There’s nothing like a getaway to Tahoe – the sunshine, fresh air, mountains and the lake make it a top destination for conscious travelers.
A quick three hour drive from San Francisco or ninety minutes from the Reno, Nevada airport, this jewel of the Sierra Nevadas offers something for travelers of all ages. If you’ve always wanted to visit, consider this your informal guide to some of the coziest eco-chic lodging, tasty conscious eats and fun ways to hit the slopes, sustainably. What to pack? Warm, light layers that can be peeled off when temperatures rise, a yoga mat and your favorite shades to soak in the best thing California has to offer – over 300 days a year of sunny blue skies.
[Photo: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows]
Here’s what not to miss when you get there:
A visit to Tahoe would be incomplete without witnessing the marvel of its main attraction, one of the largest and deepest freshwater lakes in North America. Resting deep in the Sierra Nevadas between the California and Nevada borders, Lake Tahoe has a surface elevation of 6,225 feet, nearly 2,000 feet in depth and over 122,160,280 acre feet, making it the largest Alpine lake in North America and second deepest in the United States – only sixth behind the five Great Lakes. More than 75% of the lake’s watershed is national forest land.
Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay, in all its majesty.
Equally awe-inspiring is the fact that modern Lake Tahoe was shaped and landscaped during the Ice Ages by scouring glaciers – two million years ago. Its name derived from the Washoe tribe of Native Americans who previously inhabited the area, calling it “dá’aw,” or “The Lake”.
Given the clarity and vastness of the lake and its idyllic location amid panoramic white-tipped mountains, adventure seekers travel to Tahoe year-round for every outdoor sport imaginable: hiking, canoeing, surfing (yes, there are waves!) and of course skiing and snowboarding. To keep this natural gem beautiful despite near nonstop activity, environmental conservation is paramount. Lucky for conscious travelers, there are tons of great ways to visit this magical destination with a light carbon footprint that won’t upset the Lake’s natural ecosystem.
Lake Tahoe’s South shore is a popular tourist lure due to its ubiquitous casinos and heavy party scene, but if you’re looking for a quieter, nature-centered getaway head straight to the North Shore. Just over the area’s Donner Pass (named for the infamous Donner Party) off Interstate 80, you’ll find a perfect location to set up camp: the Cedar House Sport Hotel, nestled in the quaint old town of Truckee. Only fifteen minutes’ drive from several major ski resorts and surrounded by acres of national forest and hiking trails, it stands out from other Tahoe hotels for its relaxed eco-luxurious vibe. Reforested cedar beams glow brightly both inside and outside the hotel, emanating a Western mountain style warmth that resonates throughout every corner of this meticulously designed property.
Entrance to the Cedar House Sport hotel, aptly named for the cedar exterior siding and logs derived from Moonshine Reforestation’s locally milled re-forestation project. [Photo: Cedar House Sport Hotel]
[Photo: Bianca Alexander]
The Eco-friendly Cedar House Sport Hotel’s deluxe rooms and suites feature an eclectic mix of functionality and contemporary design – with an organic edge. [Photo: Cedar House Sport Hotel]
[Photo: Bianca Alexander]
[Photo: Bianca Alexander]
Passionate outdoor enthusiasts and owners Jeff and Patty Baird built the family-owned hotel in 2006 in accordance with eco-efficient LEED guidelines using unrefined recycled materials and a plush green roof. With a mission of “creating harmony to inspire authentic and positive connections to the natural world and one another”, this dog-friendly destination boasts numerous amenities, like comfy pillow top mattresses, combed Egyptian cotton robes, an outdoor hot tub and a car charging station for electric travelers. Enjoy a hearty meal before or after hitting the slopes at their pop-up restaurant and event space Stella, where the Cedar House hosts adventure retreats, custom weddings and a robust breakfast buffet.
Just down the street, take a stroll through the historic streets of Truckee. There, you’ll find kitschy boutiques and some of the best dining in the area, which includes dozens of vegan, gluten-free and healthy options for conscious omnivores.
[Truckee Photos: Michael Alexander]
For the past four years, climate change has ravaged California with drought, devastating countless Lake Tahoe ski resorts. This year, El Niño continues to dump snow long and hard, inspiring shredders from across the country to line up day and night for cracks at fresh powder.
First tracks on fresh “corduroy” at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. [Photo: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows]
When hitting the slopes in Tahoe, do your part to combat climate change and visit one of the area’s numerous eco-friendly ski resorts, like the massive Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, great for advanced skiiers and families, or Boreal Mountain, a local hot spot ideal for snowboarders, beginners and shorter day trips.
SQUAW VALLEY ALPINE MEADOWS
Up at Squaw Valley, you’ll quickly notice numerous environmental efforts in place like resort-wide recycling, composting, energy efficiency and electric car charging stations, not to mention a great respect for protecting local animal species and their habitats. Situated on the North end of the lake near Truckee and home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley recently merged with local favorite Alpine Meadows to create the area’s first mega resort – and was just voted best ski resort in North America. The resort hosts over 6000 acres of skiable terrain, including 270 trails, 42 lifts, and a whopping 450 inches of annual snowfall. While you’re there, take a ride on the Aerial Tram – like a large elevator in the sky – perfect for up close and personal views of ragged cliffs so unique they inspired Walt Disney’s Matterhorn. Up at High Camp, you’ll find some of the best mountain views of the lake, an Olympic ice skating rink, gorgeous green runs for beginners, fluffy powder bowls for the pros, and delicious farm to table cuisine at the Terrace Restaurant.
