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40 Years of Drinking Around Lake Tahoe

As a Skiing Magazine contributor for over 40 years, Phil DuBois has had his share of adventures in the dives of Tahoe.

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Hired as an ad rep in 1967, I began calling on the ski areas (they weren’t called “resorts” back then) around Lake Tahoe and discovered not only excellent skiing but some pretty cool bars as well.

Following is a brief description of a few of my favorites, which Skiing and SkiNet readers will enjoy on their next ski trip to the beautiful place that Mark Twain referred to as the “fairest picture the whole world affords.”

Truckee, Calif. lies about 15 miles north of Lake Tahoe on Interstate 80, which you’ll pass through on your way to Squaw Valley, Northstar, and Alpine Meadows and is home to one of my all-time Top 10 bars on the planet. Casa Baeza has over 125 different brands of tequila and the “best margaritas in the world,” according to Barbara Green, mayor of Truckee who got hammered with us one evening on a recent R&D mission for this article. After Dan Pringle and I got tore up at the bar a few years ago, Andres Baeza, the owner and bartender, named us “Los Groseros” (wonder what he meant by that?) Oh yeah, it’s also a really good Mexican restaurant.

Down Hwy 89 a few miles at the Alpine Meadows turn-off is the River Ranch, which was the home base bar for the 1960 Winter Olympics at nearby Squaw Valley. Sitting literally over the beautiful Truckee River, the River Ranch is a local’s favorite that puts on rollicking apres ski parties in a really comfortable wood and stone bar with a roaring fireplace and all the top-name booze you need. They also offer rustic lodging and fine dining featuring fresh trout, steaks, seafood, free range chicken, and even some vegan dishes for the health minded.

A few more miles down Hwy 89 in the town of Tahoe City and right on Lake Tahoe are all kinds of bars, but my two favorites are Pete & Peter’s and Rosie’s. Both are locals’ hangouts, but Pete’s is the “dive” with pool tables, shuffleboard, TVs, and a horseshoe-shaped bar so you can watch Jaclyn proudly jiggle her fanny as she hand-shakes margaritas. “Weiser/meisters” (Bud and Jaeger shots) are popular. No food at Pete’s, but breakfast of juevos rancheros is catered on Sundays during football season.

Rosie’s provides true “Old Tahoe” ambience andserves a very good breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily to go along with a rustic old bar (pretty much a Tahoe tradition, these rustic old bars). A bunch of antique fat tire bicycles and old sleds hang from the ceiling along with wood skis, stuffed wild animals, and other oddities.

Heading easy a few more miles on the way to Crystal Bay you should stop in Tahoe Vista at Spindleshanks (means “skinny legs”… something to do with the owner’s wife.) With tongue & groove pine paneling and a cozy atmosphere, it’s a neat bar with an expansive wine list coupled with an excellent restaurant. Ask Jen the bartender to drink with you and you won’t be sorry, I promise.

In Crystal Bay are the first casinos you’ll encounter on the Nevada side of the lake, and my long-time favorite is the Cal Neva with the world-famous Circle Bar overlooking Lake Tahoe. Back in the ’60s Frank Sinatra owned the place, and his guests among other notables included JFK and Marilyn Monroe (yes, at the same time.) It features a stunning globe-shaped stained-glass ceiling surrounded by five large TVs for you sports fans and an adjoining casino for the gamblers in your group.

Continuing on around the lake, at South Shore and the base area of Heavenly Valley you’ll find some grandiose hotel/casinos where the Hard Rock in Harvey’s and Tahoe Bill’s at Harrah’s bring in the party-hearty crowd of youthful scofflaws who often go all night long. I’m 65 now and usually in bed by the time things get rolling down here, plus I prefer to do my drinking during the daylight.