Splash Magazine Worldwide’s Publisher and Editor-in-chief Lawrence Davis and I recently enjoyed an adventurous five-day ski trip to Lake Tahoe to see first-hand more than $100 million dollar in ongoing improvements at both North and South Lake Tahoe ski resorts. The seven Ski Lake Tahoe resorts are in the midst of a multi-year plan to upgrade and expand the local mountains and resorts, making Lake Tahoe even more accessible and exciting then ever before. We were invited to experience the new Tahoe for ourselves and share the experience with our readers worldwide.
Here’s the best part, for about the same time it takes to fly to Mammoth Mountain, you can be in Lake Tahoe with a choice of over 14 downhill ski resorts and 10 cross-country areas. Continue reading below for a review of our suggested North Shore itinerary or click here to view our write-up on a fun-filled North Shore itinerary.
South Lake Tahoe has been described as Las Vegas with snow, which is a pretty accurate description since there are enough around-the-clock activities to keep you playing all day and partying all night. With jaw-dropping vistas, stately groves of pines, and gorgeous sunsets await on the shore of the largest alpine lake in North America. And when it comes to wild life, (both in and out of the woods), Lake Tahoe has it covered. Visit www.skitahoe.com for your complete field guide to the great outdoors, as well as an assortment of tasty restaurants, hopping dance clubs and your choice of casinos.
Lawrence and I took a day off from skiing to enjoy some of the other winter activities available in Lake Tahoe including a fantastic snowmobiling tour. We chose Zephyr Cove Resort Snowmobile Tours located just minutes from the Stateline casino corridor in South Lake Tahoe as they are the only operation that truly offers ridgeline tours affording breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe itself. Their tours put you on top of the world, with a snow cruise through mountain meadows and forests, to peaks nearly 9,000 feet above sea level.
Every customer, whether you’re a single or double rider, rides a state-of-the-art touring machine offering superior performance and safety features. With their expertise and Lake Tahoe's natural beauty, you’ll have an unforgettable tour, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned snowmobile enthusiast. Halfway through the tour, we stopped on the top of the mountain for a photo opportunity with a breathtaking view of Lake Tahoe. We then climbed back on our machines and were back on the snowy trail. On the way back, we made one more stop, where we rendezvoused with some other groups to enjoy a delicious complimentary cup of hot chocolate.
Zephyr Cove Snowmobile Tours offer a perfect way to break up the drive from the North Shore resorts to the South Shore resorts. Be sure to take an exhilarating ride for yourself! To book a tour or for more information, visit the website at www.zephyrcove.com/snowmobiling.aspx/ Following the morning snowmobile tour, Lawrence and I made the quick drive to the South Lake Tahoe Airport for a scenic aerial tour with Reno Taho Helicopter Tours. Their fleet of helicopters include Robinson R44s that can seat up to three people plus the pilot and an AeroSpatiale AStar capable of accomodating larger groups of up to six passengers plus the pilot. All of their helicopters are equipped with comfortable leather seats, noise reduction headsets and crystal clear windows to insure you can relax and take in the sweeping views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains.
Reno Tahoe Helicopters offer a variety of services and packages from scenic aierial tours, aerial filming and aerial photography, to heliweddings and much more. We advise that you read through the detailed tour descriptions, tour lengths, pricing and photos provided on the website. Keep in mind that online reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance. When you are ready to reserve a tour, give them a call at 530.208.5247 or go online at www.renotahoehelicopters.com
Following our incredible helicopter tour of Lake Tahoe, we checked into our hotel, the MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa on Lake Tahoe's South Shore. The rooms are large with a private whirlpool bathtub (big enough for two) inside the room. Here's Splash Magazine’s Worldwide tip of the day, after check-in, join MontBleu Player's Club. Simply fill out the Players Club Form and start receiving all of the MontBleu Resort and Casino benefits.
MontBleu's Casino offers a variety of table games including Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, 3-card Poker, and Texas Hold'em Poker. Visit the Party Pit in The Zone on Fridays and Saturdays and enjoy Go-Go Dancers, sports, and music videos while you play Blackjack. Pretty sweet. If you happen to be new to gaming, ask any of their friendly dealers, who are always glad to help. www.montbleuresort.com/casino
That evening we joined MontBleu Marketing Director Julie Paradysz for a lavish dinner at Ciera Steak and Chophouse, Tahoe's only four diamond restaurant. We started with some of Ciera's signature cocktails in the bar. I enjoyed a delicious chocolate martini garnished with a piece of white chocolate drizzled with chocolate sauce while Lawrence sipped their exotic blended blue maragarita. Both cocktails were crafted to perfection by MontBleu's very own master mixologist. We then made our way into Ciera's elegant four diamond dining room. Ciera offers an exquisite array of steaks and chops, fresh seafood, vegetarian entrees and an international selection of 300 wines and champagnes.