An interactive gondola outfitted with highlights from Squaw Valley’s Protect Our Winters program. [Photo: Squaw Valley]
As part of its commitment to eliminate single use plastic water bottles, Squaw Valley’s Drink Mountain Tap program saves nearly save 28,000 bottles from landfills each year. The first U.S. ski resort to adopt such a program, in ten years the program will save nearly 300,000 plastic bottles and over eight metric tons of CO2 emissions. [Photo: Michael Alexander]
A scenic ride on Squaw Valley’s Aerial Tram – a 2,000 foot vertical climb to High Camp at 8,200 feet. [Photo: Michael Alexander]
Up on the mountain, we had a fun visit with Squaw Valley’s Risk Management and Environmental Supervisor, Kristyn Lingenfelter. Click here to listen to our interview up high on a gondola, where she shared more insight on Squaw’s far-reaching commitment to sustainability. [Photo: Michael Alexander]
On my way up to High Camp on the Aerial Tram with Kristyn. Though a former pro skiier, she gave me a VIP tour of the mountain – including a lesson on how to snowboard down like a pro. [Photo: Michael Alexander]
Shredding fresh pow over a shimmering lake view at Squaw Valley. [Photo: Squaw Valley]
Enjoying one of the 300 days per year of sunny views in Tahoe overlooking Squaw Valley’s Olympic rings at High Camp. [Photo: Michael Alexander]
EASY BREEZY BOREAL
If you’re looking for a slightly more low-key day on the slopes or prefer skiing at smaller resorts, mellow out at eco-friendly Boreal Mountain Resort, a local favorite. Just a quick 3 hour jaunt from San Francisco, Boreal boasts a lively atmosphere, and on $15 Fridays the price can’t be beat for day-only skiers. In addition to hosting a terrain park great for practicing tricks and jumps, Boreal is a snowboarder’s paradise with dozens of freestyle runs – right off the 80 for easy in and out access. Best of all, as part of Truckee’s Climate Action Plan, Boreal is significantly reducing its carbon footprint by investing in energy efficiency, green building, alternative fuels and waste reduction, which helped it save more than 72 tons of C02 emissions last year alone.
[Photo: Bianca Alexander]
Funky snowboard designs at Boreal Mountain. [Photo: Bianca Alexander]
Fun tricks at Boreal Mountain’s Neff Land Terrain Park. [Photo: Boreal]
If you’re not into skiing or snowboarding, check out other sports like snow tubing or ice skating. Snowshoeing, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing are also quite popular, as well as hiking on some of the areas countless trails.
The best part of a long day on the slopes – Aprés Ski at Squaw Alpine. [Photo: Squaw Alpine]
If you like yoga, you’ll love practicing in the birthplace of the world-famous Wanderlust, the largest music, arts and yoga festival held annually in Lake Tahoe. Practicing at the festival’s namesake studio, Wanderlust Yoga, is as close as you’ll get to the real thing. The studio is nestled at the base of Squaw Alpine with great views of the mountain, the perfect oasis after a long day on the slopes.
To unwind, grab your mat and try a relaxing yoga class with local instructor Kali Cathie. Her mellow hour and a half sunset flow includes meditation, traditional poses supported by blocks to allow for deeper release, and oodles of spiritual wisdom. According to Kali, also a certified hypnotherapist specializing in past-life regressions, the Lake is more than just a place to visit. It’s a mystical, awe-inspiring spiritual portal this natural born Aussie lovingly calls home: “I’ve never seen anything quite like it. With fresh mountain air of 6,200 feet, oxygenated by an infinite number of pine trees and the stunning blue of the expansive skies above, this place is not just special, it’s magical. It speaks in infinitely mystical ways, always cyclical, always changing. In the woods, especially right after a snow fall, the silence is so potent that it is loud. We must stop and be still to listen.”
After gentle hip openers and uplifting poses to stretch out our backs, thighs and hamstrings from tightening runs on the mountain, the class ended with an affirmation and a resounding OM. Just knowing that Wanderlust was birthed in Lake Tahoe is enough of a reason to practice at its namesake studio, but Kali’s inspiring sequence was one of the best I’ve experienced. [Photos: Michael Alexander]
One of the things to love most about Tahoe is the abundance of healthy, conscious eats. Up on the slopes, Squaw Alpine’s Terrace Restaurant not only offers outstanding panoramic views of the mountain, but delicious locally sourced comfort food with plenty of vegan options.
A view from the top at Squaw Alpine’s Terrace Restaurant, which sources its produce sustainably year-round via the Tahoe Food Hub.
Start with a house salad and make your way to the vegan black bean burger with sweet potato chips. Or, take a walk on the wild side with their crispy Portobello fries. Warning: the chili-flaked dipping sauce packs a serious bite – caliente!
Grab a fresh-squeezed juice, an organic salad or made-to-order sando from local healthy hot-spot, New Moon Natural Foods in Truckee, on Donner Pass Road.
However you decide to spend your time in Lake Tahoe, with a sense of adventure and a deep appreciation for the natural surroundings that make it so beautiful, you’re sure to soak up all the good vibes this magical destination has to offer. For more insight on Tahoe’s spiritual energy and wisdom, read contributor Kali Cathie’s blog on the Sacred Wisdom of Mother Nature, inspired by the Lake herself.