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Although it’s hardly off the beaten path, Tahoe City remains oddly inconspicuous. Highway 28/89—which circles Lake Tahoe—cuts right through the center of town, and TC is ideally positioned near three of the North Shore’s greatest ski areas: Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Homewood. Yet it’s a faint blip on most Sierra skiers’ radars. Most folks zip by obliviously on their beeline from Reno or South Lake to slopeside lodging. Chic resort amenities and casino-strip nightlife aren’t on offer in this shorefront village, but that’s precisely the point. Tahoe City’s vibe is undeniably nonchalant. A few nights away from the usual hustle and bustle of a resort village might convince you that staying slopeside isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
SQUAW VALLEY, ALPINE MEADOWS, HOMEWOOD
With bumps, steeps, trees, cliffs, wide boulevards, gentle cruisers and less than gentle cruisers, no skier feels deprived at Squaw Valley—except those stuck in a liftline. Squaw, a 15-minute drive from Tahoe City, gets crowded, so mountain navigation is key. Your best bets are the expert trails accessed from the Silverado, Headwall, Granite Chief and Olympic Lady lifts. Intermediates have plenty of room to spread out on more than a dozen moderate but challenging trails, all in sight of High Camp. Take advantage of Tahoe City’s proximity to Alpine Meadows and Homewood to spend at least a half-day at each. All three have terrain as jaw-dropping as the lake views. Lift tickets at Squaw are $83 (squaw.com); Alpine Meadows $69 (skialpine.com); Homewood $45–$59 (skihomewood.com).
Although it feels more like summer camp than a winter palace, The Sunnyside Lodge is comfortable and charming. The lobby’s wood-paneled walls and timber rafters are adorned with elkhorn chandeliers, antique canoes and wooden snowshoes to set the mood, but the 23 rooms and suites, each with a private balcony, are modern and understated. Ski and stay packages are available ($155–$270; sunnysidetahoe.com).
At PlumpJack, the mountain incarnation of this venerable San Francisco restaurant, executive chef Rick Edge creates innovative seasonal menus with farm-to-table recipes that fuse California and Mediterranean cuisines. Every Thursday, featured vintners offer pairing suggestions and tastes by the sip or by the glass (Winter Winemaker series; no reservations required). In Squaw’s base village; plumpjack.com
FREERIDE WORLD TOUR
Sharing company with Sochi, Russia, Chamonix, France, and Verbier, Switzerland, Squaw Valley will host one of this year’s four Freeride World Tour events. Watch the world’s greatest and bravest extreme skiers huck themselves down the otherwise illegal-to-ski Tram Face, a close to vertical wall of rock outcrops and mandatory airs that has only been opened twice before—for the two previous FWTs. February 27; freerideworldtour.com