The northern half of the Lake Tahoe area offers a wide range of choices for skiing and boarding with 11 resorts of at least 120 skiable acres. The California towns of Truckee and Tahoe City make logical home bases to explore the bevy of options. Given that neither town has the mainstream ski-town fame of places like Aspen and Park City, they both share a relatively undiscovered charm. But each has its own distinct character.

Truckee: Quaint, Lively, and Close to Ski Areas Like Sugar Bowl

Blessed with a quaint historic district, Truckee is the larger and livelier option between the two towns. The downtown shops and restaurants of Commercial Row along Donner Pass Road provide plenty of diversions away from the slopes. Named for nearby Highway 89 going to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, California 89 sells California and Tahoe-themed clothing for men, women and kids that goes far beyond typical tourist t-shirts.  The oldest store in the area, Cabona’s evolved from its opening in 1918 as a general store to today’s upscale men’s and women’s clothing boutique.

Truckee Hotel (Photo Credit: Eric Wagnon)

At the east end of downtown, the Truckee Hotel claims the requisite historic, ski-town hotel haunted tales. In fact, one list ranked it first among haunted hotels in ski country. Inside the hotel, Moody’s Bistro Bar & Beats features spirits of a different sort and a spirited atmosphere with live music. The town is developing a lively brewpub scene including Fiftyfifty Brewing Company, located a short drive from downtown. Next year, a local distillery, Old Trestle, plans to open its own tasting room and restaurant in the growing commercial district along the Truckee River.

Located off Interstate 80, Truckee is particularly convenient for visits to Northstar California, Boreal Mountain, and Sugar Bowl. Boreal is only 10 miles west of downtown Truckee. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are just slightly farther away to the south.

Tahoe City: Tranquil and Closer to Squaw Valley

“City” does not really fit the reality of Tahoe City. Despite its urban name, Tahoe City has a tranquil ambiance. Located on the northwest shore of the lake, the town can boast about its lovely lakeside walking trail. Tahoe City Winter Sports Park is another attraction with cross-country skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and ice skating.

A view of Tahoe City (Photo Credit: Eric Wagnon)

For dining, Wolfdale’s is a high-end cuisine favorite for dinner. For locals and visitors on a budget, the 5 p.m. happy hour— on Sundays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays— offers a chance to sample Chef Douglas Dale’s creations.

Compared to Truckee, Tahoe City is a little closer to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Tahoe City is much closer to Homewood Mountain Resort on the west shore of the lake. With Homewood’s runs coming all the way down to lake level, the ski area is an easy six-mile drive along the lake from Tahoe City.

Tahoe City (Photo Credit: Eric Wagnon)

Ready to plan your next ski trip? Check out the latest deals on lift tickets and rentals for the Lake Tahoe and Northern California area.

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Sub-Categories North America / Travel

5 responses to “Truckee and Tahoe City: Under-appreciated Ski Towns?”

  1. mark nalesnik says:

    Squaw valley included

  2. Ski Bum says:

    You forgot to mention the recent study done realizing that 15 million cars a year drive in the Tahoe Basin. So if you like teaffic and crowded resorts come on up to Tahoe.

  3. Kirk Riley says:

    Try Kings Beach and Incline Village as well

  4. Eric Wagnon says:

    Absolutely Kirk, I’m a big fan of Diamond Peak, right there in Incline Village. The view from the Crystal Ridge run is pretty hard to beat.

  5. Eric Wagnon says:

    For sure, the relative proximity of the Bay Area definitely adds to the visitor count. If you can ski on a weekday, rather than a weekend, that makes a huge difference as far as lack of crowds.

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