Deep in the Sierra Nevadas, where California’s eastern border bends north, lies a massive, crystal-blue liquid sapphire known as Lake Tahoe. Guarded by dozens of mountains, it’s the largest Alpine lake in North America, and second largest in the world. The lake’s beauty alone is stunning, but whenyou consider the sculpted granite peaks and lush evergreen forests that surround it, you have an area that’squite possibly the most picturesque in the world. Now imagine taking all this in from a chairlift under sunny,blue skies en route to a waist-deep powder run-that’s the real beauty of Lake Tahoe.

Snowboarding’s roots run deep in Tahoe’s mountains. Early board designers like Tom Sims and Chris Sanders honed their craft onTahoe’s slopes in the 70s, and in the early 80s, a natural halfpipe at a garbage dump in Tahoe City was thesite of some of the first-known piperiding. Tahoe freestylers like Terry Kidwell played an enormous role inthe early development of the halfpipe movement. In 1983, one of the first snowboarding contests was heldnear Donner Lake at a little ski hill called Soda Springs. Many area contests followed, and Tahoe quicklybecame snowboarding’s West Coast hub.

Snowboarders around the world saw photos of Day-Glo-clad riders cranking deep powder turns, charging huge cliff drops, and handplanting halfpipes as magazines and videos turned Tahoe into a mandatory snowboard destination. And with good reason-nowhere else in theworld can match Tahoe’s combination of snow (300 inches a year on average) and sun (250 sunny days ayear on average). And on those blue powder days, there’s no shortage of places to ride. The Lake Tahoearea boasts the highest concentration of resorts anywhere outside Europe. Lining the 22-mile-long,twelve-mile-wide lake are over a dozen lift-serviced snowboard areas, and enough backcountry bounty tolast a lifetime.

From the fear-provoking steeps at Squaw to the mellow tree exploring at Sierra-at-Tahoe to aday hike up Mt. Tallac, Tahoe is to snowboarding what a spice rack is to a chef-everything you’d want rightin arm’s reach. There’s a resort in Tahoe to match whatever mood you happen to be in. Let’s say you’re inthe North Lake area-maybe you drove in late from San Francisco and spent the night in Truckee. Afterbreakfast in a building that’s probably older than your great grandfather, you decide it’s time to ride. Chancesare, Truckee’s historic downtown put you in an Old West sort of mood, so it’s only appropriate to headwest on Highway 80 to the sweetly preserved slopes of Sugar Bowl. So often, we only find our historybehind glass in a museum. Even snow resorts fall prey as shiny, new super-lodges fill the space wherecharacter used to be.

But not at Sugar Bowl. Even amidst its expansions and modernization, this old resortretains an authentic feel. Sugar Bowl opened for business back in 1939 with a lift up Mt. Disney (yep, that’sright-named after Walt Disney, who owned the resort at the time), Northern California’s first chairlift, in fact.For the full experience at Sugar Bowl, park at Village Gondola Parking and take the gondola up to theresort. The old wooden gondola station makes you feel like you’re setting off on the Pirates of the Caribbeanride at Disneyland rather than heading up to make some turns. Once you start exploring the mountain, twothings become clear: Sugar Bowl gets a lot of snow (sometimes noticeably more than the other area resorts),and it’s got some wicked chutes. Fuller’s Folly or directly below at The Sisters are good places to get theadrenaline pumping. And if the snow’s deep enough to open them, The Palisades may be the steepest stuffyou’ve ever ridden. There are three peaks at Sugar Bowl-Judah, Lincoln, and Disney. The latter two holdmost of the best steeps on the resort, which aren’t very hard to find. More likely, you’ll be looking for a wayaround them until you’ve worked your courage up. However, with all the fluffy, deep landings and runouts,Sugar Bowl is a greaplace to step up your riding. If you can, hit it on a Wednesday for two-for-one lifttickets-now that’s a good old-fashioned bargain.

After a day or two at Sugar Bowl, maybe it’s time to brush your teeth and explore the resorts to the south, on Lake Tahoe’s west shore. As you cruise down Highway 89, guided by the Truckee River and massive ponderosa pines, a giant bowl of fire grabs your attention.Under the blaze, along with rings, banners, and emblems, are the words, “Squaw Valley-Host of the 1960Winter Olympics.” Squaw Valley … hmmm, does that ring a bell? Loved and hated, intimidating and enticing,most every snowboarder is familiar with Squaw Valley. And rightly so-with 4,000 acres of terrain spanningsix peaks, including some of the steepest resort riding in the world, Squaw Valley is the flagship of Tahoeresorts and the proving ground for many up-and-coming riders. Squaw Valley continues to capitalize on thehype generated that cold February in 1960; Olympic rings and memorabilia are common sights at the resort.

