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Friday 15 March 2013

Lake Tahoe Snow Weekend

The weather here in the Bay Area is so beautifully warm and sunny at the moment that it feels a little surreal to think that we were in the snow just a few days ago. But sure enough, we were.

This past weekend we finally made it to Lake Tahoe. I can't believe that it's taken us almost a year and a half to get there. The north shore of Lake Tahoe is only a three hour (and a bit) drive from the Bay Area and during the cooler months it truly is a beautiful snow filled Winter wonderland. Apparently in Summer it's just as beautiful. I can't wait to go back in the warmer months and see for myself, but for now let's have a look at our weekend in the snow...

Looking over Lake Donner

We were all pretty excited in the lead up to our trip to the snow, especially Ava. She fondly remembers  her first trip to the snow when she was three and has been so eager for some more snow fun ever since. She hardly slept on Friday night and was up super early Saturday morning rearing to go.

After breakfast and some last minute packing we were in our Zipcar and on our way. Before long we were increasing in altitude as we drove, the outside temperature was dropping and strange white stuff started appearing along the edge of the freeway. Now, I'm sure that to anyone who lives in a part of the world where it snows seeing small patches of snow along the edge of a freeway isn't overly exciting. We, however, (and that includes me, not just the kids) couldn't contain our excitement!

It's starting to look snowy!

Getting snowier

About three hours after we set off we arrived in Truckee where we would spend the night. Truckee is a cute little town a short drive away from the north shore of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding ski fields. We ate lunch, briefly explored the town and then head off to the see the great lake itself.

And what a lake it is! Now, I grew up in a town along the shore of a rather large lake in Australia. The land on the other side of the lake was visible but only just. That lake, in turn was attached to an even larger lake, the other side of which could not be seen. Lake Tahoe, in comparison to these two lakes that I grew up near is relatively small. What struck me as great about Lake Tahoe though was not necessarily the size but rather the surroundings. I'm used to lakes with not much around them. Lake Tahoe is pretty much completely surrounded by mountains. Beautiful snow covered mountains! And that snow wasn't just restricted to the surrounding mountains, it was along the edges of the lake - even on the sandy beaches! Snow on a beach - definitely not something I thought I'd ever see.

Family shot at Lake Tahoe

We spent some time in a park along the waterfront in a town across the state border in Nevada (I'm not exactly sure where we were). The girls threw rocks into the water, splashed about in their rubber boots, "fished" for pinecones with sticks and had loads of fun running around. This was the first time that the girls had been in another America state outside of California and I'd hoped to mark the occasion with a cheesy photo at the "Welcome to Nevada" sign. Unfortunately both girls had drifted off to sleep in the car after lunch and were fast asleep as we reached the border. Not keen to miss the opportunity I posed instead!

Welcome to Nevada

Snow jackets on the beach?

Lola had lots of fun throwing pebbles into the water 

Skipping stones with Daddy
Ava on the rocks

Lola fishes for pinecones with her stick fishing rod

After our afternoon at the beach Ava was keen to show off her ice skating skills at an outdoor skating rink. We headed to Northstar Resort a short drive from Truckee, rented ourselves some skates and we hit the ice - all four of us.  We had a great time skating together. Ava zoomed around and performed tricks while Kim and I held Lola's hands and helped her skate. It was a lot of fun but we were all starting to feel the cold. It's usually fairly cold on the ice at Yerba Buena Skating Center where Ava takes weekly lessons but skating outside in the mountains at night is something completely different. It was freezing - literally! Actually, it was well below freezing to be precise. Let's just say it was cold.

Ice skating family

You can watch Ava skating here on Vine.

To warm up we purchased a s'mores kit from one of the cabana bars by the ice rink and toasted marshmallows in a fire pit by the ice. The s'mores were delicious but by then the cold had gotten the better of Lola who was overly tired and just wanted to snuggle up in a warm bed in a warm hotel room.

