Resort Report: Homewood Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe, California

Homewood Resort // tahoefabulous.com

While big resorts like Heavenly and Squaw Valley might be famous for their lake views, only Homewood Mountain Resort is located directly on the shores of Lake Tahoe. While Greyson spent the massive 10/11 winter working in the marketing department there, I didn’t get a chance to snowboard at Homewood until this winter. I got a couple of discount lift tickets in a fundraising auction this summer, and I went to check out Homewood a couple of weekends ago. I had a blast!

Homewood Mountain Resort // tahoefabulous.com

Homewood Facts:

  • Homewood averages 450 inches of snow, which is similar to what Squaw and Alpine get.
  • Topping out at 7,880′, Homewood has a lower summit elevation than the nearby resorts, but that often means it is much less windy that its neighbors.
  • Homewood has 1,260 lift service acres, and snowcat access to 750 more, which can take you up to 8,740′.
  • Of the 67 runs, 15% is beginner terrain, 40% is intermediate, 30% is advanced, and 15% is for experts.
  • The longest run is 2.1 miles and beginner friendly!
Homewood Trail Map // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map from Homewood Mountain Resort

Pros:

  • Homewood Mountain Resort has some of the best tree riding I’ve experienced in Tahoe-Truckee.
  • The lake views are awesome, especially with how close you are to the lake. You also have a great lake view from a beginner run, which isn’t true of all the other resorts.
  • If you get there before the lifts open, the parking is super close! We arrived around 8:30 and were able to park literally a few steps from the ticket office and a few more from the lifts.
  • The terrain is quite varied, and there’s stuff for everyone from beginners to advanced skiers and riders.
  • There’s intermediate off piste riding – it’s not only groomers or trees.
  • The day lift tickets can be found for quite cheap if you purchase ahead of time.

Homewood Mountain Resort // tahoefabulous.com

Cons

  • Most of lifts are old and slow. I got pretty cold on the long rides to the top.
  • For a small, independent resort, the food is quite pricey. $15 for chicken strips and fries!
  • If you don’t arrive early or get lucky, the parking is limited because the lot is pretty small. You might be parking quite a ways down the road.
  • For snowboarders, there was a fair amount of traversing and cat tracks.

Ticket/Pass Prices 

  • Adult Season Pass : $429 for Tahoe locals/ $459 for residents. This includes 5 discounted (30% off) friends and family tickets, 10% off food & beverages, $100 off snowcat adventures, and unlimited skiing/riding at Red Lodge Mountain Resort in Montana!
  • Online Adult Daily Rate: $49 (non-peak, non-holiday)
  • Online Adult Peak Rate: $52 (includes all Saturdays (aside from Holiday Dates below) plus Dec. 25, January 1, January 21, February 18-22)
  • Online Adult Holiday Rate: $61 (includes Dec 22 – December 24, December 26 – December 31, January 2 – January 5, January 19 – January 20, Saturday February 2, February 16 – 17, February 23.)
  • Kids 4 and under ski free!
  • There are also deals for students, seniors, families and buying in bulk.

Homewood Resort // tahoefabulous.com

Resort Report: Diamond Peak, Incline Village, NV

Diamond Peak // tahoefabulous.com

After nine seasons of snowboarding in and around the Tahoe-Truckee area, I’ve gotten to ride at quite a few resorts. I especially love checking out the smaller, quirkier local resorts like Diamond Peak, located above the east shore of Lake Tahoe in Incline Village, Nevada.

Diamond Peak Facts:

  • Diamond Peak is a community owned resort – it’s owned and operated by the Incline Village General Improvement District, so it tends to be one of the more affordable resorts in the Tahoe area.
  • It tops out at 8,540 feet, which isn’t one of the tallest peaks in the area, but it has a vertical drop of 1,840 feet – the 4th highest in the Tahoe Basin.
  • The longest run at Diamond Peak is 2.1 miles, and the resort has 655 skiable acres.
  • Diamond Peak has been in operation since 1966 (originally as Ski Incline) – more than 50 years!
Diamond Peak Ski Resort // tahoefabulous.com
Trail Map from Diamond Peak.