We started our dinner with a plentiful seafood platter appetizer with lobster, shrimp, oysters and crab legs. We then dined on a variety of gourmet steaks and lamb chops grilled to perfection. We ordered a selection of side dishes which included garlic mashed potato's, grilled asparagus, sauteed mushrooms and Ciera's original recipe macaroni and cheese. Julie ordered several magnificent bottles of wine which were the perfect pairing for dinner. The food was superb and so was the company. I highly recommend dining at Ciera when in South Lake Tahoe, and taste for yourself why Ciera consistently continues to be awarded its four diamond rating. Bon Apetite!
After an unforgettable gourmet meal, we checked out a couple of MontBleu's nightclubs. We started at Boogie Nights, a 70's & 80's themed club complete with nostalgic decor, period music and a flashing colored dance floor reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever. Boogie Nights also employ an assortment of 70's & 80's characters with big hair, even bigger bell-bottoms and one super hip chick on roller skates. Club-goers are encouraged to dress the part to get in free if they come in costume, with a contest for the best-dressed. There is also an array of superstar singing impersonators including Madonna, Tina Turner and others. Boogie Nights is a flash-from-the-past good time where you can disco dance the night away. Groovy baby!
If you're looking for something more upscale and trendy, check at Club Opal at MonBleu which caters to a younger and wilder crowd. Enjoy the pulse-pounding nightlife at Tahoe's only Ultra Lounge featuring regional and national deejays who will keep you grooving all night long since the club is open from 10:00pm until dawn. Club Opal is open Wednesday through Sunday nights with live Go-Go-dancers, body painting, free ski swag, lift ticket giveaways and drink specials. On Wednesday, drinks are $1 all night and on Friday's, ladies drink for free until 2:00am. Get out of your ski clothes, dress to impress and get into Club Opal. Check out all the fun at Club Opal's events schedule.
The stars over the majestic Sierra Nevada Range may shine bright, but those that appear in the MontBleu Theatre are true dazzlers. From comedians like Daniel Tosh to musical acts like Bassnectar and BUSH, the performers at the MontBleu are sure to deliver an unforgettable night. Other entertainers include jazz sensation George Benson, Jo Kay, The Expendables, and don’t miss actor/comedian Rob Schneider’s show on March 23rd. Upcoming Events include UFC 157 Viewing Party, Onsen Beach Nightclub POOL PARTY and the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. For a complete list of Show’s and Event’s visit Montbleu's Events Calendar.
With only two days left on our whirlwind ski tour of Lake Tahoe, we only had a few mountains left to conquer, Kirkwood and Heavenly Valley. Kirkwood is magical, raw, expansive and remote and boasts the deepest, driest snow around with some of North America's most diverse and challenging terrain. Kirkwood offers big mountain riding with small town attitude. It's about adventure and challenge, discovery from exploration and satisfaction from personal challenge. At the end of the day, a uniquely rewarding experience that can only be had from a handful of places on Earth. Tucked away about 35 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood is out of the way, but the reward is well worth it.
Kirkwood's unique location atop the Sierra Crest combined with elevations ranging 7,800 to 9,800 feet create a little something they like to call the K-Factor – a geographical predisposition to receive the lightest, the driest, and the most plentiful snow in the Tahoe region. With 2000 feet of vertical drop, and over 2300 acres of terrain from calm groomed beginner runs to hair raising cornices, cliffs and the most high angle grooming around, there’s something for everyone at the 'Wood. Kirkwood also offers a diverse selection of Terrain Parks.
For the novice to intermediate rider, there's the Free and Easy Progression Park (Beginner), or the Burton Progression Park at Timber Creek with level jumps, boxes and a mini half pipe. For the solid intermediate rider you can shred through The K2 Stomping Grounds to find an assortment of medium sized jumps, rails, boxes and other features. For the advanced rider, there is the expert level park on Race Course with a collection of large jumps and advanced features.
After another amazing day of perfect weather and great snow at Kirkwood, we stopped for lunch at the Off The Wall restaurant at the Resort's base, which had great food, and a beautiful view of the mountain. I loved the chicken chili and Lawrence enjoyed the seasonal green salad with roasted chicken. Since Lawrence is gluten-free, the waitress brought him a special gluten-free version of their signature dessert, (the deconstructed cheesecake). Since I'm not gluten free, I enjoyed the decadent original version. We then headed back to the MontBleu Resort for a massage treatment at the Onsen Spa and to watch the Superbowl. Rough day, right?
If you’re ready to relax after a day on the mountain, (we were), then reward yourself with an hour of relief or a day of luxury at MontBleu's full-service Onsen Spa and fitness center. The Spa facilities include saunas, whirlpools, eucalyptus steam rooms and men and women’s private relaxation rooms. Onsen Spa is also the only spa in Tahoe offering Ashiatsu Massage Treatments, offering the very best in body care services, whether you’re seeking a brief escape, or a day away from the world around you. The spas trained therapists offer a wide range of treatments to soothe your mind, body and spirit.
