Tahoe Winter Escapes

Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe

Get away to the lake with a stay at one of these lovely spots, where reservations fill up fast.

It’s that time of year: You start shushing the kids when the weather forecast comes on, looking to the sky for tell-tale nimbostratus clouds, wishing for those big fluffy flakes and even a blizzard or two. We don’t have a crystal ball, of course, but are hopeful this season will be as epic as 2016–17, when the Department of Water Resources’ final report put the Sierra Nevada snowpack at a whopping 190 percent of normal. Even in more modest years, however, you can usually count on snow—and plenty of open ski resorts—by mid-November. And whether you love the schussing and slaloming, or just want to sit by a big window with a hot toddy and enjoy the Renoir-like view, here are a few places to make reservations now.

Cedar Crest Cottages

These nine cottages wrap around a central firepit area on a pine-filled property, located on the West Shore and literally one minute down Highway 89 from Homewood Mountain Resort, where you can ski and snowboard while enjoying panoramic vistas of the lake. (Lift tickets at Homewood start at $49; half-day lessons can be had for $69; or pick up a season pass for around $600—with big discounts available for kids and college students.) Also find nearby sledding hills, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.

Cedar Crest started off as a private hunting lodge in 1933, and was recently renovated by Bruce Olson, a longtime Lake Tahoe resident and notable builder, who kept true to the original architecture, but injected modern upgrades like radiant floor heat, high-speed wireless internet, ensuite bathrooms and quartz-countered kitchens. Ranging in size from one to four bedrooms, each cottage is named for a bird—with Owl House being the largest, able to accommodate eight people in comfortably sized bedrooms and living areas, plus a large deck, wintry views out every window and a roaring fireplace. The elegant but practical design of each distinct cottage incorporates convertible beds (a king size or two twins), cozy leather seating, ample dining space for holiday entertaining, flat screen televisions and stacks of board games.

You can cook, of course, using state-of-the-art Bosch and GE appliances, but you are also near several popular restaurants. Sure bets: Fire Sign Cafe for breakfast (fresh-squeezed juices, house-made hollandaise sauce, from-scratch coffee cakes); Obexer’s General Store for lunch (try the oven-roasted turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce, walnuts and cream cheese on a Dutch crunch roll); and West Shore Cafe for dinner (grilled steak, sautéed green beans, whipped potatoes, bordelaise sauce). Come back to your cottage and pour a little brandy by the fire. Your biggest worry here? Never wanting to leave. 4815 West Lake Blvd., Homewood; (530) 412-9222; cedarcrestcottages.com. Rates are $260–$710.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, near Diamond Peak Ski Resort
Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, near Diamond Peak Ski Resort.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort

The Hyatt is located on the eastern shores of Lake Tahoe in Incline Village, Nevada, and less than five minutes from Diamond Peak Ski Resort, often considered Tahoe’s “hidden gem,” with some of the most affordable lessons, lift tickets and season passes in the area (2018–19 rates start at $339 for a midweek pass and $449 for a full pass). Also nearby: snowshoe tours through the forest and horse-drawn sleigh rides to the lake.

At the Hyatt, choose between 422 guest rooms, suites or—our favorite—the cottages. These sit adjacent to a private beach, and have fireplaces, separate living and dining areas, efficiency kitchens, patios and views of the lake in winter. All rooms come with the perks of the full resort, including the year-round heated pool, fitness center and the Stillwater Spa (reserve, for example, the couples’ fireside massage that includes a warming tea service and herbal body relief wraps).

No one will blame you if you never leave the property—beyond skiing or a sleigh ride—and this is made easier with breakfast or lunch at the Sierra Café (which sources local organic ingredients through the Tahoe Food Hub), and dinner at Lone Eagle Grille (where you can order the Grimaud Farm duck breast with lemon ricotta polenta). Finish off the evening with an aged bourbon at the Cutthroat’s Saloon, then walk hand-in-hand back to your room. If you’re lucky, a gentle snow will be falling. 111 Country Club Drive, Incline Village, Nevada; (775) 832-1234; hyatt.com. Rates are $139–$963.

The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe

Located on South Shore at one of the top golf courses in the country, The Lodge opened its doors in June 2017, making it the newest property on the lake. It is just four minutes from Heavenly Mountain Resort, which has the area’s highest elevation (10,067 feet) and the most skiable acres (4,630), with the added fun of skiing across the state line. (Buy lift tickets for $96 or an Epic Pass, which gives you access to Northstar too, for $589.) The Lodge is also within walking distance of Heavenly Village, where you can visit its winter wonderland during the holiday season, complete with Santa’s Ski Shop and a cookie-delivering Polar Express train.

