The Lake Tahoe area is famous for its clear waters and phenomenal skiing. Most think of the many resorts that surround the lake from Heavenly to Squaw Valley, but if you want to escape the crowds but still enjoy the snow, try the cross country ski areas instead. Granted, it does have the potential of drawing a crowd on a nice day but go when the weather is a bit colder, breezy, or there are flurries and you’ll practically have the trails to yourself.
But why choose to cross country ski over resort skiing? The biggest seller is it’s super quiet. You hear things you normally wouldn’t. I can tell how steep the hill is by how loud my breath gets. Along the way the snow crunches under my skis as my poles squeak out Chewbacca noises from rubbing against the ice when I rotate them forward. If you stop, a breeze sounds more like a roar as it rushes through the trees. You can even hear them creek in response.
Besides being quiet, the snow is fresher, ungroomed. It feels like the trail is yours to blaze. Make it to the top of a hill and enjoy views of the valleys below while enjoying a packed lunch. Sandwiches are great, but I highly recommend bringing cheese and salami to snack on as well as a thermos of hot tea. Although many of the ski resorts also provide cross country ski trails, I recommend avoid those so you can enjoy more solitude.
To help get you started, here are a couple of suggestions. First, Camp Richardson is located on the south end of Lake Tahoe. This would be a good starter if you’ve never cross country skied since the trails are all groomed and not too long. Looking for more options? If you still want the comfort of a groomed trail but the room to avoid the crowds, try Royal Gorge. They offer over 6,000 acres of trails on Donner Summit and a detailed to identify trails that match your ability. Once you get comfortable enough to ditch the trails, you can explore the different ridges and lakes that cover the backcountry of Donner. Another great option are the trails at Tahoe Meadows. There are no fee’s and no official trails. Just park on the side of the road, enjoy the meadow, and climb the ridge for views of the lake. Know of a good place yourself? Please share below.