Gooey, gooey s'mores

Sunday morning Ava woke up even more excited than she had the day before. This was the day we'd be spending in the snow! After breakfast we packed up and headed off. On our way to nearby Soda Springs Resort we took the scenic route past Lake Donner. If I'd thought that our views over Lake Tahoe had been amazing, I was in for a surprise. Lake Donner is tiny but is just absolutely stunning. A perfect little lake surrounded by pine forest and snowy mountains. We stopped at a vista point high above Lake Donner and took in the views.

Stunning view over Lake Donner

The girls and I above Lake Donner

Kim and the girls above Lake Donner

Ava played in the snow at the vista point

No going up this staircase!

As mentioned above, our chosen snow resort for the day was Soda Springs. I chose Soda Springs due to their kids' facilities. They have a great kids' area called Planet Kids filled with tubing, skiing and snowboarding fun. Unlike most ski resorts where the kids' clubs involve leaving your children with instructors and heading off on your own, Planet Kids at Soda Springs is a place for kids to play in the snow with their parents/family. The area doesn't actually contain any adult sized activities, but our intention for the day had been to let the kids have fun, not to actually go skiing ourselves so it was perfect for us.

The girls started their snow fun with a few rides on the tube carousel - or as I liked to call it "The super lazy way to go tubing". No need to walk up hills, no chance of crashing into other kids, all there was to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.

Ava on the tube carousel

Lola on the tube carousel

Tubing the super lazy way

Around and around in circles

You can see the "lazy way to tube" in action here on Vine.

After a few turns on the tube carousel Ava decided it was time to hit the slope and go tubing properly. Lola was a little scared to begin with but once she was how much fun Ava was having she was pretty keen to have a go herself.

Time for downhill tubing 


Lola brings her tube back up the slope

Not sure what Ava planned to do with all those tubes

New hat?

You can see some of Ava and Lola's tubing fun here, here and here on Vine.

Unfortunately after about thirty minutes of tubing fun Lola was knocked over and split her lip. Ouch. She was getting pretty tired by this stage (it was nap time) so she was quite upset and there were lots of tears. She soon fell asleep, snuggled up in a pile of jackets.

Fast asleep and snuggly warm in the snow

While Lola slept Ava continued with the snow fun. With Kim's help she built a snowman, a must do activity for any trip to the snow.

Ava's snowman

Ava with her snowman

With "build a snowman" crossed off her to do list it was time for Ava to try something new: skiing. The entry ticket for Planet Kids includes ski and snowboard rental. Ava had been super keen to try skiing in the lead up to our trip but once we were actually there she found the idea quite daunting. We managed to convince her that she'd be fine and she set off with Kim to get fitted for skis. Prepared with all her gear - helmet, ski boots and skis - a very nervous Ava jumped on the conveyer belt to the top of the kids' ski slope. It took a few goes for the get the hang of it, but once she did she was off.

My little skier

No ski lifts in Planet Kids!

Ava skis down the slope - while doing a robot dance?

Here comes my little skier

Coming up the conveyer belt for another go

You can see Ava skiing here on Vine.

Lola finally woke up from her long nap in the snow just in time for a few more tube rides down the slope while Ava practised her skiing. Before long it was closing time and time to leave the snow fun behind us and head home. While we waited for the snow mobile sleigh ride back to the car park we squeezed in one more "must do" snow activity - a snowball fight!

Sneaking up on Daddy with a snowball

This one's aimed at me

Snowball fight!

"I love it!" says Lola

Our day in the snow was over and our long journey home began. I say "long" because even though it was only a three hour drive there it was over a four and a half hour drive on the way home due to heavy traffic and an accident. We stopped to let the girls stretch their legs along the way at Emigrant Gap, a vista point offering yet more stunning views of the mountainous landscape.

Ava and Lola at Emigrant Gap

Now back home our snow clothes have been packed away, but hopefully not for too long. Now that we've been to Lake Tahoe and had our fun in the snow we're all eager to go back. With the snowfields being such a short drive away I'm keen to make this a yearly trip. What an amazing experience for the girls that would be!

Family of snow jackets

 Oh, but next time I won't forget the sunscreen. Oops.

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