Pros:

  • The view of Lake Tahoe from the top of Diamond Peak is incredible. While there are other ski resorts that also have lake views, like Heavenly or Alpine Meadows, I think that Diamond Peak might be my absolute favorite.
  • There are some really fun tree glades that hold snow well. And, since the mountain tends to be more family oriented, the more difficult terrain doesn’t get tracked out super quickly.
  • The mountain has a small town, down home feel! It’s not corporate, and you can tell that the people who work there care about their customers.
  • Food and drinks are cheaper here than most other resorts, especially the large ones owned by Vail or KSL.
  • The resort is very family friendly, and beginner oriented if you or people you ski or ride with are just starting out.
  • If you’re under 6 or over 80, you ski or ride for free!

Cons:

  • Since it’s a smaller resort, it doesn’t have the variety of terrain that larger resorts have.
  • Most of the lifts are older and aren’t detachable style. One even has a  mini magic carpet for onboarding, which can make things challenging for snowboarders and newer skiers.
  • For snowboarders, there are quite a few flat-ish and narrow cat tracks that you need to use to get around the mountain.
  • There is less advanced terrain than other mountains.
  • It’s not a party mountain, if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s much more local and family oriented.

Ticket/Pass Prices:

  • Adult Season Pass: $479 with no blackout days! There are deals for children, youth, seniors, and Incline Village residents. You also get quite a few free days at partner resorts all over the Western US.
  • Adult Value Lift Ticket: $89 (Opening day – December 21, midweek January 7 – March 17, March 17 – Closing day)
  • Adult Weekend Lift Ticket: $99 (Non-holiday weekends January 12 – March 17)
  • Adult Peak Lift Ticket: $109 (December 22 – January 6, Martin Luther King Jr Weekend, Presidents Day Weekend)
  • Beginner Lift Access: $49 – $69
  • There are also discounts for children, youth, and seniors

Diamond Peak // tahoefabulous.com

Winter Essentials

Winter Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

Winter has finally arrived here in Truckee! We’ve gotten more than 2 feet on the mountains with another 5 feet in the forecast. Living in Tahoe is in general pretty awesome, especially the winter, especially when the snow is deep, fresh and fluffy. But when you live somewhere the winter can last from October until June, the weather can start to drag. There are a few things I’ve found that help make the winter more bearable.

In honor of the first real storm of the season, here are a few of my winter favorites.

Tahoe Daily Snow // tahoefabulous.com

Tahoe Daily Snow: This website, part of the Open Snow network, which “was created by a team of local weather forecasters who are life-long skiers and riders. During the winter, our forecasters write “Daily Snow” updates that will point you toward the best snow conditions. You can also use our mountain-specific forecasts, cams, and snow reports to find the best snow.” The best thing about the Tahoe Daily Snow is that it shares the long range forecast, and the author Bryan Allegretto explains some of the science behind forecasting for weather nerds and powder seekers alike.

Snowboarding Gear for Women // tahoefabulous.com

Outdoor Winter Hobby: If you’re going to live somewhere that gets a lot of winter, you can’t just look forward to summer. You’ve got to find something that you like doing outside. Obviously snowboarding and skiing are big ones (here’s a link to my favorite gear to get you started snowboarding and here’s a link to my friend Kristen’s tips for adult beginner skiers).

Donner Summit Canyon Snowshoe // tahoefabulous.com

If you’re not into either of those, there are a ton of other options. Consider snowshoeing, cross country skiing, backcountry ice skating, skijoring, or basically anything that will get you outside in the winter.

Welcome back to #westseattle

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A Good Insulated Mug & Something to Drink: A hot beverage helps me stay warm and happy on cold days. I’m a big fan of the Klean Kanteen wide insulated bottle when I want to be able to throw my bottle around and know it won’t leak and the Klean Kanteen insulated tumbler for easy drinking. My drink of choice is a dirty latte made with coconut milk, Trader Joe’s Chai Latte mix and an espresso blend from Verve Coffee Roasters.

A Workout Routine: Winter days are short, so it’s hard to get out and be active after work. I can’t wait until the weekend to get my endorphin fix, so I need to do something. I have a gym membership at a place with a good weight set up, so I generally focus on weight lifting during the winter. I learned weight lifting through playing sports though out high school, and I did some personal training a few years ago as a refresher so I’m pretty confident in my ability to lift safely on my own. In the past couple of years, I’ve followed/adapted Strong Curves, The New Rules of Lifting for Women, and PHUL. If you’re new to lifting, the Reddit XX Fitness community is awesome, supportive and informative. I’ve also loved taking spin and weight lifting classes in the past.

