site and get some gas on the way up. We lucked out and stopped in Merced for a quick bite and gas, and just so happened to hit a Shell that was offering it. You really need to treat yourself to Northstar for at least one day. There are a couple green and easy blues all the way from the top that an aspiring intermediate can handle easily. The ride up Vista chair is fun because there is a terrain park with some crazy jumps that you pass over that is fun to watch. Pretty much every lift there is a high speed one, which is always nice.


You have to park and ride a shuttle at Northstar to the village, just a head's up. The layout from there for rentals and tickets and then to hop the gondola is very user-friendly. Trust me, as an aspiring level 5/6 skier, you need to hit Northstar for at least one day!

post #9 of 17

For that level of skier, Northstar offers lots of fun terrain that can be enjoyed. Goaliemom is just graduating into the Level 5/6, so we've chosen Northstar so she can enjoy the skiing and have a variety of terrain that fits that ability level.  There are nice, long greens and easy blues off of the Vista and Comstock chairs, and some slightly more challenging blue slopes off of the Zephyr six-pack.  Weekends DEFINITELY can get crowded, though.  A few suggestions to handle that:


0) If you're doing rentals, get them the night before at Tahoe Dave's in Kings Beach, or in downtown Truckee.  Cheaper, fine quality, and no morning hassles.  Multi-day rates, too.

1) Get up early.  If you're in the parking lot by 7:45 am or so, you can park within walking distance of the village.  VERY convenient.  You'll also make first chair.

2) Ski early, before the crowds arrive.  If you catch a chair at 8:30 am, you can easily ski hard with essentially no lift lines until 10:00 or 10:30 am.

3) Depending on your budget, Northstar offers a "fastpass" option for $20/day.  That will get you access to a separate lift line that generally is far less crowded.  Worth it for Saturday.


If you ski there, follow the sun.  Slopes off to the right of Comstock soften first, so you can head there early, and move across the mountain as the sun comes up.


Also, if she tires, and wants a break, you can have her hang out at the lodge on the top of the mountain (top of Comstock chair) while you take a couple of runs down the Backside.  That lift generally isn't too bad, and even if there's a line, the singles line will usually move pretty quickly.  While she's resting, you can get a couple of hard-skiing runs in.


Wherever you ski, have a great time!  Early March in the Sierra is usually wonderful!

post #10 of 17

Ooh, good advice on stopping at the summit grill to hang, then hitting the backside while she hangs a little longer, or even makes some runs by herself down the front.

post #11 of 17

Yes, that makes us a happy ski couple!  I start the day hanging with Goaliemom, taking a few blue runs following her.  Then she'll take some more runs on those blues, and I'll duck off on the steeper front-side chutes, meeting her halfway down. Once she's tired a bit, she'll hang with a hot chocolate at the summit grill, while I take 2 or 3 runs down the backside.  Frankly, if we ski a midweek morning, by 11 or 12, we're both skied out.  I'll often pick a day when my conference calls go until 7 or 8 pm and we'll ski hard in the morning, be back at the house by 11:30, and I can ski AND work a full day!

post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

goaliedad30, thanks for the suggestions.  We don't need rentals, so we are set there.  As long as I get coffee going for her in the morning, an early start is doable.


I think I am going to go with Northstar and group lessons there.  Depending on the weather and crowds, may hit Homewood or Diamond Peak that Saturday.  I would rather pay for a good experience that has appropriate terrain than go some place that would cost less, but due to the terrain, causes a stressful, over-challenging experience.  The way pricing works out, an all-day (10am-4pm) group lesson and lift ticket and a buy one, get one lift ticket on day two at Northstar would cost a total $368 for the both of us.  Or, I could do a half-day private lesson (3-hr) and two days of skiing at Homewood for $306.  Adding a third day at Homewood only adds $45 since I ski free, so depending on how we are doing, that would likely be the choice.


Northstar's skill level ratings are defined as:



You can make linked wedge turns.

Goal:  Improve wedge turns on Green runs.



You ski mostly Green runs and finish turns with skis in a parallel stance.

Goal:  To graduate to intermediate and parallel skiing.



You mostly ski parallel on Green and Blue runs.

