Slopes are opening and lifts are cranking up at ski areas all over. But if you're looking for variety, a broad selection of things to see and do when you've taken your skis off, consider the Lake Tahoe area.
First, you'll need to decide where you want to ski. The regional resorts' cooperative guide, Ski Lake Tahoe has links to Alpine Meadows, Heavenly, Kirkwood, Mount Rose-Ski Tahoe, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe, and Squaw Valley, in business since 1949 and home of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games. Before you surf to the resorts' individual Web sites, click on "Tahoe Interactive" for videos, snow conditions and resort specials.
There's a lot to choose from among the ski areas, and unless you know them from experience or reputation you'll want to check each resort's trail maps, and some of them also have photo galleries and mountain Web cams. Heavenly has 95 trails, with a vertical rise of 3,500 feet; Kirkwood advertises more than 65 trails, with the longest 2.5 miles long; and Northstar boasts 83 trails with 17 lifts. And in addition to the specials at Ski Lake Tahoe Web site, some of the resort sites advertise their own specials.
The mountainsides don't provide the area's only outdoor entertainment. That's a big lake, visible from some ski slopes, and even in the winter Lake Tahoe Cruises offers sightseeing cruises and "apres ski cruises." Their pride and joy, the Tahoe Queen paddlewheeler, is scheduled for ski shuttle duty to Northstar and Squaw Valley beginning in January.
Next, it's time to think of dry land, non-skiing entertainment.
Consult ToTahoeNorth for places to see and be seen around the northern end of the lake including restaurants, galleries, casinos and shows. To get an idea of what's where, click on "Neighborhoods" for overviews of Carnelian Bay, Crystal Bay, Incline Village, Kings Beach, Tahoe Vista and West Shore. That page also has a box on the lower-left with data on transportation and a road map. Then go back to the top of the page and hit "Events + Activities" to learn about gaming, entertainment including family shows and concerts, plus restaurants and shopping.
Among the entries in the TahoeNorth Gaming directory, look for the Cal Neva Lodge & Casino the lakeshore spot once owned by Frank Sinatra.
Have a fast Internet connection? Take in some of the scenery around the southern end of the lake by going to the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and clicking on "Area Web Cams" for a set of panoramic views, plus ski run Web cams. Click on "What to Do" for links to the half-dozen casinos at this side of Tahoe. And look for "Entertainment" to get to the "Headline Entertainment" calendar; Liza Minnelli is due at Harrah's Lake Tahoe on Jan. 19. You could also save some time for outdoors sightseeing; click on "America's Most Beautiful Drive" for a brochure on the road circling Lake Tahoe, and look under "Attractions" for tours and lake cruises, including the Tahoe Queen.
Reno-Tahoe has more information on the lake's attractions and places to stay plus a flashy little video. In addition to the area around the lake, this Web site will help you find hotels and casinos in Reno, and the "Plan your Trip" section has transportation info including winter road conditions and links to airlines that serve Reno-Tahoe International Airport.