Winter Essentials // tahoefabulous.com

A Library Card: There’s only one thing I disagree with Leslie Knope about: libraries are amazing. Even in the small town I live in, our library system is awesome and has tons of books available. I read on my Kindle 99% of the time, and my library has lots of e-books available. For 2019, I’m trying to spend less time aimlessly scrolling the internet in bed at night, and e-books from the library have been really helpful in achieving this goal. A few recommendations for this year: The Power by Naomi Alderman, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and CIRCE by Madeline Miller.

Battery Packs: When the power goes out, it’s nice to have something that you can use to recharge devices. We have the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station that we mainly use for camping, but it’s come in handy during stormy weather. Smaller rechargeable power sources like this one are nice to have, and it’s great to have something like this AA battery power bank for when the power outage lasts for a few days.

#whiskey and #watercolor

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Indoor Hobbies: When the weather gets too bad, I need something to do inside or I go stir crazy. In addition to reading and working out, I’ve spent the last couple of winters practicing water colors, doing basic sewing, and I’ve recently gotten into bullet journaling.

Wood on wood on wood on wood. #misenplace #onionjam #woodpanel #ilovethe70s

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A Go To Comfort Meal: There are a few hearty meals that I find myself craving in the winter: Red Curry Chicken from Cravings: Hungry for More by Chrissy Tiegan, Onion Jam from Lodge Cast Iron Nation, Lasagna Soup from A Farm Girl Dabbles, and Sag Paneer from Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker with homemade naan.

Winter Car Kit: Having a winter safety kit in my car makes me feel a lot less stressed out about driving in the snow. You can buy a pre-made emergency kit, but I always have at least tire chains (Be sure to practice putting them on some time when you’re not on the side of the road in a snow storm.), fingerless mittens that I don’t care about ruining, a foldable shovel, and a piece of flattened out cardboard (for kneeling on). For non emergency car accessories, I love my mitt windshield scraper and lock de-icer. Note: store your lock de-icer outside of your car.

Manini'owali Beach Hawaii // tahoefabulous.com

Plans for a Warm Weather Vacation: They say that planning a vacation is almost as satisfying as actually taking one, and dreaming about (and doing comprehensive spreadsheets for) a trip to a warm destination has gotten me through many long Tahoe winters. Some of my favorite trips include the Big Island, Hawaii, Raja Ampat, Indonesia, and Mendocino, California.

Raja Ampat // tahoefabulous.com

Currently, Greyson and I are trying to decide between the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and the southern end of Baja, Mexico for a fall trip. Any recommendations?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Five Snowshoe Hikes in Truckee

Five Truckee Snowshoe Hikes // tahoefabulous.com

This winter, I’ve been getting more and more into snowshoeing. If you don’t want to by a lift ticket or a season pass, snowshoeing is a great way to get outside and enjoy the winter. There are a bunch of great places to snowboard in and around Truckee, and here are some of my favorites:

1. Donner Summit Train Tunnels
Truckee Train Tunnels Hike // tahoefabulous.com
This is not your typical Truckee snowshoe! This route takes you into the abandoned Transcontinental Railroad tunnels. Don’t worry, the tracks have been pulled out so there’s no chance you’ll get hit by a train. The appeal of the tunnels is the natural ice sculptures and graffiti that collects in the tunnels. Click here to read my blog post with more details, and don’t forget your headlamp!

2. Donner Memorial State Park
This state park commemorates the site of the ill-fated Donner Party, who spent the winter of 1846-47 in this area and famously resorted to cannibalism to survive. Park at the Visitor’s Center ($10 parking or use your California State Parks Pass) and explore the east end of Donner Lake. During the summer, this park is packed, but it’s much emptier in the winter. Be sure to check out the giant statue memorial to the men, women, and children of the Donner Party (the base of the sculpture is the height of the ’46-’47 snows!) and head into the recently remodeled museum when you’re done with the hike.

If this visit gets you interested in the story of the Donner Party, read the book The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown. I just finished it, and it’s amazing!

3. Donner Summit Canyon
Donner Summit Canyon Snowshoe // tahoefabulous.com
Donner Summit Canyon is a moderately strenuous hike with beautiful views of Donner Lake, Donner Peak, and Shallenberger Ridge. It doesn’t get a ton of sun, so it’s a great option when snow has melted off of other sunnier trails. Check out my blog post with more details here.