Goal:  Improve confidence on Blue runs and work on parallel technique 



Homewood is so tempting and I would like to think that after a half day of private lessons, the blues on the mountain would be more comfortable for her to handle. 


Going to hit a Shell station in Pismo or Atascadero for the buy one, get one lift ticket voucher at Northstar.


Thanks for all of the suggestions!  Really looking forward to our first trip to Tahoe!


I will do a trip report upon our return.

post #13 of 17

One thing to ponder on the lesson--if it's on a Friday it could very well be a private if nobody else signs up. I did a full day at Alpine and found it was too long. (It turned out to be a private.) Of course, it was also my first day skiing in two years, so despite being quite fit, I still wasn't ski fit and became fairly fatigued. Anyway, think about a 1/2 day with the afternoon to hone the skills.


Have a GREAT time! You will love it!

post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by contesstant View Post

One thing to ponder on the lesson--if it's on a Friday it could very well be a private if nobody else signs up. I did a full day at Alpine and found it was too long. (It turned out to be a private.) Of course, it was also my first day skiing in two years, so despite being quite fit, I still wasn't ski fit and became fairly fatigued. Anyway, think about a 1/2 day with the afternoon to hone the skills.


Have a GREAT time! You will love it!


It appears Northstar doesn't offer a half-day group lesson for novice skiers.  http://www.northstarattahoe.com/info/ski/lessons-rentals/group-lessons-adults.asp


You either have to be a first timer or a level 6.  Otherwise we would have to deal with the full day group lesson or shell out big bucks for the private.  We have skied 4 days so far this year and I get pretty fatigued after 4-5 hour day with a short break in the middle for lunch.


I have benefited from the one-on-one "group" lesson during the week before, so that is what I am hoping for.  I like the morning lesson, practice what you learned in the afternoon routine as well, so we will see.  I really want the lesson, as I am just a step above her as a level 5 per the definition above.

I really think the N* has the best terrain for the both of us to really progress and enjoy.  I guess if we get too fatigued for the all day lesson, we will let the instructor know (or he/she will see) and make our last run a choice and not an injury.


Thanks for the discussion!


post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

After hearing about the snow in Tahoe over the last few days, I got excited about the upcoming ski season and decided to research some upcoming trips ... I stumbled across my old thread and realized I never gave a follow up to our trip!


Old trip report update from last year from what I can remember (sorry for the thread revival, but hopefully it helps people) ...


The trip up from the central coast was eventful to say the least.  Tahoe was getting dumped on.  I-80 was closed, as was 50, so we stayed the night in Roseville (had Marriott or SPG points, so we stayed there hoping to be as far along on 80 as possible).  The next morning we awoke early to try to get a good start.  I-80 was still closed, so we opted to go the south route on 50.  Chains on, chains off (Caltrans guy told us to take them off), chains back on ...  finally got to the Cal-Neva (lost a day of skiing).


Cal-Neva:  Old casino hotel.  Dated, weathered and tired are the words I would use.  The lobby area was smoky, dark and had some interesting features, but nothing too impressive or inviting (think old Vegas casino).  The rooms were very basic and you could hear the howling wind off the lake and noisy people in the halls and adjacent rooms.  We had the breakfast buffet a few times that was OK.  The only good parts of the hotel were the price, the ghost/history tour (pretty interesting with Sinatra, the Rat Pack, JFK, Marilyn connections), the view of the lake, and the close proximity to Northstar and Diamond Peak.  The website makes this place look a lot nicer than it is.  You are there to ski, not sit in the room, so it works.


Skiing:  We lost a day to the snow/travel, so the first day we met up with a friend at Diamond Peak. 


Diamond Peak:  (Saturday 26 Mar).  The snow was really coming down (chains on the car) and the wind was howling.  We parked right next to the first lift.  It was such a great, small, easy access resort.  After getting tickets using our snowbomb card discount tickets, we were off.  Although it was snowing very hard, the approach to the chairs was very icy.  This made it difficult as you waited at the gate to get on the conveyer belt to board the chair.  If you have not seen one of these before, it is an interesting process.  I kind of see the benefit for timing and organization, but it is kind of awkward if you aren’t used to it.  Levered start gates swing open to allow you to glide onto the moving conveyer and then all you have to do is stand in place while the next chair comes up behind you.  The awkward part for me was transitioning from the slick ice in the lift line to the abrupt stop on the conveyer belt (sort of like getting off a moving conveyer at the airport – you have to stick the landing and not fall forward).  I saw a couple people fall and complain from the ice as well as getting poles stuck in the conveyer or forcing their way through the gates and thus falling between groups or chairs.  I am not fan.


