16 Memorable Activities On and Off the Slopes
Are you considering a snow trip, but wondering what to do to spice up your adventure? Here are more than a dozen upbeat ideas along with the usual downhill excitement.
1. Fly up a mountain: Zoom up a tram and treasure incomparable Lake Tahoe views. In North Shore’s Squaw Valley, go as high as 8,200 feet. When you get off this vertical lift, walk the deck, go ice skating or even swimming. At Heavenly Valley Mountain Resort, step onto the gondola for a smooth 2.4-mile ride. Midway, you can stop at the observation deck before reboarding. West of Truckee in Norden, make dinner reservations and board the Sugar Bowl gondola for an evening at the Village Lodge Dining Room. And at Mammoth, guests can hop on the Panorama Gondola that takes folks up more than 11,000 feet. Grab lunch at the top. Dogs are welcome.
2. Ski and snowboard for free: Resorts are offering complimentary snowboarding and skiing passes when you qualify. Diamond Peak lets kids 6 and under ski free when accompanied by a paying adult. The same goes for little ones at the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area. Dodge Ridge provides complimentary lift tickets for kids 5 and under. June Mountain follows suit with free ski passes for kids 12 and under any day of the week. Anyone can celebrate a birthday with a free lift ticket from Diamond Peak, Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area and Bear Valley Ski Area. You must show proof of birthday, and you must use the ticket on that day. You can also nab a free ski ticket by flying into Reno-Tahoe International Airport and showing your ID and boarding pass at the ticket window at Sierra at Tahoe, Alpine Meadows, or Squaw Valley.
3. Stargaze with hot chocolate: Night time astronomy with Tahoe Star Tours gives you a peek at the galaxies through high-powered telescopes. While on your trip to the cosmos with owner Tony Berendsen, you’ll get hot chocolate, warm blankets, and have a chance to gather around an open fire. Everyone gets a Star Tours pin at the end of the evening.
4. Snow camp in a tent: The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds keeps several campgrounds open in the winter. Folks who like to rough it can tent camp in the snow. According to Debbie Sipe, executive director of the association, many of the properties feature a combination of tent areas, RV sites and cabins. “Lots of families do it, and the easiest one is Cisco Grove RV Park, two exits before Boreal,” she says. “It has a tubing park for campers to use, and in the outskirts you can rent snowmobiles as well. You can mix and match lodging, so you can bring grandma and grandpa along too.”
5. Dog sled with huskies: You are snug in a blanketed sled as a pack of huskies tow you through the wilderness, kicking up snow as you and your kids cheer. On this dogsled journey, no mushing experience is needed. The outfitters supply everything. In Olympic Valley, Wilderness Adventures Dog Sled Tours offers one-hour rides that run $75 for kids under 60 pounds and $125 for people over 60 pounds. There are also one-hour rides and overnight dog sled rides plus camping in Mammoth Lakes with Mammoth Dog Teams.
6. Create creative s’mores – Circle around the bonfire and make some s’mores. Add strawberries, blueberries, bananas or slices of baked apple. Bring your own fixin’s. Village resorts including Heavenly, Northstar, Squaw Valley, and Mammoth feature outdoor fire pits open to the public. Across the street from Homewood Mountain Resort, the West Shore Café provides complimentary s’mores on weekends from 4-4:30 p.m. Get ‘em while they’re hot!
7. Swim indoors– Take a few laps at an indoor pool. In Lake Tahoe, Incline Village Parks and Recreation Center features a whopping eight lanes. At hotels such as the Peppermill Hotel & Spa, families can splash in the indoor atrium pools. You’ll also find indoor pools and hot tubs at Harrahs Lake Tahoe Resort, The Ridge Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Vacation Resort and others. See www.tahoesouth.com and www.gotahoenorth.com for details. Mammoth Lakes features the Shilo Inn Suites and the Best Western High Sierra Hotel with family pools. In Yosemite, the pools at Yosemite View Lodge and Tenaya Lodge are popular with families.
8. Snowshoe next to a volcano – At Mt. Shasta Ski Park, a ranger can lead as you snowshoe past eerie volcanic formations. At Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon, Yosemite and Lassen Volcanic National Park, you can go on a free ranger-led snowshoe hike. Call ahead to find out which days are available. See www.nps.gov for details.
9. Spa “aah" with the kids – Unwind from a day of snow play. Older teens ages18 and up can check out the Ritz Carlton Resort & Spa and try out a seasonal fig milk mani-pedi .At the Resort at Squaw Creek, kids ages 6-12 can experience Chillax Sessions. This includes deep breathing exercises, hand and foot treatments and aromatherapy washcloths.