4. Coldstream Canyon
Snowshoeing Coldstream Canyon // tahoefabulous.com
For a mellow, flat snowshoe, I highly recommend Coldstream Canyon. It has more widely spaced trees than a lot of the snowshoe hikes in the area, so it gets great sun on a bluebird day. It’s a perfect hike for a sunny day after some storms, and it’s close to both downtown Truckee and Donner Lake. It can be a pretty popular area on busy weekends, so get there early if you don’t want to have to park too far away. Check out my blog post with more details here.

5. Commemorative Overland Emigrant Trail
So there were actually two Donner Party camps, and the eponymous Donners didn’t actually camp at Donner Lake! They set up their shelters a few miles away by Alder Creek, which is now the home of the trail most locals just call “Emigrant”. This is a great place to explore via snowshoes. You can stick to the flatter areas, or climb up the small hills for a view of Prosser Creek Reservoir. To get here, head north on Highway 89 to the Donner Party Picnic Area. The actual parking lot is closed in the winter, but there are plowed spots across the road. Click here to see my Strava route.

Snowshoeing Donner Summit Canyon

A few weeks ago, my friend Erin was in town visiting from Seattle, so Greyson and I took her on a snowshoeing adventure up Donner Summit Canyon.

Snowshoeing Donner Summit Canyon // tahoefabulous.com

Donner Summit Canyon was purchased by the Truckee Donner Land Trust in 2010, and it’s now part of Donner Memorial State Park and it’s a great place to snowshoe or cross country ski in the winter and hike or bike in the summer. To access the Donner Summit Canyon Trail, there is a small parking area on the south side of Highway 40, about a third of a mile up from the intersection with South Shore Drive.

Donner Summit Canyon Snowshoe // tahoefabulous.com

This is a great snowshoe that’s pretty safe (but check avalanche conditions before you go) and not overly difficult. It’s not so steep that you’ll be sliding backwards, but there’s enough of an elevation change that you’ll work up a sweat. On our route, we gained ~300 feet in ~2.75 miles. The canyon also doesn’t get a lot of sun in the winter, so it holds snow well. It’s a good option for snowshoeing when the snow has melted off more exposed trails.

Snowshoeing Donner Summit Canyon // tahoefabulous.com

We went up on a gorgeous, sunny Saturday, and though we had plenty of tracks to follow, we only saw a couple of other people the whole time we were out. A lot of the trail follows the old Dutch Flat/Donner Lake Wagon Road, which was used to ferry supplies up to the transcontinental railroad construction site and was later used by auto traffic until Highway 40 was built in the 1920s (more history here). The canyon has views of Donner Peak, Donner Lake, and Shallenberger Ridge that are different from the usual angle that the more popular lookouts see. One thing that I really enjoy about snowshoeing, especially when the snow is deep, is the ability to go cross country, away from the normal trails and see familiar sights from new vantage points. Here’s a link to my Strava track, if you want to check out this awesome snowshoe!

Snowshoeing Donner Summit Canyon // tahoefabulous.com

Snowshoe Gear
Like other winter sports, having comfortable, effective snowshoeing gear is critically important for enjoyment. I used to think that I hated snowshoeing, but it turns out that I just didn’t like the snowshoes I was using! I’ve never had my own, and I’ve always borrowed Greyson’s, which are similar to the MSR Evo Trail. This style is a little too wide for me, and I was always walking a little bowlegged, which was uncomfortable. For this trek, I borrowed a longer, narrower pair that let me walk with a gait closer to my natural one, which was much more comfortable, like these Tubbs Women’s Wilderness snowshoes. I enjoyed snowshoeing so much more with this style! When I buy snowshoes, this is the style I’m getting, but I plan to try on a few different pairs to get a feel for what I really want.

Snowshoeing Donner Summit Canyon // tahoefabulous.com

I usually work up quite a sweat snowshoeing, so I like to wear lighter, breathable clothes and pack along a windproof layer just in case. I usually do a wool baselayer (like this SmartWool Women’s Hoody and these Stoic merino bottoms), with light, waterproof pants (I got a pair of amazing Arc’teryx Beta pants on super sale a few years ago. They’re pretty pricey at full price, but if you can find them on sale, they’re great!). I top things off with my trusty Marmot Aruna down vest and pack my Patagonia Houdini Jacket, which is packs down to a tiny size but is a great wind barrier. For my feet, I wear my thickest Smartwool socks and either my LL Bean boots or my KEEN Targhee boots – something waterproof and warm.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

My Favorite Women’s Snowboarding Gear

This year in November I celebrated my eighth “Tahoe-iversary”, and I realized that I’ll be embarking on my 9th season of snowboarding this winter! Learning to snowboard as an adult was not without its challenges, but I’m at a point where I’m confident with my skills. Over my years of snowboarding, I’ve figured out some of my gear must haves.

Women Snowboarding Gear Guide // tahoefabulous.com

Baselayers
I love layering up – you can control exactly how much insulation you’re wearing and can always shed a layer if you overheat. I tend to get really warm when I exercise, so I tend to keep my baselayers on the lighter side. Plus, the weather in Tahoe tends to be warmer than resorts in the rockies or east coast. A good rule of thumb is that you feel a little chilly standing in the parking lot, as you’ll warm up from exertion.

My favorite base layer bottoms are the Stoic Merino Blend ($35 – $70) that you can frequently find on sale on backcountry.com or steepandcheap.com. I tried the more expensive SmartWool Women’s Merino 150 Baselayer, ($80) and while they are high quality and soft, they are way too short for me at 5’11”. If you are under 5’8” or so, you might have better luck.

Snowboarding Gear for Women // tahoefabulous.com
Sugar Bowl Resort on a Powder Day

On top, I start with a really long, fitted tank top that I can tuck into my ski pants, like this one from Athleta ($20). The tank I usually wear is one I found at Marshall’s years ago – it’s a “fashion” tank instead of a workout one (like this one from Amazon $15), but it works just fine. Next I go for a long sleeved baselayer. If it’s a warmer day, I usually wear a SmartWool Women’s Merino 250 Hoody ($130) or the lightweight Patagonia Capilene Zip Neck ($59). Note: Capeline starts smelling really badly when you sweat in it, so that’s something to keep in mind. If it’s colder out, Patagonia R1 fleece is a great heavier baselayer. It comes in a Pullover, Hooded Pullover, and a full zip version. I ended up buying the men’s version, and it actually fits me in arm length, so that’s an option if you have longer arms (I found it’s not too tight in the hips, which is an issue I’ve had with other men’s jackets).

Snowboarding Gear for Women // tahoefabulous.com
Catching (a tiny bit of) air. Photo by Greyson Howard

Outerwear
Being dry and a reasonable temperature (not too cold or hot) goes a long way towards a fun day on the mountain. I tend to like having lots of coat options – I haven’t found a coat that can take me from a warm, spring day to a wet, cold and windy day. If it’s snowing or raining, I wear a raincoat (sized up) over a down coat or vest. For a truly waterproof raincoats, I’ve been very happy with my Patagonia Torrentshell ($129). I’ve also had good experience with Marmot raincoats, and the Marmot Phoenix Jacket ($250). For down, I have the Marmot Aruna Down Vest ($140) and the Aruna Hoodie ($150).
Patagonia has an array of nice synthetic options, if you want to avoid down. On really warm days, I’ll often just wear a baselayer and my Aruna vest, but if I’m worried about the wind I’ll grab a softshell. I have an awesome softshell hoody from Icebreaker that they don’t seem to make any more, unfortunately. The Patagonia Adze hoody ($199) is pretty similar, and Greyson loves his Rab softshell more than just about any of his coats (and he has more coats than me!)

I’ve been wearing something similar to the Armada Lenox ($179), which are technically ski pants (as opposed to snowboard pants) for the last five years, and I really like them. Snowboard pants tend to be baggier though, and I think with pants, it’s best to try on a bunch and find the ones that fit you best. Make sure you can move around in them – I’ve had ones that seem to fit fine standing up straight, but get too tight in the thighs in the snowboarder crouch. Another issue I’ve had with ski/snowboard pants is the fastener at the waist – I’ve had pairs that that the button would come undone every time I fell down. That’s not something you want to deal with on the mountain, so try sitting down on the ground in them, like you would be on your board. It seems silly, but it will help you see how they fit when you’re moving around. I like to have thigh vents, especially on insulated pants. If you get overheated, thigh vents let you cool down quickly.