The snow was really coming down with super soft powder.  Deep, waist-high snow could be found on the sides of the runs.  We took a few laps on the easy runs Freeway, Penguin, Popular.  They were great for my girlfriend giving her lots of confidence.  This resort hardly had anyone there, so we plenty of room to explore. The runs were unspoiled and wide open.  The snow was so amazing compared to the ice we skied on at Big Bear and Snow Summit in SoCal.  This was our first real powder experience.  After she was comfortable with those runs, we decided to head up to the top of the mountain on the Crystal Express.  This was a mistake!  The wind had to be over 40 knots and visibility was maybe 50 feet.  The wind was blowing up the mountain face and you could barely make it down even pointing straight down the fall line.  The snow was sandblasting us.  We made our way down the Crystal Ridge run back down to the lower mountain to warm up at the Snowflake Lodge.  The run would have been fine from a difficulty level perspective, but the weather was just unbearable at the top. 


Overall Diamond Peak is a great resort if you have novice and intermediate skiers (can’t comment on expert terrain).  The quick accessibility, affordable price and  low crowds and good novice-intermediate terrain is great for lower level skiers like us that ski 7-10 days a year.  My girlfriend really liked the size of the resort and quick access.  We would like to check it out again on a day that we can see the lake.


Northstar (Sunday 27 Mar):  On our second and unfortunately last day of skiing, we decided to hit up Northstar.  Completely different experience here...  It was a much larger resort with the full village experience.  We had to park quite a ways away and take a bus to the lodge.  After that, there was a lot of walking, so I would advise using ski/boot bags and getting a locker (we did).  I forgot if I used the Shell gas buy one get one coupon or my free military lift ticket, but either way, I had to wait in line pass office to redeem the tickets.  After going through that process, getting the boots on and everything else stored in the lockers, we made our way with the mass herd to the Gondola.  This was new for us as well, but was very easy and efficient (long line though – 20 minutes).  After getting off the Gondola we headed to the Arrow Express for a warm up on Main St and then over to the Zephyr Express.  Here we did The Gully, Pioneer, Hoot Owl (got bumped out into some small moguls that made things interesting) and Sodergren’s.  My girlfriend loved Northstar.  Big, wide open runs with nice groomers and while the resort seemed to be crowded at the village and in the lines, there was plenty of room for everyone.  After we burned our legs out, we took the Village Run back to the bottom.  After getting out of our boots, we enjoyed some adult hot chocolates and chilled by the ice rink.


Overall Northstar was another really great resort for the novice-intermediate skier.  We definitely will go back and explore other terrain.  It does have that all-inclusive big resort factor which would be great if you are looking to stay at one resort and have it all (will be pricey though).


Dining:  We had good food and drinks at Steamers in Kings Beach (Calzones), Wildflower Café in Incline Village (Lunch), JAX in Truckee (Breakfast).  On the way into Tahoe (after getting snowed out) we stopped at Guy Fieri’s Johnny Garlic’s.  There is a reason garlic is in the name!  Unless you are from Gilroy or really like a spicy garlic dish that completely washes out your palate, I would pass on it.


In 2012, we will likely return to Northstar and Diamond Peak and we hope to try Homewood, Alpine Meadows and Mt. Rose as well.


I hope this trip report helps …

post #16 of 17

Thanks for posting the follow-up report. Always nice to hear what actually happened versus what was planned.

And I'm sure your comments will help others headed to Tahoe for the first time.


Cheers,   rickp

post #17 of 17

Glad you got a chance to enjoy some great powder days at Tahoe.  If we'd have had a chance to meet up at Northstar, it would have been great to show you and your GF some of my favorite spots.  


The EpicSki Gathering is hitting Tahoe at the end of February this coming season.  If you make it out during that time you're sure to find some great fun at a variety of Tahoe resorts!

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