Thomas Kranzle/Courtesy Venture Media
Thomas Kranzle/Courtesy Venture Media
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Skiing Tahoe

The crystal clear lake and powdery slopes have always lured travelers, but a new string of upscale hotels and attractions is seriously classing up the Sierra ski bums' favorite

By Thayer Walker

Updated on January 3rd, 2013

The Sierra Nevada mountain range runs through California like a 250-mile snowcapped spine, with the area around 22-mile-long Lake Tahoe, straddling California and Nevada, as its winter sports epicenter. Other ski areas dot the Sierras, but the Tahoe region is the shining star of the range, with the most varied and quality runs per square mile. Adventure seekers have trekked to the area for centuries; prospectors settled here in the late 1840s during California’s gold rush. But today the mountains draw ski and snowboard enthusiasts seeking a different kind of payoff.

More than 3 million people visit Tahoe each year to enjoy its 300 days of sunshine and 450 inches of snow. Typically, snowfall starts around Thanksgiving and resorts stay open into May. Despite the considerable tourist traffic, community efforts have kept the famous clear-blue lake just that way and staved off overdevelopment. The California-Nevada state line bisects the lake, with most of the ski areas surrounding its northern rim, and the rest found to the south and southwest inside California’s vast Eldorado National Forest.

Tahoe ski areas tend to be less expensive, warmer, and more laid-back than many of the Rocky Mountain rivals. Although once known as a budget destination, the region has since seen a flurry of high-end hotel, inn, and ski lodge openings. These five ski areas (all in California, though some slopes stretch into Nevada) offer the best of Tahoe, from to-die-for ski runs to buzzing casinos and outstanding restaurants.

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