Snowboarding Gear for Women // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Gear
I’m still really happy with my Burton Women’s Feather snowboard (see my detailed review here). It’s been a great board to take me from beginner to advanced terrain, and I don’t see switching out any time soon. I’m still on my entry level Burton bindings – the Burton Custom Snowboard Bindings ($199), which have held up remarkably well for the past seven years. They are starting to wear out, so that will probably be the next upgrade I make. If you’re looking for great value bindings, I’d highly recommend the Custom.

I’ve cycled through a few boots over the years – starting with the cheapest Burton lace ups, nicer K2s with a boa system that I got on last season clearance, before settling on the Ride Hera Boa Snowboard Boots ($260). Despite linking to examples here, my number one tip is DON’T BUY BOOTS ONLINE. Go to a store that is known for bootfitting, try a bunch on, get advice from the bootfitters, get inserts, and then pay full price at the store. There’s no substitute for a good fitting boot, and you can’t do that online, especially since boot designs sometimes change subtly from year to year. Seriously, the number one improvement to my snowboarding ability (besides just time on the board) was getting properly fitted boots with the appropriate stiffness. (If you’re in Truckee or North Lake Tahoe, I had a great experience with boot fitting at Blue Zone Sports).

Accessories
Much like my biking socks recommendations, you can’t go wrong with Smartwool socks. They come in several thicknesses, including Ultra Light, Light, Medium Socks, and compression ($23 – $50). They also come in a variety of styles, colors, and patterns – from plain black to adorable mountain print.

When I first started snowboarding, my hands were always freezing and the snow gloves that worked for shoveling the driveway didn’t cut it. I first got some mittens with mitten shaped liners, which I would not recommend. The mitten liners didn’t let me do anything I couldn’t do with my mittens on, so I’d have to strip down to bare hands anyway. Plus, the palms didn’t stay waterproof for very long, so I was shortly in the market for my next pair. Next, I bought Dakine Women’s Leather Camino mittens, which I still use and love. The leather palm is tough (no accidentally slicing it on sharp edges) and very waterproof once treated. I only break them out on really cold days, though, because otherwise my hands get sweaty. Most of the season, I wear DaKine Women’s Tahoe Gloves ($50). I’ve been really happy with Dakine brand gloves and mittens and will continue to buy them for the foreseeable future.

Sugar Bowl Resort // tahoefabulous.com
Sugar Bowl Resort on a Bluebird Day

I’ve raved before about my Smith Squad MTB goggles for biking, and I like the Smith Squad Snow Goggles equally as much. Smith’s ChromaPop lens technology reduces color confusion that affects typical goggle lenses and helps you see in more detail.  I’d recommend having a lens for the sunny, bluebird days (ChromaPop Sun or Sun Black), one that works in a range of conditions (ChromaPop Everyday Green Mirror or Everyday Rose), and a lens for stormy, low light days (ChromaPop Storm). I mostly use the sunny and mid range lenses, but there were some stormy days last winter I wished I had gone with the low light lens.

Snowboarding Gear for Women // tahoefabulous.com
Helmet and goggle close up. Photo by Katie Riley

Helmets are a critical piece of safety equipment, and I ALWAYS wear mine! Get one that is cute and comfortable, and you’re more likely to wear it. I have a small head, and I think that Smith helmets fit me well. I have Smith Sequel, and I love the soft fabric over the ears and the vents, which are essential for comfort on warm days. Greyson has a big head, and POC helmets fit him well. Just try them on until you find one that fits well.

On days that it’s windy and snowing, I have a cheap synthetic buff, like this one from Amazon ($10). This isn’t something I’d spend much money on, but if you run cold consider splurging on a fleece BUFF. My cold blooded friend swears by it. I like to wear boots that  are easy to slip on and off and comfortable to wear to the hill. I have an older version of North Face ankle boots, similar to the Yukion. When it’s warm enough for the parking lot to be dry, I wear Minnetonka Cally Slippers or flip flops, which, to be honest, is my favorite time of year for skiing. Other things that are nice to have on the mountain are sunglasses that I don’t mind getting beat up, sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, and hair ties.

I hope that these gear recommendations are useful, and make it easier to get out on the mountain, whether it’s your first time or your 500th.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Donner Summit Railroad Tunnel Snowshoe

One of my Winter Bucket List goals was to try new winter activities. I went on a fairly typical snowshoe earlier in the winter, but a couple of weeks ago, I had a pretty unique snowshoe adventure!