10. Laugh yourself silly – Magic Fusion, a nightly show in South Lake Tahoe, is slated as a family-friendly comedy and magic show performed at The Loft, a combination restaurant, lounge and theater stage. On Sundays, kids enter free with one paying adult during matinees.
11. Ski with an Olympian - Ski and ride with Chief Mountain Host Jonny Moseley. Join the Olympic Gold Medalist on a mountain tour of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. In Squaw Valley, you can meet him on dawn patrol at 7:40 a.m. Dec. 26-28, and share in a ski and snowboard ride from 2-4 p.m. on Dec. 26 and 27. Sister property Alpine Meadows hosts Moseley Dec. 28-31 at 2-4 p.m. for ski and snowboard rides. All participants must be at least intermediate level.
12. Ski with Fido - At Royal Gorge, cross country ski with your pooch on a dog trail. The center also offers classic snowshoeing, traditional cross country and skate skiing. Tow little ones in a sled as you head out. Dog trails are also available at Tahoe City Cross Country, which features an extensive trail network.
13. Pamper the family - Go for the gold at five-star resorts such as the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, where kids are entertained throughout the day. Little ones can play Where is the Bear? or participate in a scavenger hunt to receive a reward. Meet the on-site “Marshmologist” and sample gourmet s’mores. On Fridays, it’s Family Night in the arcade with games and complimentary snacks.
Over at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe , kids can swim in the outdoor heated pools while you go for the Après Ski Boot Relief Massage. At night, nab a fire pit. Play arcade games in the 24-hour game room. Throw snowballs on the beach. At the Lone Eagle Grille, splurge on the the Baked Tahoe, a brownie crowned with chocolate sauce, toasted meringue and vanilla ice cream on the side.
14. Head out on a horse-drawn sleigh - Jingle and jangle through Reno and North Lake Tahoe. Ride amenities can include complimentary hot cocoa, a free hotel shuttle or private sleigh rides with tailored itineraries. All rides commence, weather permitting. Check with Borges Sleigh & Carriage Rides for schedules. Squaw Valley offers short jaunts free of charge on December 17-24 between 2-5 p.m. Over in Yosemite, check out the rides at Yosemite Trails Saddle & Sleigh Company.
15. Skate under the stars or on a mountain - Polish your ice skating skills at Northstar Village and Heavenly Village. You’ll find a rink at Squaw Valley mid-mountain. Or head north to Mt. Shasta, home of the Siskiyou Ice Rink , which is the size of a professional hockey rink.
16. Kids snowmobile solo - Squaw Valley's SnoVentures Activity Zone offers kid-sized snowmobiles for children ages 6-12. For $34, they can strap on a helmet and ride around the groomed oval course. Children must be 40 inches and less than 110 pounds. They must wear eye protection and appropriate footwear.
Kathy Chin Leong writes frequently about travel for Bay Area Parent.
Coming Now to Snow Country
Through Dec. 30. Polar Express in Carson City. The popular book turned movie turned tourist attraction chugs into Nevada’s Carson City in November. Rates start at $46 for adults; $36 for children over 2. Two and under are free. The one-hour trip features live entertainment and a visit from Santa. All receive a souvenir sleigh bell.
Nov. 30-Dec. 3. Festival of Trees and Lights at MontBleu Resort Convention Center, South Lake Tahoe. The annual event includes tree stroll among decorated trees, a teddy bear brunch, Santa photos, a black-tie gala, gingerbread making and more. The convention center is transformed into a Winter Wonderland.
Dec. 1. First Fridays in Truckee. Stroll the main downtown drag and wander into shops for free snacks and beverages. There’s live music, art and carolers surrounding the Christmas tree. (www.tahoeactivities.com).
Dec. 7, 14, 21. Noel Nights at Northstar. The first three Thursdays of December bring forth carolers, face painters, artisans, sleigh rides and ice skating. Meet Santa.
Dec. 16-31. Merry Days and Holly Nights at the Village at Squaw Valley. Family events include a Reindeer Games scavenger hunt, Winter Solstice Yoga and Brunch with Santa. Check the schedule for holiday parties, train rides, sleigh rides, storytelling with Santa and farm to table dinners with Olympians and legends.
Dec. 18-31. Heavenly Holidays and New Year’s Eve, South Lake Tahoe. The week prior to Christmas, the Heavenly Village square fills with ice sculptures, fire dancers, ice skating shows and more. It ends with a New Year’s Eve outdoor party with a gondola ball drop and fireworks.
Jan. 14 and Feb. 11. Winter Star Gazing Snowshoe Tour at Northstar California & The Ritz-Carlton. Take advantage of the dark skies above Northstar on a three-hour snowshoe walk and telescope viewing. At the end, the guide provides an overview with a laser tour of the constellations, a fun space quiz with prizes, poetry reading and more on the back terrace of The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe.