Off-slope winter adventures in North Lake Tahoe

It’s no secret that Lake Tahoe is one of the best ski destinations in America. However, for skier and non-skier alike, Lake Tahoe is also one of the top destinations for winter adventures beyond the slopes. Where else can you go snowmobiling above one of the largest alpine lakes, fly over jagged peaks, and take a stargazing snowshoe tour?

As such, below you'll find my recommendations for nine things to do off the slopes around North Lake Tahoe.

Snowmobiling. On a good winter (which this winter has been, and more!), Lake Tahoe affords snowmobiling terrain and views that are unparalleled. One moment, you could be snowmobiling deep in the backcountry of the High Sierras and the next atop a peak overlooking Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America. While you can rent snowmobiles from a variety of places around North Lake Tahoe, I’d recommend first starting with an outfitter, such as Lake Tahoe Snowmobiling, and taking a snowmobile tour. A group snowmobiling tour is a good start for first-timers, while a private snowmobiling adventure affords a more customized experience, and often with a little more speed.

Snowshoeing. For something a little bit more low key (and low speed), but with equally beautiful views, then strap on a pair of snowshoes. Snowshoeing offers first track opportunities beyond ski resorts, and with views often only accessible in winter by snowshoes. North Lake Tahoe offers a number of great snowshoeing trails, including Tahoe Meadows, Donner Lake, and Donner Peak. But for a more unique snowshoeing adventure, sign up for one of Tony Berendsen’s stargazing snowshoe tours, which leave from Northstar California, and include a special “after hours” tour of the mountain and skies above Lake Tahoe from a star guide.

Flying in a glider. Unique to Lake Tahoe are a number of “glider” companies that’ll fly guests over Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and beyond. Located adjacent to Northstar California is Soar Truckee, which offers a variety of different glider flights around North Lake Tahoe, some of which even turn the controls over to guests. Elsewhere is Hang Gliding Tahoe (pictured below from Hang Gliding Tahoe), which offers flights in a powered hang glider over Lake Tahoe and just above the peaks towering above it.

Flying in a helicopter (with champagne). What’s better than flying over Lake Tahoe? Well flying over Lake Tahoe at sunset for a champagne tour, of course. And that's just the type of experience you can have with Heli-Vertex, offering a wide selection of helicopter tours, from quick flights over Lake Tahoe’s emerald bays to full moon night flights. One of their coolest, most beautiful tours, however, is their 60-minute champagne flight over Lake Tahoe at sunset. Best flight ever?

Cross-country skiing. Whether an expert skier or not, cross-country skiing is a great way to explore the backcountry of Lake Tahoe, with the added benefits of one of the best types of winter workouts. While there are a number of outfitters that’ll rent you skis and send you on your way, a great introduction to the sport is Northstar California’s Cross Country, Telemark and Snowshoe Center, which features freshly-groomed trails, rentals, and lessons. With Lake Tahoe experiencing one of the best winters in years, there’s never been a better time to cross-country ski, and the Cross Country, Telemark and Snowshoe Center is 100% open with beautifully groomed trails.  Additionally, while I mentioned Tahoe Meadows above for its snowshoeing, it’s also a great area if you have your own cross-country skis or are renting your own.

Fat tire biking. In addition to cross-country skiing, many of North Lake Tahoe’s trails make great fat-tire biking trails. This includes Northstar’s Cross Country, Telemark and Snowshoe Center, which offers fat tire bikes for rent on their cross-country trails. Elsewhere, you can take a fat tire biking tour, such as with Tahoe Mountain Guides, which offers fat bike tours of Truckee and Lake Tahoe.

Ice skating. And it doesn't require a frozen pond or lake. The North Lake Tahoe area offers a number of proper skating rinks, such as the Truckee Ice Skating Rink at Truckee River Regional Park. Elsewhere, Northstar California has its own ice skating rink in the middle of the Village, where you can rent skates for an afternoon or evening of ice skating before sitting around the Village’s fire pits while enjoying a hot toddy or hot cocoa.

Sledding. But what’s a winter getaway without snow sledding? If you’re bringing your own snow tubes or sleds, there are so many great snow tubing hills, such as Tahoe Meadows, which I mention above for its great snowshoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities. Elsewhere, in Tahoe Vista is North Tahoe Regional Park, a winter park that has sleds for rent. For a little more need for speed, Northstar California's mid-mountain tubing hill features a 200-yard long ride to the bottom, where you’re then towed back uphill to do it all over again. 

Ice climbing. That’s right, ice climbing. And there may never be a better winter to go ice climbing in North Lake Tahoe then this winter. Alpine Skills International offers a number of ice climbing (and rock climbing) activities and classes, including an intro to snow climbing and an introductory ice climbing course, which takes place atop Donner Pass.

Southern born and bred, Spencer was bitten by the travel bug at a young age, flying on a plane for the first time at age five and by himself for the first time at seven. While he continues to travel around the world in search for the best whiskey, Spencer now calls Reno home, where his search is for the best cocktail (and first tracks, naturally). He has written about travel, food, and drinks for a number of publications that have included the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Outside Magazine, and Travel + Leisure, just to name a few. See a more candid version of Spencer on his website, whiskeytangoglobetrot.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.