IMG_1437

On Donner Summit, there are some old train tunnels that the train used to run through. The train has since been re-routed and the tracks have been pulled out, making it an interesting destination for a snowshoe (winter) or hike (summer). The tunnels are technically on railroad property, but I didn’t see any “no trespassing” signs, and my friends have visited dozens of times over the years. Just be warned! They’re pretty easy to get to – we parked at the pull out a few hundred yards below the Donner Summit Scenic View Area (on your left when you’re heading up hill). Even in the winter, there was parking for at least 10 cars, but it is a popular sledding area and can get full.

view
View from Donner Summit

Most of our group had snowshoes and poles – it gets icy in the tunnel so you’ll want something with grip. Greyson just wore hiking boots and carried poles and made it pretty well, but I wouldn’t recommend this to people not used to hiking on ice. It was warm for February when we headed up; it was in the 50’s and sunny, but the tunnels are at least 20 degrees colder inside. I appreciated by soft shell and gloves on the return trip. We all brought headlamps and flashlights, but didn’t need to use them. There’s enough light in the tunnel to see fairly well during the day.

It’s pretty straight forward once you’ve gotten out of the car – put on your snowshoes and head up towards the very obvious train tunnels. It’s a pretty steep climb, but the only hard part of the whole hike.

01 heading toward tunnels
Heading into the tunnels.

Since there’s not a lot of scenery inside of the tunnels, the natural ice sculptures and human made graffiti are the attractions.

graffiti 1

greyson ice sculpture

I was really surprised by how much light made it into the tunnels! There are some sections with windows cut into the concrete, and sunlight travels far from the openings. I was expecting the whole inside to be concrete, and loved that many of the tunnel walls were simply exposed granite that the tunnel had been cut through.

kelly in tunnels

Along the way, there are several spots where you can pop out of the tunnels and enjoy the view.

pano view

group shot
Myself, Reyna, and Kelly pose outside the tunnels, overlooking Donner Lake.

opening

The entrance back into the tunnels looks more foreboding than it actually is. After less than a mile of hiking (which is slow going on all the ice), you’ll get to the end of the accessible tunnels. We hiked around on the snow some, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, before heading back towards the cars.

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We hiked back the same way we came, through the tunnels, but we did see other groups snowshoeing along the outside. I imagine it would depend on snow levels if there is enough room on the outside to do that. Of our group of five, Greyson was the only person who had been to the train tunnels before, and we all had a great time. To be honest, Greyson had suggested doing this snowshoe or hike a couple of times before, but I didn’t really have much interest. In my head, it was just going to be a cold, slippery walk in the dark where I couldn’t see anything. It definitely was not on my Tahoe bucket list. I’m happy to report that I was totally wrong! While not exactly strenuous, action packed or filled with “best of” views, this hike is totally unique and worth doing!

Happy Groundhog’s Day

While Punxatawney Phil did not see his shadow, and that should mean that spring is coming soon. Well, I hope that Phil is wrong and we still have a couple of months of winter left to go. The Sierra snowpack still needs it! This is the most snow we’ve seen on the mountains in several years, and I think I forgot how truly gorgeous it is.

The light was beautiful, so I drove up to the Donner Lake lookout after work and took a few pictures on my Iphone.

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Trestle Peak and the old train tunnels
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Grouse Peak. There’s some fun bouldering up there!
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Donner Lake from Above
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Looking up towards the scenic view point. You can barely make out the Old 40 Stone bridge in this picture.
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Looking up at Donner Peak from the Donner Canyon Trailhead.
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Donner Scenic View Point Panorama

I hope that these scenes only get snowier for the next few months, and stay snowy until June!

Happy New Year + a Winter Bucket List

Happy 2016 everyone! I thought 2015 was pretty great, but I’m looking forward to the new year with my eye on a few goals. I made a Fall Bucket List, but between sickness and business, I didn’t check off too many. Now that the snow has begun to fall (already more than fell ALL of last winter), I have some goals and experiences for my Winter Bucket List.

winter bucket list tahoe fabulous

Join a Gym and Start Swimming: So, I didn’t join a gym, despite it being a goal for the fall. With winter’s early darkness, cold temperatures, and icy trails, it’s definitely time for me to join a gym. I’m going to go along with all of the other January Joiners and start working out after work. Relatedly, I’m going to find a public pool for lap swimming. My trip to Indonesia is coming up (in March!), and I want to be in good swimming shape by then.

