Me and Gav have a habit of arriving at places in winter without anything booked. We hired a beast of a hire-car from San Fran for our board bags + longboards and drove to Tahoe in March 2008 as part of a bigger road trip around California and Nevada.
Our ‘Rough Guide to Skiing & Snowboarding in North America’ split the area into the North Shore and South Shore. The North Shore resorts are the big names of Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows (already embedded in our minds from epic freeride movie parts from the 90s – yes we’re getting on a bit).
Then there was the South Shore of Heavenly and the stateline border with the gambling state of Nevada which we chose because a) it’s where we first arrived and we were tired and b) I wanted to hit up some no-limit holdem. We drove past a sign for a decent looking Best Western (where the owner assumed that we were a couple and only needed one room with one bed until we proclaimed otherwise) and based ourselves there.
So first up, naturally as we were both 20 something lazy snowboarders, we hit up Heavenly first on our doorstep.
Heavenly is the largest ski area on the West coast and is said to have the best views of the lake as can be seen in the photo below of the terrain park.
We’re writing our 2008 trip up in December 2013 and what we can remember is that whilst the terrain is huge and high, you really need to get it with fresh snow (it averages 360″ a year but no fresh for us) and that there were a lot of flats & traverses so boarders need to pick their paths or bomb the hell out of some sections.
Next up was Homewood heading west around the Lake. This was a great local, family spot which we really enjoyed. From memory there were only a couple of lifts and if you wanted a hot chocolate in the mountain ‘restaurant’ you had to make it yourself. Which again was cool and why we loved it. And although there was still no fresh snow, the sun had been out in force and the snow was really buttery and great for messing around in on banked turns.
Gav in Homewood
Gav’s take on Homewood:
“Home wood has the kind of vibe that reminds you why snowboarding is fun. You don’t necessarily feel like you’re in the centre if the universe, and it’s certainly not somewhere you go if you want to show off to the crowds. You won’t find the steepest terrain, deepest powder or biggest kickers. But what you do get is friendly staff, a chilled atmosphere and beautiful views over lake Tahoe. Unlike other resorts where you will travel over tens of miles of pistes exploring, because of the smaller area you get to know each run well enough so that you know where to head into the trees for the side hit back onto the piste, or where to find that little natural quarter pipe.”
The next day we drove to the opposite end of the lake to get to Northstar, which was surprisingly far and hard to find the turning for, for me at least. Sign and map reading isn’t my strong suit and I drove past the turning three times even though Gav knew where to turn as it was apparently so blatantly obvious that I was ridiculous for not taking it. It’s interesting what sticks in your mind. Ha.
I actually don’t remember that much about Northstar. It was fun to go ride through the Stash, a ‘natural’ freestyle course with all wooden features but it was way more crowded than Homewood. I do remember that it had the classiest looking Subway I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating a foot-long from.
Gav’s take on Northstar:
“North star is definitely one for the park rats. None of the terrain is outstanding compared to other resorts around lake Tahoe, but it’s freestyle facilities are up with some of the very best in the world. From the long cruisy parks made famous by Thorstein Horgmo in his part from the film.”the storming” to the original Stash, there is really something for we everyone.”
So there you go – we’ll have to go back and retest our assumptions and hit up a few more resorts 🙂