To a lot of people it probably seems silly to leave NYC in the dead of winter to visit somewhere that is possibly just as cold, if not colder. Most of my friends here in the city go somewhere warm to take a break from the cold during the winter months. Those are my friends who: all winter long wear Canada Goose jackets (even when it is like 40+ degrees) and only go to bars that have fireplaces. Don’t get me wrong, I like bars with fireplaces too. But I also think that there are better ways to enjoy the winter than holing up and ordering Seamless between the months of October and April. I like winter sports. Maybe it is because I grew up in Salt Lake, where the outdoors are very accessible. Whatever the reason, I enjoy flying down a mountain on a piece laminated wood just as much now as when I was a youngster in SLC. It is just my luck that my lady friend does too.
Snowboarding trips can pose some challenging logistics for New Yorkers. There are no “real” mountains (sorry, Appalachians/Catskills) for a couple of thousand miles. Even for those riders who don’t necessarily care about riding big mountains, Vermont is still a 5 hour drive, only to deal with the prevalent “east coast hard pack” snow conditions (AKA, ice).
Ever since Jetblue added a direct flight from JFK to Reno, I have been jonesing to book a Tahoe trip. Flying for 5 hours to real mountains and good snow > driving for 5 hours to ride small icy hills. “Why not just do Denver?” you may ask. Because depending on when you land and which resort you are going to, you may end up doing 4+ in the air and then another 4 in the car. If you want to go to more than one resort.. forget about it. Not the ideal way to spend a long weekend, IMO. Then there is Salt Lake. It is awesome and will most likely always be my “home” mountain. But because of that, it rarely seems like much of a getaway. So last weekend B and I finally made the Tahoe trip happen. This is the story.
I guess that I should actually start with day -1. Thursday evening after work I took the E train from midtown to the Airtrain and met B at JFK. B works from home a lot of the time, so she was able to grab an UBER XL and meet me at Terminal 5 with all of our gear. She is gangster. I watched a couple of movies on the flight, she mostly worked. Free in-flight WiFi is a gift and a curse. When we landed in Reno, we picked up a rental jeep at the airport and drove for about 30 minutes to North Lake Tahoe’s Hyatt Regency at Incline Village, where we would stay for the first two nights.
After checking in, we sipped our complimentary glasses of champs while chatting up the weather to David, the bell hop on duty. In this case, “weather” meant the 20+ day snow storm that had just come through the Sierra Nevada range leaving a very deep blanket of fresh snow for us to explore over the next four days. Even though the Hyatt isn’t ski in/ski out, it made sense for us to stay there since we would be riding two different resorts at north lake. Both were a quick drive from Incline Village.
It wasn’t difficult to wake up before the sun on Friday, since we were still on New York time. In the daylight we caught our first breathtaking glimpses of the lake in the winter. The sun was just cresting the eastern ridge as we made our way to Squaw Valley. We rolled into the parking lot about 30 minutes before the lifts started running. The meadow at the base of the mountain was still socked in with overnight river fog. It felt otherworldly.
B and I picked up our lift tickets and met up with our North Face Mountain Guide, Karl near the base of Squaw’s funitel. We were lucky enough to grab one of the first cars and arrived at the mid-mountain lifts before anyone else. Powder was abundant and the corduroy groomers squeaked against the ptex. All of this, plus bluebird skies to boot got my blood going. Conditions were dreamy and so was the terrain.
Having Karl to show us the mountain was a game changer. Squaw is huge. Trying to learn this mountain on my own would have taken 3 or 4 days of riding. We ended up riding all of the mid-mountain lifts, the funitel and the tram. My favorite terrain was the Headwall zone. There were wide open steep turns and pow in the trees, all packed into a single run.
We rode until the lifts closed, then hit Le Chamois for apres. It has basically everything you need after a long day of riding: pizza, beer, fire pit, classic rock. We made our way back to the Hyatt in time for sundown and went straight into the outdoor hot tub. As we watched the steam rise up toward the stars at the end of our first day, B and I were already questioning to each other what exactly it was that we loved so much about NYC.