by Jeremy Benson
After college, I headed to Tahoe for a token winter as a ski bum. That was 10 years ago. My first season was a blur of powder skiing and partying, but one moment remains clear. Late one night as another winter storm bore down on the Sierra, I left a ski shop after a long shift tuning skis to grab a beer with coworkers. One said, “I came for a winter. I stayed for the summers.” The bar stools, chairlifts, and bike seats of Tahoe are populated by many a ski bum who put down roots for the same reason. But it didn’t take a summer for me to realize I wasn’t leaving.
During Tahoe springs, skiing and mountain biking aren’t mutually exclusive. My truck morphed into a moving locker for ski gear, bikes, and hiking shoes, ready for spontaneous recreation of any kind. The notable lack of crowds extends from slopes to trails to the deep waters of Lake Tahoe. By mid-April, winter’s white blanket pulls back from lower elevations and southerly aspects and exploratory rides out and back to the snow line keep us busy.
Come in May and June and bring all your toys and pack plenty of snacks, because you’ll need all the energy you can muster.
Mountain Bike: The same mountains that make for great skiing are home to hundreds of miles of singletrack, including the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Flume Trail. Low elevation trails around Truckee start melting out in April. Look for the Emigrant, Lloyds, and Sawtooth Ridge trails to become rideable first. South and west-facing trails farther away from the Sierra Crest follow. If winter still has a firm grasp on Tahoe, head for high desert riding options close by in Reno, Nevada. Check with local bike shops for current trail conditions.
Hike: One of the first hikes to emerge is the Tahoe Rim Trail from the Brockaway Summit East trailhead above Kings Beach. Follow the trail 1.5 miles east to a fire lookout with a panoramic view of the entire lake. Next up: The Rubicon Trail is a Tahoe Basin classic, unfurling for three miles along the lakeshore between Emerald Bay and D.L. Bliss State Park. The trail is rolling, but generally flat, perfect for hikers and trail runners.
Stand-up Paddleboarding: Thanks to Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake—15 miles away in Truckee—the SUP craze has taken hold here. After a hike at D.L. Bliss State Park, jump aboard an SUP and paddle under the dramatic cliffs that climb straight from water’s edge. Tahoe’s 75-mile shoreline provides myriad options for getting on the water, but the cliffs of D.L. Bliss and the boulder-strewn beaches of the East Shore are two of the most inspiring places to paddle. The water hovers around a frigid 40 degrees, but few boats are on either lake prior to Memorial Day, meaning calm, sunny days and ideal, glassy conditions.
Ski: Depending on the year, spring in the Sierra can mean late-season powder or California corn. Alpine Meadows is known for having some of the best spring snow around due to its practice of cornology, or the strategic timing of terrain closures to keep snow smooth. Intrepid backcountry skiers earn their turns anywhere from Donner Summit to Carson Pass. Pay attention to aspects and follow the sun. And only harvest the corn when it has ripened to perfection.
Olympic Bike Shop: In the heart of Tahoe City, this down-home shop is equipped for bike sales, rentals, demos, repairs, and trail information. olympicbikeshop.com
Adrift Tahoe: Based on the water in Kings Beach, Adrift offers SUP sales, rentals, information, lessons, and guided tours. standuppaddletahoe.com
Tahoe Adventure Company: Follow their lead for guided adventures hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and SUP tours. tahoeadventurecompany.com
Tahoe Mountain Guides: Contact TMG to book a custom or all-inclusive guided mountain bike tour around Truckee and Lake Tahoe. tahoemountainguides.com
From the Spring 2012 issue. Get more “Spring Multisport” here.