The Lake Tahoe area has one of the largest concentrations of groomed cross-country ski runs in the United States, thanks to its seven resorts. That adds up to a lot of options for Tahoe classic and skate skiing outings. Depending upon weather and snow conditions, every trail may not be groomed every day, so call ahead to make sure these “Bests” are in top shape.
Every cross-country center has magnificent lake views or spectacular mountain vistas, but for true jaw-dropping beauty it’s tough to beat Royal Gorge’s Point Mariah trail. From the Mariah viewpoint, you can gaze west into the 4,417-foot-deep Royal Gorge, or north and east to the lofty peaks of the Sierra Nevada crest.
Best Long Ski
Have lots of time and energy? Head to Spooner Lake and begin on the North Canyon Trail. You know you’re in for a long day when it takes over an hour of skiing just to get to the beginning of an expert-only trail named the Big Loop. En route, you’ll find 35 kilometers of incredible skiing, spectacular views and a lot of climbing and descending. On the way back, don’t miss the black-diamond Super G trail, which takes you through a series of beautiful downhill “S” turns.
Best Aerobic Workout
If you are in search of a good burn, the Tahoe area has no shortage of uphill trails to fit the bill. For some good heart and lung action combined with spectacular views, head to Kirkwood Cross Country and Snowshoe Center’s Schneider Trailhead. Ski up, up, up on the Outpost trail, past the Schneider Cow Camp barn to the Sierra Vista trail. Then climb some more into the open bowl of the Last Round Up trail. Along the way, the views of Round Top Peak, Caples Lake and Kirkwood are sublime.
Tahoe Cross Country has two dog-friendly trails, totaling 8 kilometers in distance. Enjoy some quality time on the snow with your four-legged friends on the gentle Special Green trail and/or the more challenging Blue trail. Once you’ve worn out the dogs, let them sleep in the car while you ski out to the Red trail leading to the lake-view lookout on the Silver trail.
Best for Beginners/Most Family-Friendly
Tahoe Donner Cross Country provides a wide range of terrain to meet the needs of the entire family. Right out the lodge door is a series of short, level trails perfect for first-timers. Close by are slightly more advanced trails as well as a number of demanding runs for experts looking to test their mettle. Once the kids are tired, the parent who won the coin toss can head out for an encore jaunt to lovely Euer Valley.
Best Place to Ski on a Stormy Day
The snow is coming down hard and heavy; where do you ski? It’s a good day to go striding at Tahoe Cross Country. Wind and blowing snow are less of a problem here, since most of the trails are sheltered in the trees. In addition, if you are already in the Tahoe-Truckee area, you won’t have to confront any major passes or steep roads to get here.
Best Non-Resort Ski Adventure
Loved the resorts, but ready to strike out on your own for a day? Drive about seven miles up Highway 431 (Mt. Rose Highway) from Incline Village to Tahoe Meadows. Ski south through a forest of hemlocks and western white pines; after a gentle climb, a sprawling view of Lake Tahoe awaits. Retrace your tracks or wander farther along the ridgeline for views of the Great Basin in one direction and The Lake in the other.
-by Tim Hauserman for Lake Tahoe Traveler Magazine
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