Thanks for your feed back and recommendations!
- 24 Posts. Joined 10/2015
- Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Thanks for your feed back and recommendations!
Welcome to EpicSki! I moved your post to a new thread in order to get advice that is more specific to your travel plans.
Would help to know a bit more. How big will the group be? Do you plan to have a rental car? Where do you usually ski in Argentina? What type of terrain is of most interest, groomed or ungroomed?
My first reaction would be that your wife and kids might like Heavenly or Northstar better than Squaw. One advantage of Northstar is that if there is a big storm the lifts are less likely to be on wind hold. It's a relatively easy drive from Northstar to Squaw. Might even be worth a day at Homewood, especially on a weekend. That's a smaller place with a great view of the lake. Can be a fun place for a first day of skiing for intermediates.
For only 3-4 days, better to choose one side of the lake and stay there. It's not worth the 1 hour drive just for the skiing. But if your family doesn't mind getting up really early and doing the drive for the views, that's a different story.
Hopefully others will contribute ideas as well.
You don't need to pick just one place to ski. If you're coming all this way and like off-piste, you owe it to yourself to ski Squaw for a day at least. And there's plenty of blue at Squaw.
Both Northstar and Squaw offer a "village" where you can stay and shop and eat. It's convenient if not cheap or authentic. There are also many rentals in Truckee (Tahoe Donner) and Tahoe City, etc.
The lake itself is a big draw in the summer, but may not be ideal in winter. While rates might be low, the morning drive can be a drag. I'd budget at least 20 minutes and it could be much more if it snows (which you want).
Speaking of weather, @marznc is right about wind. It tends to shut down most of the big places except Homewood and Northstar.
I can't recommend South Lake Tahoe, as I don't go there. The reputation is a bit cheaper and a bit more party-oriented. North is more calm, I guess, but it gives you good options: Squaw/Alpine, Sugar Bowl, Northstar. A bit more driving gets you to Homewood or Mt. Rose. Keep in mind that you can't usually drive around the west side of the lake in winter.
The south side gives you Heavenly, Sierra at Tahoe, and Kirkwood. When fully open, Heavenly has something for everyone, although some say it's hard to get around. Sierra is a bit on the small side. Kirkwood has a more rugged reputation, but I'm sure it has adequate intermediate terrain.
Coming in February gives you good chances for good snow, but nothing is guaranteed. You should think about flexibility in your planning.
One advantage of staying in resort lodging at Squaw or Northstar is that there may be a package deal that includes lift tickets. Worth contacting the reservations desk to see what they have to offer. Some deals will only be available in the fall to encourage people to book early.
If you like Las Lenas off-piste, Squaw should be your ski priority. Your wife and kids would like Northstar a lot more. But Alpine Meadows can be a fun place for intermediates, so maybe you base near Squaw and they spend most of their time at Alpine. Alpine and Squaw are under common ownership with a shuttle bus between them and an area-connecting gondola under construction. All of these are on the north side of Tahoe.
When you say "traveling around the West Coast," you should make a strong effort to arrange that those 4 ski days at Tahoe be midweek and not on a weekend or holiday, notably President's Day, third Monday in February. The rest of that week after President's Day will be slightly busier than other midweek days in February.
Please let us know what you decide. Trip reports for family trips are always welcome. Have a good time!
I'll probably stay in Tahoe City during four week days (avoiding weekends and holidays) and decide/alternate where to ski between Sq, Northstar and homewood (which I heard is nice, affordable and friendly). In case I wanted to visit South Lake Tahoe I may save one afternoon at the beginning or the end of the Tahoe experience. I'll try to find out good deals on lodging and/or tickets in advance, or I might just go there and resolve all issues on the spot, we'll see... Thanks so much for your good vibe and help!
There are some nice and relatively affordable places to stay in Tahoe Vista, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. It's really close to Northstar (10 minutes drive if the road is dry), but you can also drive to Alpine, Squaw, Mt. Rose, Sugar Bowl, or Diamond Peak. Last year we stayed at Franciscan Lakeside lodge and really liked it, but there are other nice hotels and lodges there as well.