The architecture throughout the Edgewood resort is reminiscent—deliberately so—of the historic lodges in the American West, particularly the national parks, so it feels connected to the past despite its recent build. The Great Room, for instance, invites you to sit by the stone fireplace and read—or just watch the idyllic winter scenery through the two-story windows. You can swim in the year-round heated pool or book a treatment at the hotel spa (consider an après ski hot stone or sports massage). Each of the 154 rooms and suites at Edgewood has its own gas fireplace, soaking tub and plush robes and slippers.

There is also on-site dining that will please even the discerning foodie. The Bistro is open for a casual meal any time of day: pumpkin bread French toast for breakfast, an artisan cheese board or a bowl of house-made clam chowder at lunch. For dinner—and an amazing sunset view—opt for The Edgewood, where you can choose the Farmers Market Vegetarian Trio or the Creekstone Farm rib-eye in a brandy peppercorn sauce. Take a piece of mascarpone cheesecake back to your room to share by the fire, wrapped in those cozy robes. 180 Lake Parkway, Stateline, Nevada; (775) 588-2787; edgewoodtahoe.com. Rates start at $300–500, plus lodge/spa packages.

Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe
Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Part of the fun of going to the Ritz, on Tahoe’s North Shore, is taking the winding drive to its mid-mountain location. Literally tucked into Northstar ski resort, the Ritz offers ski-in/ski-out and mountain concierge services—like at Heavenly, lift tickets are $96 and Epic Passes are accepted. You can also ride an intermountain gondola from the hotel to the Village at Northstar, where you’ll find a 9,000-square-foot ice skating rink, several spots for coffee or hot chocolate, and fun shopping (Patagonia, Ambassador Toys).

Lodging at the Ritz ranges from 153 hotel rooms to a 3,400-square-foot residence suite. At both ends of this spectrum—and everywhere in between—there are gas fireplaces, oversize tubs, terrycloth robes, and floor-to-ceiling windows framing views of the valley or the mountain. Adding to the luxury: the Ritz spa, which offers 50–80 minute massage treatments, as well as unique options like a 20-minute soak in a copper tub or a 120-minute honey butter wrap.

Your best daytime dining option is a stop at Café Blue, overlooking the resort’s back patio, for fresh-pressed juices, espresso drinks, steel-cut oatmeal, house-made pastries, quiche and sandwiches. For dinner, nothing beats the Manzanita, with its double-sided fireplace and killer views of Lake Tahoe (try the pot pie, made with roasted Mary’s chicken, root vegetables and a sherry mushroom velouté in truffled puff pastry). Finish the evening overlooking the Sierra, Old Fashioned in hand, at the dark wood Highlands Bar. Back in your cozy bedroom, you will sleep, we suspect, like a baby. 13031 Ritz-Carlton Highland Court, Truckee; (530) 562-3000; ritzcarlton.com. Rates are $239–$2,600.

PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn

This intimate North Shore resort was built in 1960 to house the Winter Olympic delegation, so it’s of course just steps away from the Squaw Valley ski lifts and aerial tram, with ski-in/ski-out privileges and loads of ski and board storage. (The best value to ski Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows: the Tahoe Super 4, four lift tickets, good any day this season, $369/adults and $253/children; or the Ikon Base Pass, with unlimited access to Squaw/Alpine and 10 other ski resorts, for $699.)

The entire inn is dog-friendly and consists of 56 guest rooms and unique suites: Foodies or holiday dinner chefs can request the Kitchen Suite, for example; and the Family Suite is set up well for children, parents and grandparents (two twin and two queen beds). All the rooms have dining areas, flat screen televisions, plush robes and cozy throws—and most have views of the Sierra Nevada.

PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn
PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn.

The Village at Squaw Valley is nearby, and includes the Wanderlust Yoga Studio, which offers après ski restorative classes, as well as a 20 percent discount for Squaw/Alpine season pass holders. Or make reservations at the Trilogy Spa, also located in the village, for a Fall Foot Soak or an organic coco butter and chamomile massage.

Finally, PlumpJack Cafe and Bar is an excellent place to end your day. Warm up with a Frost Control—citrus oil Ketel One and St-Germain with a twist of lemon—followed by the hearty potato gnocchi (chili pistou, spinach, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, pecorino and toasted pine nuts). Last but not least, there is the Chef’s Frozen Dessert—three scoops of house-made ice cream (one for each of you and one for your four-legged best friend back in the room). 1920 Squaw Valley Road, Olympic Valley; (530) 583-1576; plumpjacksquawvalleyinn.com. Rates are $195–$340.