“What are you doing for spring break?” a friend asked me last week. “Hot or cold?”
“Cold,” I replied. Adding, “We’re going to Lake Tahoe.”
It turns out the surprise was all mine. My answer should have been “Cold...and hot.”
Bike, Beach... Ski
With temperatures in the 50s under a cloudless blue sky, the temptation to rent bikes and set out for the beautiful Tahoe beaches was real. Still, we traveled from Colorado to California to ski, and ski we did.
I visited South Lake Tahoe last winter and skied four days at Heavenly, Kirkwood and Sierra-at-Tahoe. The day at Sierra was incredible. Sixteen inches of fresh snow, with more falling all day. The visibility was just about zero however, and I spent the summer wanting to come back and see where I’d actually skied.
This time I brought my two sons, ages 13 and 16.
All Weather Fun at Sierra-At-Tahoe
Blue skies and lots of sun were the hallmarks of our first day at Sierra. Falling snow and colder temperatures were the highlights of day two.
Sun or snow? Hot or cold? It was all good.
With 2000 acres and 2,212 vertical feet, Sierra-At-Tahoe is a surprisingly sizable mountain, divided into three sections: Grandview, Backside and West Bowl.
Grandview is on the front side and offers a full spectrum of terrain from right-under-the-lift moguls on Dynamite to themed adventure zones for kids, with everything else in between.
From Grand View, it’s easy to access Backside, where you’ll find a boarder cross course and several terrain parks. The only downside to Backside? It’s south facing, so on sunny spring days, you have to ski it in the morning. On day two, when it was overcast and snowing, the conditions were good all day.
All told, Sierra has five terrain parks, a superpipe and boarder cross course spread across the mountain -- even on the bunny slope, right under the beginner lift. As resort rep Steve Hemphill put it, “we believe in park progression -- right from the beginning.”
The third section of the mountain is West Bowl, which has a nice mixture of intermediate and advanced terrain, moguls and groomers, as well as perfect glades for tree skiing. With a high speed quad, yet more freestyle features and the Baja Grill at the base of the lift, one could easily ski West Bowl all day.
Three More Reasons to Ski Sierra-At-Tahoe
On day two, long-time Tahoe local Curtis Fong joined us. Curtis has spent his life skiing the Tahoe resorts and he characterizes Sierra as the “local’s mountain.”
With that said, why would visitors want to ski Sierra?
1. Value. Single day lift tickets at Sierra-At-Tahoe are a relative bargain, especially if you buy a Three Pack. For an adult you’ll be looking at $55 per day.
If you’re in the market for lessons, first-time adult skiers and riders can score a half-day lesson including rental gear for only $39 (booked online). And, if you like what you learned, an additional three lesson pack works out to $58 per day.
For kids, Sierra offers the acclaimed Burton Star Wars Experience for little snowboarders ages 3-6, and the Wild Mountain learning center for young skiers.
And then there’s the food. I rarely classify ski resort food as a “value,” but I do at Sierra. Check out the on-mountain smoked ribs, pork and brisket at 360° Smokehouse BBQ. You get an enormous sandwich and a generous helping of sweet potato fries. Even my two teenagers were impressed and overwhelmed. Next time, we’ll share.
2. Snow. With an average of 480 inches of snow per season, Sierra-At-Tahoe is located in one of the snowiest spots at Lake Tahoe.
3. Terrain. In addition to Grandview, Backside and West Bowl, at the top of the resort, you’ll find The Gates, 320 acres of extreme inbounds terrain in Huckleberry Canyon. When The Gates are open, expert skiers enjoy glades, pillows, chutes and cliffs, all within easy access from the top of Grandview.
Spring conditions didn’t allow us to ski Huckleberry Canyon. But we could see the entire bowl from the deck at 360° BBQ. Standing in the sun, with a far view of Lake Tahoe in one direction and a close in view of Huckleberry Bowl in the other, my younger son made a wish.
“This is really fun,” he shared. “But next time, I want to be here in winter. I want to ski those chutes. We need to come back.”
Sierra-At-Tahoe is a day resort, with no on-site lodging. We stayed in what was, until this week, the Embassy Suites in South Lake Tahoe. Now it is the independent Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel. Same large rooms, same amenities and the same central location make this property a good place for families.
Finally, when you’re out and about, don’t miss Base Camp Pizza. With après pizza and beer specials, live music and a deliciously fresh menu, it’s a good spot for families and friends alike. Save room for the hot pear crumble.
Kristen Lummis is the owner, writer and head ski tech at www.braveskimom.com. The mom of two boys in a busy outdoor family, Kristen writes about skiing all year round, tossing in some biking, hiking, parenting and even a bit of reflection during the off-season. While her recreational passion is for all things snow, her real passion is for her family.