If you are staying in Tahoe City, it is a flat road drive to 10 or so miles around the lake to Homewood. You generally don't need chains for that if the other roads with hills don't have chain controls. As for chains, this is all weather-dependent. When the chain controls come up, they will be required going up from San Fran to Tahoe, and every car will be checked at a checkpoint. The one road that doesn't have visual checks is route 88 (well to the south, that goes to Kirkwood), but that road is incredibly slippery as it approaches the ski resort if there are chain controls and you would be nuts to even attempt to try it if chain controls went up. Put simply - if there are chain controls, you have to put on chains.
It is not unusual to have days or weeks of weather where you do not need chains. Right now - today (1/1/16), there are no chain controls and it is clear sailing to any of the resorts. I went up twice in the last week and it was dry roads. A few days before that, you needed chains for 30 miles between Baxter and the Donner Lake interchange, and on the road between Truckee and Tahoe City (or Northstar). By the way, when it snows a lot, the road between North and South Lake Tahoe sometimes closes for days on end due to avalanche control; in which case you'll have to go around the other side of the lake. But that road is open today.
Don't ask the rental car company about chains or for chains. They are nearly certain to say they don't allow chains on their rentals. But, you will have to buy them and put them on anyway if you need them. It will be about $40 USD for chains + installation ($30 put-on $15 take-off) if you can't do it yourself. You should check the weather and chain control needs (Cal Trans website; or phone info 1 800 427 7623) for current road conditions/chain controls on the day you head up there. If the roads are clear then just head on up; if not, buy chains in some place before you hit the chain controls like Sacramento or Auburn.
Having been to Las Lenas twice, I'll second alexzn's comments.
Your Experience 88's should be fine ~80% of the time. If there's big dump you might want to rent something extra fat and heavily rockered for a day or two. Las Lenas is a good analogy for the exposed Sierra resorts (Squaw, Alpine, Mammoth) in terms of variable and wind affected fresh snow. You would want exactly the same kind of ski for fresh snow at those places as at Las Lenas.
Well, you may or may not get to Sq Valley at all from SLT depending on if the road is open. Kirkwood is in the SLT general area, but is still 40 minutes away. You can drive there if road conditions permit (or put on chains as needed) or there is a shuttle bus that goes to kirkwood and back from SLT for about $6 USD per person; you will need a reservation for that which you can probably deal with when you get here. There are shuttle buses in the city of SLT which go to various parts of Heavenly resort that are free; there is a gondola which goes into the resort from the city of Stateline, Nevada, at the south end of SLT by the casinos.
I have skied all of the resorts many times; they all have something to offer; and the skiing quality will depend as much on snow and weather as on the terrain.
If you are in south lake tahoe, I have had success sending people to rent at powder house demo center (located near the heavenly gondola). Rental skis depends on how important having new demo skis are to you and pricing. You could also just rent from heavenly or kirkwood, or squaw's demo center. Make your reservation online at any of these places for a discount. All the demo centers (and most rentals places ) will let you come back in at any time and switch skis if they aren't working for you or if you want to try something different.
If you are staying near heavenly, you should ski there at least one day as there are some spectacular views.
Heavenly's issues with location and cat tracks are more of an issue for snowboarders-especially beginner boarders.
For skiers it shouldn't be such an issue that makes you not want to go there. Each of the resorts has a different personality which have been described in other threads, so it's not that kirkwood is better in all categories, especially if you want long smooth groomers and lots of vertical within a day. If you get burned out in your first few days at squaw or kirkwood, you can easily have a great cruising day at heavenly. There are definitely folks where they have a better time at heavenly than at kirkwood.
It's other issue (besides price and costs for tickets) has to do with weather wind holds.
Aside from renting at the resort, you can get OK demo skis from Tahoe Dave's. They have many locations and might (I don't know) let you pick up and return at different locations. Also, Blue Zone has a location in Truckee and one in SLT. Good demo skis, probably less abuse than Tahoe Dave's. Again, maybe let you pick up/drop at different locations.