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14 Local’s Secrets to Surviving Tahoe During the Holidays

A holiday trip to Tahoe is on everyone’s wish-list, but nobody enjoys the agitating traffic, endless crowds and staggering waits at restaurants and shops. This season allow us to let you in on a few tips, tricks and local’s secrets to help make your mountain getaway stress-free and truly spectacular.

1  Know when to come, know when to go.
Weather is the single biggest reason freeways into and out of Tahoe get mind-numbingly congested. Visit for up-to-the-minute information on winter storm warnings and detailed forecasts, up to 7 days out.

2  Brakes, no – great tires, yes.
Ever wonder how to drive well in snow and ice? Go easy on the brakes as sudden moves and stops can cause you to slip, slide and spin. Make sure your car has newer tires with lots of deep tread – all the better to grip the road. And remember to bring chains if you’re not in a 4WD or AWD vehicle, plus some snacks and water in case the highway is shut down or you’re stuck in a long delay. Keep tabs on road conditions here.

3  Visit the Truckee or King’s Beach Safeway only during off-hours (early morning or late night).
Or, try Save Mart – which is always substantially less crowded. Better still, check out New Moon Natural Foods (boutique grocery featuring organic produce and juices/smoothies, vegan and gluten-free items, deli, salad and chocolate bar, bulk bins, vitamins, herbals).

4  Make dinner reservations.
Simple as this may seem, make reservations. The population of the Tahoe area over quadruples during peak periods and, as such, there aren’t enough restaurants to service such a massive influx of folks.

5  Patronize some of our lesser-known cafes and restaurants
– like Dark Horse (beans are house-roasted and they offer cold brew, pour-over, homemade syrups and perhaps the best mocha we’ve ever tasted!); Treat Box Bakery(old school, full-service, super scrumptious bakery tucked inconspicuously behind 7-11); Coffebar (their cappuccinos, crepes and paninis are, hands down, the yummiest around) or Red Truck at the Truckee Airport (serving up exquisite, crave-ables like ‘naanwiches’ and our personal favorite, the ‘chicken tikka masala quinoa bowl’). You’ll savor some of the area’s tastiest treats in a less frenzied atmosphere.

6  Skip the crowded rental shops and get fitted for your ski gear in the comfort of your living room.
We recommend Ski Butlers – their prices are comparable, service is stellar and what you save in hassle and headache is priceless.

7  Head to the ski resorts early
– i.e. by 7:30 am – for premium parking, minimal traffic and a quick bite before hitting the slopes. Jump start your day with a 2%, extra whip, no foam, venti what-what at Starbucks in Northstar California’s ski village, or grab n’ go with a piping hot Belgian Waffle at a Euro Snack kiosk.

8  Consider a day on-mountain, but off the crowded slopes.
Northstar Nordic Center (aka The Cross Country, Telemark, Snowshoe + Fat Bike Center) offers equipment rentals, lessons and guided tours. New this year – try out a Fat Tire Bike on the miles of groomed, XC trails.

9  When your ski day is through, stick around…
and enjoy a live band, ice skating, a well-earned après beverage, or even complimentary s’mores ’round the firepit at Northstar California. You’ll avoid the bulk of the traffic exiting the resorts and keep the good times going long after the slopes have closed.

10  Leave the dirty work to your Concierge.
Tahoe Mountain Lodging’s Concierge can take of your pre-arrival groceries, arrange transportation and childcare, or purchase and deliver lift tickets directly to your residence.

11  Pile ’em in. Consider booking a ski-in, ski-out ‘resort living’ residence with multi-bedrooms, a full kitchen, dining area and family room.
Cook some meals in, play Yahtzee or watch a movie around the fire. Everyone in the family gets a bedroom (bonus: Mom and Dad get some peace and quiet after the kids have gone to bed). Or, several families can stay together and play together. Hotels are just so 2009.

12  Visit our 30-minutes-to-the-east neighbor, Reno.
Reno doesn’t see the increase in tourism that Tahoe does, yet it’s an exciting place to go with many excellent restaurants and, of course, gambling and nightlife downtown. But did you also know Reno has a great riverwalk, movies, top name concerts, even Trader Joes, Whole Foods and an outdoor mall? Check out the family fun center at Boomtown (think carousel, ferris wheel, bounce house, mini golf, endless arcade games – AND home of the famous lobster buffet!) or the National Bowling Stadium(known as the “Taj Mahal of Tenpins” – with 78 championship lanes over 4 stories). It’s The Biggest Little City you really ought to visit during a trip to the mountains.

13  Leave the traffic and snow-driving to TART (Tahoe Area Regional Transit).
These reliable busses take you most anywhere in Truckee/Tahoe and there’s also free “night service” (for a safe and sober ride to/from North Tahoe nightlife) and “ski shuttle” routes.

14  If you’re staying in Tahoe Donner, dine at “The Lodge”.
You’ll avoid the chaos of driving (and parking) in town and will delight in delicious eats, drinks and a cozy, mountain ambiance. Also, take the “back way” into town—meaning, Alder Creek Road instead of Northwoods Boulevard. It’s a bit longer route, but it’s sure to be less congested and you can avoid steep and scary Northwoods, which is icy and slippery on a cold Truckee evening.