Tales of Lake Tahoe

Written by Bre Humphries

Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort Offers Skiing, Luxurious Leisure and Scenic Exploration on Tahoe’s North Shore

Premium Snowmobiling Terrain
Particles of snow swirled in my wake like dust as I gripped the
throttle of my snowmobile, edging it ever faster on the trail until the towering evergreens flew by in a whir, as if I was blazing through a forest of snow-kissed Christmas trees. Following our private guide, my husband and I slowed to a crawl as we reached a clearing and there it was — from 8,200 feet above at Mount Watson on the North Shore, we caught our first glimpse of Lake Tahoe.

The sky was overcast, and a haze lingered over the mountains in the distance as a snowstorm brewed over the south end of the lake. Still, the sun peeked through the clouds just enough to afford us a vivid view of the water below, which gleamed up at us like cerulean-hued stained glass surrounded by snowy banks in a ring of mountains and trees. From our perch, we could see across the 22-mile expanse of the lake, so clearly that even the ski runs from South Tahoe’s resorts were visible. Though my traveling résumé includes quite a few Western ski towns, this breathtaking view alone was enough to rocket Lake Tahoe into my
list of favorites.

North Shore Luxury
With 72 miles of coastline spanning two states in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lake Tahoe is the second largest alpine lake in North America, making it a year-round draw for nature-lovers and adventure-seekers. In the summer months, visitors flock to Tahoe for golfing, biking, hiking, camping, fishing and lake recreation in mild temperatures, while an average annual snowfall of 420 inches blankets the area and its seven ski resorts each winter. It was this promise of snowy paradise that lured my husband and I out West to spend a long weekend at Northstar-at-Tahoe, a ski resort and village in Truckee, Calif., on Tahoe’s North Shore.

“This is the rugged Wild West,” I thought as we wove through jagged rocky cliffs edged with snow and ice, making our way across the California border from the nearest major airport in Reno, Nev. But as we arrived at Northstar, the images of harsh terrain melted into the background, replaced with the twinkling lights and cozy charm of the quaint Village at Northstar.

The Village at Northstar at Lake Tahoe
Touted as one of the finest mountain villages in North America,
the Village at Northstar operates like a self-sufficient new urbanist town, offering everything from stylish shops, art galleries and specialty retailers to cafes, restaurants and even a boutique grocer, all within walking distance (or a quick gondola ride) of the slopes and lavish accommodations that range from fully equipped Tahoe Mountain Lodge condominiums to the brand-new, five star-caliber Ritz-Carlton Highlands mountain retreat, slated to open this December. Blending traditional alpine architecture with modern luxury, Northstar caters to guests seeking creature comforts in even the smallest details, such as cushioned seating at the bottom of the mountain, where skiers and
boarders can lounge as they lace their boots or rest in
between runs.

Black Diamonds for Breakfast
When the time came for me to lace up my own boots, I chose to skip the routine rentals, opting instead for high performance demos from Northstar’s Demo Center, which allows guests to try out the newest ski equipment available if they’re in the market to buy. So that I could become reacquainted with my ski legs, we spent the first day traversing the tamer slopes of Northstar’s 3,000 skiable acres, but on Day Two, there was no holding back as we headed straight to the back side of Mt. Pluto, the resort’s tallest peak, to tackle the black diamonds for breakfast. Though the adventurer in me refused to admit it, I was relieved to find that even these trails weren’t as hairy as I expected, even for an intermediate skier like me; rather, they were nice long runs with just enough steep terrain to jump start the day with an adrenaline rush.

Once a timber farm in a historic logging town, Northstar’s property is peppered with everglades that add scenic depth to the slopes, and we even ventured onto a few gladed trails that wind through the trees, in addition to “The Stash,” a hidden natural terrain park in the woods, where logs become rails and jumps and a little hideaway cabin provides a haven for snowboarders.

When it comes time for lunch, Chilly Pepper’s Cantina at the popular mid-mountain lodge offers tasty Mexican cuisine, a salsa bar and an outdoor deck for chilling out when the weather is nice, but we took a tip from a ski guide and skipped the crowds to grab a quick bite on the tiptop of the mountain at The Summit Deck & Grille. After that, it was on to Lookout Mountain, Northstar’s second peak. Though not as high in elevation as Mt. Pluto, Lookout is made up primarily of black diamonds, making for an invigorating afternoon.

Village Ventures

The Alluring Slopes of Northstar
With 92 trails and seven terrain parks to explore, there is never a dull
moment on the mountain at Northstar, but the village’s varied offerings for non-skiers kept us busy during our off-slope hours as well. Fire pits scattered here and there promised warmth as we strolled the sidewalks, where we discovered dozens of specialty shops selling everything from ski equipment, apparel and jewelry to artwork, children’s items and bath and body goods. An international appeal adds an extra touch of charm, with Euro Snack kiosks serving Belgian waffles, French pastries, gelato and churros. You’ll also find holistic health services, wine bars, outdoor spas, a fitness center, and our favorite off-mountain feature, the ice rink and surrounding cabana bars, where you can grab a cup of cocoa (or an adult variation) and snuggle up by a fire to make s’mores.

When hunger strikes, Earthly Delights offers gourmet-to-go groceries you can enjoy from the comfort of your room, but there are plenty of options for dining out as well. For Happy Hour, head to Big Waves, a surf-inspired eatery (this is, after all, California), for half-priced margaritas, Bloody Marys, Hawaiian beer and local lager in addition to burgers, burritos, Mayan hot chocolate and bunuelos, sweet Spanish fritters. Rubicon Pizza & Bistro or TC’s Pub are excellent for a casual meal, but if you’re in the mood for a little more action, Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar is the ticket.

While most of the family-friendly village winds down around 9 p.m., Mikuni’s offers a lively bar scene, where friends gather over ginger mojitos, seasoned edamame and top-notch sushi to unwind after a day on the slopes.

Lake Tahoe is a Family-Friendly Destination
If romance is on the agenda, plan a date night at Baxter’s Bistro and Lounge, a fine-dining, French bistro-style restaurant featuring first-rate cuisine, an attentive wait staff and live jazz. And be sure to end that special evening with a sweet treat from Northstar’s new Chocolate Bar, be it a tiramisu cocktail or a hand-crafted truffle.

Allure of the Lake
Though the Village at Northstar offered everything else our hearts
desired during our stay, there was one thing it lacked — that unobstructed, crystal-clear view of Lake Tahoe that took our breath away. With the waters beckoning us away from the resort, we booked a Private Summit Adventure Tour through Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours. It was my first time behind the wheel, so to speak, but it didn’t take me long to find my rhythm as I careened across the trails, through aspen groves and snow-covered meadows, and up and down steep slopes until we made our way, at last, to that lake-view ridge at Mt. Watson. Our two-hour journey also included an opportunity to cut loose across the frozen surface of Watson Lake and even an encounter with a grouse who guarded his turf by pecking at our feet as we drove past.

Lake Tahoe so captured our hearts at first glance that we jumped at one more chance to get up close and personal with its magnitude before leaving town, and took the 6-mile drive from Northstar to Tahoe’s northern banks for drinks at Gar Woods Grill and Pier Restaurant. Located directly on the water’s edge, Gar Woods features floor-to-ceiling windows that afford unbeatable views from any of its fireside tables. Timing it just right, we wandered out to the restaurant’s pier for a lakeside photo op at sunset, where the fiery sky created a striking contrast to the azure blue waters and the snow-covered beaches. And though we captured plenty of photos on film, it is this picture in my mind that will live on forever when I think of majestic Lake Tahoe. 

Northstar at Tahoe Resort