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Lake Tahoe Winter Adventures for Non-Skiers

Posted by Laura Read on January 25, 2018
Emerald Bay State Park in winter, picture
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Photo: Ajinkya9/Shutterstock
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From snowy hikes to sleigh rides, it's easy to find winter activities in Tahoe that don't require skis.

Lake Tahoe is a winter wonderland in a thousand ways, its panoramas of lake, mountain, and endless open space rivaling the great landscapes of our fantasies. But you don’t need skis to marvel at the way winter’s silvery light glints off mirrored waters, blankets of steam settle on morning creeks, and snow cover shows only the tracks of critters.

Live like a local with a three-sport day next to the lake in Tahoe City. Whirl awake with a morning spin cycling class at A Santé Lakeside Fitness. Shower off the sweat, then meander a half mile along the Lakeside Trail past the town’s boat harbor and along Commons Beach to the Yoga Room where, on the second floor of Cobblestone Center mall, you’ll find spiritual release in classes varying from Iyengar to Vinyasa Flow. Behind Cobblestone, at Tahoe City Winter Sports Park, glide around the ice-skating rink or find your inner child on the sledding hill. End the day huddled with a happy hour margarita by the outdoor fire pit at River Grill.

Snuggle into a handmade sleigh pulled by Belgian draft horses through South Shore’s snowy Pony Express territory. The reigns are held by a lively narrator from the family-run Borges Sleigh Rides company. Afterward, spring for a bowl of crème of asparagus and morel soup and a 24-ounce ribeye steak at MontBleu Resort’s Ciera Steak and Chophouse.

At the Stillwater Spa & Salon in the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort in Incline Village, enjoy a massage next to your spouse on tables set by a crackling fireplace. Recover at Lone Eagle Grille next to one of the lake’s most magnificent three-story views, sipping a warm Almond Joy steaming with hot chocolate, Amaretto, coconut rum, and whipped cream.

Drive State Route 89 South through the West Shore hamlets of Homewood and Tahoma to Emerald Bay State Park, where pillows of snow soften glacier-carved slopes down to sparkling waters. A public parking area on the lake side of the bay’s north end affords views of Fannette Island and snow-crested peaks. From the parking lot on the mountain side of the highway, find a trail that is sometimes stomped by snow hikers for a quarter mile uphill to a bridge over the cascades of Eagle Creek.

At Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, click into a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes and explore the original 1960 Winter Olympics cross-country and biathlon ski trails. The groomed trails wind for more than 12 miles through the forests sheltering the West Shore’s fabled deep snowpack and end at the peaceful shoreline estate of the 1930s Hellman-Ehrman Mansion. (Rent skis at Homewood’s West Shore Sports or Tahoe Cross-Country ski center in Tahoe City. The latter also boasts its own miles of groomed trails, along with trailside warming huts and pull sleds for toddlers.)

Park at the large North Tahoe Event Center lot to stroll the half-mile of soft, caramel-colored sands at Kings Beach and soak in the gloriously serene views embracing the Crystal Range of the Desolation Wilderness. Grab a coffee at the Java Hut, then skip some rocks into the water before retiring lakeside to Whitecaps Pizza for a tasty pie topped with arugula, applewood-smoked bacon, and Asian pear.

Read More: Powder Play: No-Ski Snow Vacations