Try Out New Winter Activities: I’ve gotten decent at snowboarding over the last five winters, but there are a ton of winter and snow sports I’ve never tried or only done once. Some ideas: cross country skiing, snowshoeing (I actually tried this one last week), fat biking, downhill skiing, ice skating, skijoring, etc.

riding at northstar

Snowboard Twice as Much as Last Year: This should be easy – since I was mountain biking at 7,000 feet in February last year.

Take an Avalanche Safety Course: I want to get into backcountry snowboarding, and step one is learning how to stay safe. There are a bunch of avalanche safety courses in the Tahoe area. I just need to pick one and go.

backcountry skiing mammoth
Photo by Greyson Howard

Try Backcountry Snowboarding: After I get educated, I’ll be ready to try backcountry snowboarding! I’ll hopefully be able to borrow most of the gear I need, before I invest a ton of money. I’ve already got a snowboard and snowshoes, so I’m partway there! There’s a ton of great backcountry riding in Tahoe, and I’m excited to start to experience it.

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Try Out New Resorts: The last few years, I’ve had a Vail pass that let me ride at Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood. This year my pass is at Sugar Bowl, and comes with a few tickets at Squaw/Alpine Meadows. I’ll hopefully be able to ride with friends at a few new resorts this year – Diamond Peak, Mt. Rose and Homewood.

Snowshoeing in Cold Stream Canyon

Like I said before this is my sixth winter in Tahoe, but somehow I’d never been snowshoeing. Since our Sugar Bowl passes are blacked out for the holidays, we couldn’t go snowboarding/skiing at the resort, and we decided to try something different. I decided it was finally time to try snowshoeing.

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Greyson got out his backcountry set up and lent me his snowshoes, and we headed to the nearby Cold Stream Canyon. This is a popular area with lots of snowshoers, cross country skiers, sledders, and people accessing backcountry skiing and riding. We were able to park pretty close to the gate and started the walk in.

Cold Stream Canyon Trail

I was worried that snowshoeing would be pretty miserable, slogging through the snow in an inefficient manner (these pre-conceived notions were the main reason I had never tried it before), but I was surprised by how easy it was. We started off on a very packed down fire road, which made things easier. I had a difficult time adjusting to using the poles – I ended up just carrying the poles on the hard packed sections, and only using them when we got to the untracked sections and steep downhills for balance.

Cold Stream Canyon Profile

The Cold Stream Canyon trail started with an ~180 foot climb over 0.4 miles, the only significant climb of the whole trail. It wasn’t too hard, but I worked up enough of a sweat to strip to my capilene base layer which was perfect for the rest of the hike.

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It was a gorgeous day, and the views were beautiful, snow sparkling on the trees and clear views to the peaks in the west. The temperature was around 33 degrees, perfect in the sunshine! We walked on the frozen pond, which has been restored from a polluted gravel mining remnant, and parallel to it before reconnecting with the main fire road and heading back to the parking lot. (Cool side note – if you continue on the main Cold Stream Road, which is not drivable in the winter, you’ll reach The Lost Trail Lodge, a backcountry lodge. You can rent it and stay there, winter or summer. I’ve never been there, but it’s on my bucket list!)

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While the parking area had seemed full, we only ran into a half dozen or so people and a few dogs on the trail. We made it nearly back to the parking area before we got to any sort of a downhill. Greyson stopped to remove his skins and set up for the (.4 mile, 180 foot downhill) while I trekked on on the snowshoes. This area was definitely more well trafficked, and the snow was packed down and a little icy. I found myself using the poles a lot for stability on the downhill.

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Before I knew it, Greyson came whooshing by me, and we were back at the gate. It was a perfect introduction to snowshoeing – great weather, gorgeous scenery, hard enough to feel like I was working but not miserable. I doubt that snowshoeing is something I’ll get really into, but it’s definitely a fun way to get into the backcountry.

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P.S. Greyson got me this amazing shirt for Christmas. I wore it today on our adventure, even though I was on snowshoes instead of a bike.

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How to Get There: Cold Stream Canyon is just a couple of miles from downtown Truckee. From downtown Truckee, head west on Donner Pass Rd for ~2 miles. Turn left at the four way stop on to Cold Stream Rd and park near the gate. Note: you can park further up the road if the gate is open, but the gate might be closed and locked by the property owners. I don’t think it’s worth the risk and park outside.