Tahoe is low on snow to kick off the 2008-09 ski season. In South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly opened Friday, November 28, with 4 lifts operating across its 4,800 acres. The area had 3″ to 7″ inches of snow from November 25 to Thanksgiving morning, November 27. On Highway 50, west of town at Echo Summit, a snow park we drove to had limited snow for sledding and ski boarding.
For families like mine who headed to South Lake Tahoe for the Thanksgiving vacation, we found there were enough activities to keep us pleasantly occupied even without a heavy snowfall.
We stayed at Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort on Ski Run Boulevard. It’s about one mile south of Harvey’s and Harrah’s Casinos built at the Nevada-California state line. It was a spacious 2-bedroom suite with a comfortable master bedroom and living room. It has a heated pool that is connected both indoor and outdoor. There are planned select activities for families with young children.
We rented bikes, hiked to Echo Lake and enjoyed shopping in the downtown village area near the Marriot Grand Resort. Outlet stores near the “Y” – where the highways intersect at the southern portion of the lake – had wonderful sales and I walked away from the Van Heusen outlet store with a brand new dress shirt and slacks for less than $ 40.
There was a rare once-every-three-year occurrence at the lake: salmon spawning upstream. I didn’t know there were salmon at Lake Tahoe. But we happened to catch the end of the cycle when the female lays the eggs, the males fertilize them and then the salmon die from the effort as the eggs prepare to hatch. At a site near an area called Camp Richardson, there is a glass enclosure over the stream allowing visitors to watch. By the time we arrived the glass enclosure was blocked off and many of the salmon had already died.
Drive south on Highway 50 to Highway 89 and head north for several miles to Emerald Bay. This is a highly photographed portion of Lake Tahoe with an unusual structure known as Vikingsholm Castle. It was built in the 1930s. It’s nestled among pine trees at the bottom of a steep descent to the lake ranging for about 1 mile. There’s a main house with wings almost completely enclosing the property on the east, west and south sides. There are a few different places to enter the courtyard.
Since my wife and I are quite frugal, we cooked most of our own food in our 2-bedroom suite that had a kitchen. However, we stopped to taste some butternut squash soup at a small, cozy restaurant called Nepheles on Ski Run Boulevard serving California Cuisine. It included chunks of apple with a crème topping. I had a mixed drink with hot chocolate and Peppermint Schnappes. Since I like quiet places with unique dishes, this particular restaurant was just what I needed with 4 small tables in the bar area situated against a comfortable sofa. There was a separate dining area. Best of all, our bill was under $12. Adjoining the restaurant were seven private hot tubs available for hourly rentals from 2pm to 2am.
South Lake Tahoe is a 8-hour drive from Pasadena. We drove up Highway 395 through Palmdale-Lancaster, Lone Pine and Bishop. While it’s also accessible up Interstate 5, connecting with Highway 50 near Sacramento, I chose Highway 395 since it’s a more scenic route. Among the highlights on the trip are driving through Red Rock Canyon north of Mojave, California, passing by Mono Lake and the June Lake Recreation Area.
Although I’ve lived in Southern California for 24 years, this was my first trip to Tahoe and I hope to make it up again soon regardless of the weather.