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The New Tahoe Ritz-Carlton: It's Like the Ahwahnee's Hip Younger Brother

 

Some ski towns are about glitz, and some are simply about snow. Tahoe has always been one of the latter. Let Aspen have its Chanel stores—in Tahoe you get a ski condo, bluebird skies and après beers. But a little luxury never hurt anyone, especially not an aching and hungry skier. And with the December arrival to the Northstar-at-Tahoe slopes of the Ritz-Carlton Highlands —including a new restaurant by Jardinière’s Traci Des Jardins nestled within—you now have the choice of doing Tahoe like a real adult.

This isn’t your average Ritz-Carlton. It’s more like the Ahwahnee’s hip younger brother. Its soaring octagonal lobby showcases a 55-foot-tall granite fireplace, surrounded by cozy seating areas of jewel-colored couches and chairs. There are fireplaces in all the rooms, too, along with long, deep soaking tubs; dreamy, goose-down-outfitted beds; and a dozen other comforts.

Best of all, the hotel is ski-in, ski-out, so you can skip the rental and ticket lines and instead deal with the quiet, uncrowded mountain concierge located in the Ritz, then walk out to the deck and hop straight onto the slopes of Northstar.

The Village-at-Northstar’s quaint ice rink (left); the Ritz-Carlton Highlands’ heated pool (right)

There’s also, of course, a spa to treat your sore muscles and chapped skin, where, after a signature massage or facial, the perfectly humidified steam room fragranced with pine will clear your head. But perhaps your greatest post-exercise reward will be Manzanita, Des Jardins’ on-site restaurant. A drink in its brightly backlit bar sets the comfy-sleek tone for dinner. Most weekends this winter, Des Jardins will be visible in the open kitchen, directing a dozen chefs preparing slightly heartier versions of her Cal-French food. Start with her famous warm bread salad with baby artichokes and crescenza cheese, then move on to entrées such as braised short ribs with horseradish potato puree. Choosing between butternut squash soufflé and chocolate lava cake for dessert is the kind of dilemma that makes you feel your life is somehow on the right track.

Manzanita also serves breakfast, lunch and an all-day bar menu. But since you’ll be here all weekend, you may want to leave the property for a spell. If so, simply walk out another door onto a new gondola that takes you straight down into the Village-at-Northstar, where the recently opened Baxter’s offers its own après scene, occasional live jazz and seasonal NorCal plates. The housemade strozzapreti with lamb sugo rivals any pasta on Perbacco’s menu, or you can get gamey with a hunter’s plate of venison, boar, quail, spaetzle and winter vegetables.

On your way back to the gondola, stop by the world’s quaintest ice rink, sink into one of the couches around the outdoor firepits, order a round of hot toddies and a s’mores kit, and tell yourself that Monday isn’t really just around the corner.