On Friday night, as we sat gridlocked for an hour at the chain control checkpoint on Highway 80 just 15 miles outside of Tahoe, the snow and ice taunting our increasingly useless windshield wipers, we predicted a sad and skiless weekend. But, as we do, we made the most of it. Should you get stuck in Tahoe in a winter storm, find some fun by taking a walk in our (snow)shoes.
If you wake up on a Saturday morning in Truckee and see rain instead of snow, we won't fault you for going back to bed. Let the begin day with happy hour instead—Uncorked (10118 Donner Pass Rd., teloswine.com) serves lovely limited-production wines—and a buzzed impulse buy of Knitty Kitty's sweater knit boy shorts and matching bralettes at Kitsch (10056 Donner Pass Rd., kitschboutique.com). But the otherwise-wasted day's real redemption will come in the form of dinner.
On weekend nights through the end of March, Stella, the restaurant at Truckee's Cedar House Sport Hotel, is hosting themed pop-up dinners for intimate parties of foodies. This past Saturday, we were seated at a long table for a four-course multiethnic feast—including a luscious woodfire-roasted game hen in tikka masala sauce—imagined by guest chef Larry Abney of Tahoe's popular Red Truck. Upcoming dinners will celebrate Nordic fare, fruits of the Latin grill, and Easter in Italy. Reservations are a must, and special requests (ahem, you vegetarians) may be made 48 hours in advance. You can BYOB, but we recommend the creative wine pairings. // $97 per person; Stella at Cedar House Sport Hotel, 10918 Broakway Rd. (Truckee), shop.cedarhousesporthotel.com
(A king bed at Cedar House is dressed with a fitted sheet (no top sheet) and two twin-sized duvets. We think of this as the equivalent of a balloon between two kids at the junior high school dance, but as this blogger points out, the European setup has other questionable uses. Courtesy of Cedar House Sport Hotel)
Spend the Night
You and your date may both partake in wine pairings since there's no driving required: You can crash for the night at the pet-friendly Cedar House Sport Hotel—a 10-year-old modern-minimalist stay that feels like Ikea in the mountains. But, if you have any hope of getting cozy in bed with your S.O. later, call before dinner to request a king duvet: The beds here come sans top sheet and with a duo of twin size duvets that barely cover the mattress' surface—which might be great if you're planning to sleep alone with your dog. The hotel's owner, Patty Baird, is little bit tut tut about how this is très European. Call us American—we like to cuddle.
Sure, you could eat the greasy scrambled eggs and sausage that come complimentary with your stay at Stella, or you could have a real cappuccino and a decent quiche at the Italian-meets-hipster Coffeebar five minutes away in downtown Truckee. This is the perfect spot to pick up sandwiches (we liked the turkey and cream cheese San Remo) for the afternoon snow picnic you'll have later. // Coffeebar, 10120 Jibboom St. (Truckee), coffeebartruckee.com
(The powder-coated woods at Royal Gorge this past weekend)
Where Friday night rains made for glue-like snow and many lift closures come Saturday, a proper overnight dusting delivered a veritable Christmas morning for powder seekers Sunday. But with a winter storm a-brewing, downhill skiers faced low visibility and seriously gusty winds, so we fair-weather skiers headed for Royal Gorge—the largest Nordic ski center in the country—and opted to snowshoe instead. Best. Decision. Ever. A light sprinkling of snow came and went as we gently trekked through the 6,000-acre magical sugar-coated forest that we had practically all to ourselves—even if the famous view from Lyle's Lookout was totally whited out. Eat your sandwiches in the Palisades Peak warming hut. // $28 per day (includes trail pass and rentals); Royal Gorge, 9411 Pahatsi Rd. (Soda Springs), royalgorge.com
After several hours of happily trudging through the snow, you'll be ready for a warming drink. Hop in the car and drive about three miles east on Donner Pass Road. When you see the sign for Village Gondola, pull into the parking lot and grab the gondola for a pretty ride up to the snowbound resort. Once inside, head for the Belt Room Bar, a quintessential après-ski restaurant and lounge. Deschutes craft brews are the drink of choice, but it was bourbon toddies we were craving. Order it with double Bulleitt and half the water...you'll thank us later. But just have one: You have a dark and slippery drive home. // Lodge at Sugar Bowl, 629 Sugar Bowl Rd. (Norden), sugarbowl.com/lodge
What to Wear
When life hands us El Niño, we must make our own sunshine. For snowshoeing, our Ahnu leather hiking boots worked marvelously (as did our SmartWool PhD windproof leggings). But the weekend's real joy came après-snowshoe when we slipped our tootsies into the marshmallowy interior of this year's re-release of the 1970s iconic Moon Boots. Come next year, we may regret not having purchased the more classic black-and-white. But for now, we're making rainbows in a snowstorm, hello. // Rainbow-print Moon Boots ($130), saks.com