I don’t need to tell you. If you’re here, you know it. If you’re not, you’ve probably heard. The snow conditions are seriously pressing on our nerves in Tahoe. It hurts. It hurts the bottom of your skis, it hurts local businesses and it hurts the local morale.
This is where I could mention some hurtful stats about this year being California’s driest winter on-record or drop some depressing figures regarding snow- and tourism-related economics. Instead, I’ve got some great news! Lake Tahoe has more year-round outdoor fun than any other ski town…probably anywhere. The lake itself offers a plethora of activities, from stand-up paddling, kayaking and boating off-shore to countless foot paths and bike trails on-shore. Although, you may need to stay closer to lake-level to find completely dry and clear trails. If you’re into fishing, the local tributaries will offer you a challenge in beautiful terrain. If you climb, you’re in luck; we’re completely surrounded by granite. You may not find as much ice to climb this time of year, but there are plenty of frozen ponds to go for a skate.
When you’re fortunate enough to see the views that I do every day, it’s possible to eventually take advantage of the fact that you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’m not saying that I do, just that it’s possible! Since I make it a point to Do Something Awesome Every Day, I figure sharing some ideas for adventure would be appropriate. Especially given these “winter” conditions and the notion that we’re all thinking the same thing: “What do I do around Tahoe when there’s no snow?”
Run On The Beach
The fact that a sandy stretch of shoreline is available to our free use is almost unbelievable. In the winter months, when the sun’s shining and the temps are in the 40’s, the weather is perfect for running and you’ll often have much of the beach to yourself. So get into some cold weather running clothing, seek out a public access point and take a jog. If the amazing views, solitude and the pleasure of an aerobic workout aren’t enough to keep you moving, then think of it as “late-season ski conditioning”.
In-Bounds “Backcountry” Skiing
You got all your backcountry skiing gear ready for the season, and now you have no powder fields to explore. Sure, the lifts are running from 8:30-4:00 daily, but that’s just not good enough. You want a workout, and you want to slap on those climbing skins that hung out in your closet the past nine months. Skin up the resort! Most ski resorts let the public use their groomed runs during non-operational hours (4:01 p.m. – 8:29 a.m.) *If you have information that proves me wrong, please correct me before you fine me for doing something awesome every day. So, if you want to get some exercise on your touring setup or you’re itching for some softer snow, take advantage of the man-made morning corduroy at the local resorts. Bonus: Starting a little after 4 p.m. and climbing an hour or so to the top usually rewards with a killer sunset. Pack a headlamp for skiing just in case; if you want to be off the mountain by 8:29 a.m. and don’t want to move too fast uphill, or you want to take your time watching the sunset before descending, you may be required to travel in the dark. And once again, Leave No Trace so we don’t ruin our reputation with the resorts. In my case, I bring extra doggy bags.
Mid-Winter Disc Golf
Most of the disc golf courses in Tahoe are pretty clear because they’ve had so much time to dry out since our last storm, and most people are in a different mindset this time of year (hence this post’s timely relevance), so you should have the courses pretty much to yourself. Grab a brightly colored disc driver, or just don’t use white around what remains of snow patches and try to finish your game before the early winter sunset, and you’ll be stoked to get out and play a few rounds. We’ve been selling a fair amount of discs lately, to both locals and visitors, and there’s no wonder why. It’s such a great pastime! Hang with your buds, get the dogs out to play, and practice your game so you’re spot-on when summer arrives.
Rock Climbing – With Bishop, California, only a few hours away the idea of a quick desert-escape sounds rather nice. Consider loading up the car and heading south for some car-camping and bouldering at the Buttermilks, followed by a dip in one of the Mammoth Lakes area’s many natural hot springs. Temps may drop overnight, but days are still in the 50’s and the sun rarely takes a break in that neck of the woods. Even ten degrees makes a huge difference when the sun’s on your back, so it will feel good to get down to warmer weather before returning to winter around the lake, if that’s what you want to call it.
There are also tons of great places to climb around Lake Tahoe, like up on Donner Pass, on the West Shore, and south of the lake at Lover’s Leap, to name a few. Pick up a Lake Tahoe climbing book and see how many problems you can tick off before snow eventually returns!
When the weather is really uncooperative and the air is cold, the sky is dark and there is no snow to show for it, or you just want to find time to ‘pull down’ before or after work, you can find fantastic climbing indoors at High Altitude Fitness in Incline Village, Nevada. They have an auto-belay/self-belay system so you don’t need a spot, and they set new routes bi-weekly so you never get bored!
Night Riding At Boreal
First of all, be sure to go on a weeknight to avoid the crowds. Not a Friday night…as far as I know, Fridays are still $10 with a college pass, so they get busier on Fridays than Mon-Thurs. Second, bring your rock-skis or the board you don’t mind busting up a bit in case of ultra-thin coverage. Third, dress extra warm. The runs are short and you’ll spend what can seem like more time on the lift than on the run, so a burlier midlayer jacket and a facemask could come in handy. Finally, go with a group of friends. Like I said, the runs are short. Make the most of your time on the lift and those few, yet super awesome, turns back down toward the parking lot.
Hot Springs Weekend Getaway
I mentioned getting away to the hot springs near Mammoth Lakes and Bishop. There are too many great pools to go into much detail or provide driving directions in this short blog, so just take my word for it: You’ll find the ideal hot spring for the occasion, and it will be worth the drive. Several developed hot springs are easy enough to find with some basic internet research, and if you’re lucky (and adventurous) you could even find some natural pools that haven’t yet been widely publicized. Ssshh! Just be sure to practice common courtesy for others in and around the pools. If you’re going to park and car-camp, do it a few hundred feet away from the pools so you don’t interfere with anyone else’s bathing experience. And please, for the sake of all hot springs and their visitors for years to come, Leave No Trace.
Take A Favorite Hike!
With the proper winter hiking clothes and winter hiking shoes, nothing’s to stop you from taking your favorite summer hike during winter! Your favorite trails may or may not be hidden under snow or ice, but you’ll never know until you go! Too much snow? Strap on some trail snowshoes, fill your pack with water, snacks, a warm coat or an extra base layer and your camera, and hit the trail! The woods are quieter and you’ll find more privacy during the winter months, so if it’s solitude you seek you’re on the right track…err…trail.
Fly Fishing Tahoe’s Tributaries
Most people think, “Ha! Yea right!”, when you tell them the fishing is awesome during winter in Tahoe. Sure, the fish are more elusive and they stay deeper, but with the right gear (flies & caddies, long johns for fishing, a little local beta and an insulated bottle or flask to keep you moving) you can have great success in the waters around Tahoe.
If/when you’d rather not be outside taking advantage of all the great recreational opportunities that come with living in Lake Tahoe, resort to another favorite pastime. As the legendary mountain-town saying goes, “When all else fails, watch ski porn.”
Have other ideas for what to do when there’s no snow around Tahoe? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!