All the stars were in alignment in early April. Our kids and our family friends’ children (who live in Napa) ended up with the same spring break schedule AND all the grownups were able to arrange time off of work to spend a few days away in one of the prettiest places on the planet: Lake Tahoe’s South Shore.
Since we’ve been back, our children haven’t been able to stop raving about the trip. In fact, they’ve been talking it up so much that friends here at home joked that someone must have put them on retainer while they were there: “they must be on commission, right?” No, no. It was just that much fun.
Our family has always been partial to the south side of the lake and some of the best memories we’ve made over the years have been on those vacations we have taken there with friends.
With some of the world’s best skiing, restaurants, nightlife, and family friendly fun all within a stones throw of what is arguably one of the most beautiful alpine lakes south of the Canadian border, it isn’t a wonder that we found more to do in a weekend than most visitors experience over a two-week vacation.
Situated on the California-Nevada Stateline, South Lake Tahoe of the only destinations in the country with all the outdoor adventure of a national park, and the amenities you might find at a world-class resort, there is something for everyone. Especially coming into the most beautiful time of year in the American West. Late season skiing at Heavenly, with virtually no lines and open runs beckoning to get the day started, and an apres ski cocktail or hot cocoa to end a day on the slopes – you couldn’t ask for a more idyllic way to spend the day.
Local hiking to snowmelt filled waterfalls in the early months of summer or a family camping trip in the crisp mountain air await, with most RV-parks and campgrounds open mid-May through October. Then, of course, the region’s well-earned distinction as a world-class winter (and spring) ski destination.
Heavenly Ski and Ride School
Although my husband is an experienced skier (and the only one of the adults qualified to attempt to teach the collective four enthusiastic first-time snowboarders ranging in age from nine to 12), he was more than a little overwhelmed at the prospect. So we made what turned out to be the BEST decision by signing the kids up for private snowboard lessons at the Heavenly Ski and Ride School (www.skiheavenly.com).
Our very own world-class instructor, Ryan Goralski, went way, way, way above and beyond our (and our kids’) wildest expectations in terms of amping up the fun factor and turning two half days of private lessons on the slopes into the adventure of a lifetime.
Ryan’s personalized attention and approach to customizing his lesson to match their individual goals and abilities allowed each child to grow at the speed and level they were comfortable with and made for what just might be the most memorable trip to date!
While parents can structure a private lesson “however you like” for a unique mountain experience, we left the kids in Ryan’s completely capable hands and they came back regaling us with tales of “conquering the mountain,” building their very own “Snowdawg” mascot, skipping the lines (exclusive ski school lift lanes provide quick access to the slopes) and “chowing down on burgers and fries” at lunchtime and spectacular, panoramic views of the lake from their vantage point atop the mountain and on the roundtrip gondola to Heavenly Village.
If sleeping under the stars just isn’t your cup of tea, there are myriad hotels and motels all around the South Shore. But for our family – who enjoy meeting up with extended family or friends with their own kiddos on a semi-annual basis - we have found the comfortable, cozy and convenient accommodation is to bypass a traditional hotel room and opt instead to rent a privately owned vacation home rich in amenity for all ages.
The Tahoe Keys Resort and Lake Tahoe Reservation Bureau (www.tahoevacationguide.com or 800 698 2463) offers an extensive selection of rental homes, condos and cabins to suit your specific needs and budget – whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic retreat, a family of five or a large group of friends.
As anticipated, this trip more than delivered. Driving into the region, the views of deep gorges, craggy mountains and the tall green trees are singularly beautiful. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay - the deluxe mountain home we selected, located at 2203 White Sands Drive in the Tahoe Keys, is a super spacious newly renovated four-bedroom waterfront house centrally located to everything - grocery stores, shops, the casinos at stateline.
The mountain and water views from many of the rooms are breathtakingly beautiful and the back door opens out onto an expansive deck steps from the water’s edge. Between its location, the large, open concept living space and multiple dining areas, renting this particular house for our four-day stay proved to be the perfect choice – we had plenty of space to stretch out and everyone had their own rooms to retreat to (the master and second bedroom both feature a king bed and private bathroom) and a queen bedroom that shares a bathroom with fourth bedroom outfitted with a pair of twin beds was ideal for the younger set.
We saved time and money by being able to cook our meals and dining in rather than eating out three times a day. A couple of cozy fireplaces provided the perfect ambiance for cool nights and a foosball table in the bonus room kept the kiddos occupied indoors.
Unlike vacations where we schedule a series of specific activities designed to keep everyone busy and entertained away from the hotel room, this trip was all about taking full advantage in all this rental home had to offer – after returning from the slopes, the kids were in and out of the house all afternoon and early evening, spending hours tossing snowballs and making snow angels in the yard. Evenings were filled with board games and “movie nights” with kid-friendly programming on Netflix and big buckets of popcorn. Lunches and dinners were either easy outdoor affairs - steaks, burgers, hot dogs and grilled corn cooked on the barbecue - and for the adults, “happy hour” on the deck was a nightly highlight sipping a glass of fine wine while watching the sun slip over the horizon - a perfect end to each fun-filled day.
From winter sports to water sports and everything in between, who needs a commission?