by Thayer Walker - 25 Reviews - 3 List
If you don't already have gear, rent it at one of these local shops before you go up; you'll save money, get better equipment, plus a lot of ski and snowboard shops sell discount lift tickets (just ask). We've also listed our five favorite resorts (in case you're a Tahoe virgin) and some of the better (or at least cheaper) hotels in case you want to extend your "sick day."
Updated: October 29, 2009
Find the ski gear and accessories you'll need before leaving town.
Environmentally-conscious store staffed by outdoor-nuts has snow apparel for the more mature crowd. It's good-looking, long-lasting, foul-weather clothing but it's not cheap and the Ghiradelli/Fisherman's Wharf location isn't ideal for anyone but a tourist.
The snow-going sister to legendary skate shop FTC, SFO's got all the hottest boards, plus tons of candy-colored skater-style snowgear. You wont find skis at SF--the shop only plies hardgoods of the snowboard variety--but the second level is packed with clothes and the guys behind the counter sell discounted lift tickets to Squaw and Kirkwood.
Geared towards freestyle skiers and stylish lower Haighters, D Structure is more a cultural experience than a snow shop. Paintings by local artists hang for sale, snarky hipster t-shirts pack the shelves, and a small but sharp selection of wide, twin tip skis and boots hold down a corner in the back.
Ski the slopes all day, then stay in a top hotel.
Squaw has a gritty glamour. The legion of pros who have turned nearly every cliff on the mountain into a launching pad are outnumbered only by upscale rubberneckers who watch the action from the base lodge or the green and blue slopes that make up 70% of the mountain's runs.
Heavenly is Tahoe's super-sized ski resort. Its 4,800 acres spill into two states, the peaks top 10,000 feet, and even the new half-mile-long zipline, which hits speeds of 55 miles per hour, is the country's largest. Save some energy for the nightlife though, the South Shore casinos are a block from the gondola.
Thirty-five miles from South Lake, Kirkwood is a long haul from civilization on narrow snowy roads. Knowledgeable skiers gladly make the trip because it consistently gets the most snow in Tahoe, heading straight to the backside in the morning for fresh powder runs.
Hate driving in the snow? Northstar's got you covered. With fine dining, hopping bars and accommodation that ranges from reasonably priced condos to the Ritz-Carlton, the only time guests have to get in the car is to go home.
Located on Tahoe's west shore, this is beginner- and intermediate-friendly mountain promotes the philosophy that winter sports don't have to be expensive by offering $29 lift ticket specials, making it a favorite of local snow bums.
Where better for a high-profile California politician to open a hotel than at the base of the state's most famous ski resort? Mountain-rustic meets city-chic at this sixty-room hotel and restaurant, co-owned by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and located a snowball's throw from Squaw's gondola.
It may seem like a counter-intuitive business plan but, as its name implies, the goal of this 42-room sport hotel in Truckee is to get clients out the door. Cedar House partners with local outfitters to create custom adventures like dog-sledding and backcountry snowshoeing and at the end of the day guests feast at Stella, an in-house private Italian restaurant.
If you want to stay in South Lake Tahoe, but neon lights and smoky casinos aren't your bag, check out Black Bear. The mounted head of a 12-point elk craning from the 34-foot-tall stone fireplace will either make you feel like Paul Bunyan or give you nightmares.
It's not quite ski-in ski-out but just one block from the Heavenly gondola, Harvey's might as well be. The recently remodeled 740-room hotel and casino strives for Vegas-like grandeur and rooms come with half-canopy beds and marble bathrooms.