Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco
Sebastian Maniscalco continues to build upon arguably the most successful year of his career yet: In 2016 he was named Just For Laughs Stand Up Comedian of the Year, selected
Before I moved back to Nashville, I spent four years in Northern California; during that time, I was a season pass holder to many of the area’s ski resorts, meaning I got to know Lake Tahoe on an intimate level. And while Northstar and Squaw Valley rank up there among the West Coast’s best winter-time spots, I can’t help but choose the laid-back vibe and lack of pretense on the south shore over the glitzier veneer of the north.
Southwest Airlines operates several flights a day from Nashville to Reno with connections in Las Vegas or Denver. From Reno, South Lake Tahoe is 60 miles by car.
For me, it all hinges upon Heavenly Ski Resort. With 98 trails and 4,800 acres, Heavenly is by far one of California’s largest ski resorts, and given the droughts the state has experienced in years past, its groomers and snow makers are also often key to pleasant conditions. And after several seasons off from Tahoe—mainly because there’s not yet a direct flight from here to Reno—I returned to my favorite California resort this past winter for a group trip with friends.
Four of us bunked up in the Aston Lakeland Village, which as the name suggests, has stellar ground-level views of the lake itself. Perhaps “bunked up” is an inaccurate way to describe our three-bedroom, bi-level townhouse of sorts, as it offered more than enough room for our crew and was outfitted with a full kitchen, two bathrooms, and a deck that leads out to a lakefront beach. The only downside is that the 19-acre resort isn’t directly connected to the center of town, from which you take the gondola to the resort—but a free shuttle that came regularly meant that we could easily be there within five minutes.
At the base of the mountain is Heavenly Village, where visitors can rent gear, stock up on necessities, or grab a bite to eat. Those not interested in hitting the slopes on skis can still take the 2.4-mile ride up to the top, stopping midway at the observation platform before continuing on to the lodge at 9,123 feet. (The summit elevation is 10,067 feet.)
Our quartet comprised two skiers, one snowboarder, and a lodge bunny, so we deposited her at the newly remodeled Tamarack Lodge, where she could sip hot chocolate and use the free Wi-Fi while we checked out the mountain. Heavenly straddles the state border; as such, skiers and snowboarders can choose if they want to head for the California side and its unparalleled vistas of the lake on a bluebird day or the Nevada part of the mountain to peek over into the desert region beyond. There’s also Heavenly Tubing Hill, a five-lane, 500-foot-long slope for racing, and three different ropes adventure courses, complete with ziplines, tree bridges, and rappelling.
Come 3 p.m., we were too worn out to stick around for the lodge’s Unbuckle at Tamarack, a rowdy après-party with a DJ, drinks, and dancing every Friday and Saturday, so we headed back down the mountain instead. But what’s a ski trip without a little beer? We made our way to the recently opened Cold Water Brewery, which wowed us with a number of IPA, amber, porter, rye, and wheat beers. We had planned to move on for food, but the brewhouse’s diverse menu of bacon-wrapped dates, spare ribs, and even mussels lured us in, and we wound up sticking around for dinner as well.
We were in Tahoe to ski, sure, but the area surrounding the lake is rife with hiking and other outdoor pursuits like snowmobiling at Zephyr Cove. We took advantage of the balmy, 50-degree weather—not at all uncommon in Lake Tahoe, where recent winters have been very mild—laced up our boots, and hit the trails at Emerald Bay State Park and Cave Rock, both of which offer photo-worthy lookouts over the lake.
On the final night of our group trip, we weren’t feeling pub grub so we settled on a Greek restaurant, Artemis, for a bite. Even better: It’s one of the best places along the south shore to see the sunset, so we arrived early with our cameras in tow. We couldn’t, however, leave town without a visit to Himmel Haus; we nabbed a coveted corner booth and loaded up on steins of pilsner and bingo cards as the packed room got into the game. The chill atmosphere of the German restaurant and bierhaus further epitomized everything I love about South Lake Tahoe: relaxed, unassuming, but always out for a good time.
Photos courtesy Tahoe South, Tom Zikas.