The Fitness Center is perfect for working your body and features a variety of cardiovascular machines; weight training devices and free weights. Mats and exercise balls are also available. MontBleu’s Pool and Jacuzzi are separate from the Spa, but are available to anyone utilizing the Spa services. This is great for a spa day, anniversary, honeymoon or just spoiling yourself whether you’re staying at the Resort or not. All treatments include an all day pass to the spa, but reservations are recommended. Book your Spa getaway today. Onsen Spa reservations.
On our last night of the trip, Lawrence and I celebrated his birthday at Friday’s Station Steak and Seafood Grill at Harrah’s Resort and Casino. We started with a couple of Friday’s signature cocktails and ordered our first course. Lawrence started with a cup of delicious French Onion soup and I had the classic Caesar salad with Friday's homemade dressing and fresh toasted croutons. For the entrée, we both ordered the classic surf and turf, scrumptious filet mignon grilled to perfection and accompanied by mouth-watering lobster tail with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.
The service was first rate without being stuffy and the breathtaking view of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains from the top floor was amazing. Friday’s specializes in a wide variety of Certified Angus and USDA Choice beef and boasts a 1,000-bottle display wine cellar. If you're not a wine connoisseur, then just ask the friendly, knowledgeable staff that will help you select the perfect wine to accompany your meal. Choose from a newly expanded list of domestic and imported vintages. To book a reservation visit their website.
We wrapped up our final day of skiing at Heavenly Valley where the days of 70's Hot Dogging returns to the famous moguls of Gunbarrel. From March 29th-31st 2013, Heavenly Valley will host the U.S. Freestyle Championships, building on a long-standing tradition of freestyle skiing and competition. Heavenly’s own Sho Kashima, a U.S. Ski Team athlete, will join the most accomplished freestyle skiers to showcase their talents, as they prepare for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. This will be the rockin’-est competition of the season, highlighted by fireworks and a live concert.
From pool parties to concerts, parades to Tahoe's ultimate après ski party, Heavenly Mountain Resort activities and events are as varied as they are exciting. Lake Tahoe events are famous for incorporating the winter wonderland that surrounds this gorgeous corner of the world. Check out their monthly calendar, where you plan your trip around an array of Resort and local events. Heavenly is also famous for hosting nightlife and après ski events for adults, including some of the best parties around. Planning a guy's trip? The combination of casino nightlife, steakhouses and on-mountain events will keep your group going 24/7.
Want some fun on the mountain when the chair lifts close? Check out "Unbuckled" at Heavenly Valley's Tamarack Lodge from 3:30pm-5:30pm daily. Warning, this party is rated M for Mature with half-priced drinks, food specials, pulsating DJ dance music and the Heavenly Angel Go-Go dancers exclusively on Friday and Saturday nights. Heavenly's taking the après ski party to new heights - 9,150 feet to be exact, with Tahoe’s ultimate after-ski party. After going all-in on the mountain, keep the fun going at Tamarack Lodge at the top of the Gondola. As the party winds down up top, you'll get the unique experience of riding the Gondola at night. See the moonlit lake and South Lake Tahoe sparkling lights. This is one party you don’t want to miss!
The only major Lake Tahoe ski resort we were not able to visit in person was Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort; however, we were able to join Stephen Hemphill, Marketing Communications Manager for Sierra-at-Tahoe, for dinner during our stay in South Lake Tahoe. Sierra is situated on the west slope of Echo Summit approximately fifteen minutes from the Stateline casino corridor and its well-protected slopes and perfectly spaced trees make it a great option on storm days.
Stephen informed us that Sierra has partnered with Burton Snowboards and LucasFilms to offer the one-of-a-kind Yoda's Riglet Park complete with life-sized chainsaw carvings of Star Wars characters such as Chewbacca, R2D2, C3P0 and plenty of adorable Ewoks. New this season, the resort is also offering guided snowcat tours of the recently incorporated steep/deep terrain found in Huckleberry Canyon during which skiers and snowboarders can learn about proper backcountry etiquette.
In addition to attracting a younger, more adventurous crowd, Lake Tahoe's South Shore is also a family-friendly destination, offering everything from arcades to helicopter tours, hot-air balloon rides, and special events, or even get the kids back to nature, finishing off the day with ‘smores around the campfire. Not in the mood to rough it? Head out on the town for dinner at one of South Lake Tahoe’s many family-friendly restaurants.
There are plenty of winter activities including sledding, snow tubing, ice skating and of course skiing and snowboarding. South Lake Tahoe’s ski resorts have ski instruction for all levels, as well as kids’ camps. There’s even daycare for little ones as young as two months. In fact, your kids are likely to crash early from all the excitement, giving you some hard-earned grown-up time in the evening.
So what are you waiting for? The mountains, snow, casino’s and nightlife are waiting for you right now! To make reservations or for more information, visit the website at www.tahoesouth.com
Also read my article on the North Shore.