Today, Squaw Valley is a mega-resort, with 30 lifts, a tram, a gondola, and most recently a new swimmingpool/bungee-jumping/indoor-climbing/ice-skating facility located midway up the mountain. Lift tickets atSquaw are among the spendiest in Tahoe, but it’s hard to put a price on what this area offers. There are linesoff KT-22, Emigrant Peak, Granite Chief, and Squaw Peak that put off even veteran riders. Up at thePalisades (yes, there are areas called the Palisades at both Sugar Bowl and Squaw Valley), a notorious cliffband below Squaw Peak, there is often a cornice of Alaskan proportions. True to the talent that rides atSquaw, a brave few will launch it after a dump. The line for first chair at KT-22 on a powder day is full ofriders who live for big cliff drops. One-upping didn’t start at Squaw, but it sure thrives there. Because somany good riders call it home, Squaw Valley can get tracked up quickly, but with so many facets to exploreat this massive resort, it’s hard to have a bad day, fresh powder or not. There’s a lot more to Tahoe thanSquaw Valley, though, so let’s head fifteen minutes south to Alpine Meadows and see what’s happening.

Once the management got a clue and Alpine Meadows allowed snowboarders to grace its slopes, it didn’ttake long for riders to confirm their suspicions about the resort: loads of awesome terrain. Alpine is lessrocky than Squaw, and the vibe is less corporate. Grab a pizza bagel from the bakery truck in the parkinglot and hop on the high-speed six-pack. At the top, you’ve got your choice: head boarder’s left out to thesteep, open bowls of Beaver and Estelle, or cruise right on the High Traverse to Sherwood for somenarrower chute riding. It really doesn’t matter which you choose, in the end you won’t be able to resist doingboth. And don’t miss Alpine Meadow’s back bowls. Topped by an endless lineup of cornices and ramps,and skirted by top-notch tree glades, there are dozens of great lines to notch back there. If you like cliffs,natural hits, bowls, long tree runs, groomers, or hiking to untouched snow, Alpine has you covered. And iffreestyle is your thing the park’s pretty good, but the halfpipe, shaped by the resort’s new Scorpion, isexcellent and well worth your time. So maybe you’ve had a few fun days at Alpine and Squaw and feel likeriding somewhere smaller, more intimate, more local. Twenty minutes south of Alpine Meadows, belowTahoe City, lies just the spot you’re looking for. Rising up from the blue waters of McKinney Bay isHomewood.

The resort is perfectly named-the place makes you feel right at home. And as for wood, thetree runs at Homewood are some of the best in Tahoe. With cheap lift tickets, cheap food, and all kinds offun terrain, Homewood is just the place for the budget rider. A relatively small amount of lifts-one quad, twotriples, and a double chair-provide access to a huge amount of terrain and some incredible views of the lake.Whether you hike out to Quail Face for some steeper powder or do laps on the trees up from the lodge,you’re bound to discover some really fun lines. And since it sits on edge of the lake, Homewood gives youthe strange feeling that you could ride right down into the water. It was a great day at Homewood, but youkeep remembering what that guy you met on the lift said: “I put ten bucks down on seventeen red andwalked away with enough to come back out next week.” It’s time to make the beautiful lakeside drive pastEmerald Bay to the different world known as South Lake Tahoe. State line is the hub of the South LakeTahoe scene, with Highway 50 west and east, the Kingsbury Grade, and the Pioneer Trail all convergingthere. On the Nevada side lies the never-sleeping “casino district,” where a day of riding can be topped offwith a night of gambling or a show at Harvey’s, Harrah’s, or any one of the hotel-casinos that light up thesouth shore of Lake Tahoe. But don’t spend all your money, because the three South Lake resorts are nogamble, and each one is worth checking out.

A quick shuttle ride from the hotels in South Lake brings you to Heavenly Valley. Although Squaw gets most of the media attention, Heavenly is not only the largest resort in Tahoe, but also the largest in North America, boasting Tahoe’s highest summit (10,040 feet) to boot!Heavenly’s 31 lifts and one tram provide access to a 4,800-acre expanse with 3,600 feet of vertical drop.Consisting of nine separate peaks and 81 trails, Heavenly lies in both California and Nevada. Amidst thesepeaks are three base lodges and a several day lodges at higher elevations, which makes the place feel a littlelike the Alps, with better weather. Heavenly is famous for its well-laid corduroy, and long,perfectly-groomed runs await the carver’s edge. The Ridge Run or the California Trail have plenty ofrail-burying potential. Freeriders are just as happy at Heavenly, if they know where to go. The area belowSkyline Trail is a playground of small trees, wind contours, and little rock launches. The Mott Canyon andKillbrew Canyon sections of the resort have the best steeps and are definitely the call on powder days.There seems to be a higher percentage of skiers at Heavenly than at the other Tahoe resorts, and since theytend to stay on the marked runs, good powder stashes can be found days after a storm with a littleexploration, but getting around the mountain can take some time, so plan on spending a couple of days toreally get a sense of the place.

There’s another resort nearby, though, that you can easily cover in a day. Thiscan be a good thing, allowing you to ride the entire mountain, decide on the area you like best, and thenreally get to know it. Just follow scenic Highway 50 west to the peaks of Sierra-at-Tahoe. AlthoughHighway 50 has had more than its share of problems over the last couple years, Sierra-at-Tahoe is theclosest resort if you’re coming from San Francisco or Sacramento. Sierra’s one of those places where there’smore than meets the eye. Looking up from the base lodge, it’s hard to miss the halfpipe or the treeridingpotential in all directions, but once you head up on one of the express quads, the mountain unfolds likeorigami. A handful of lifts serve up 2,000 acres of densely forested terrain with a total vertical drop of 2,212feet. If you head boarder’s right off the top of Huckleberry Mountain, a rolling traverse leads you to some ofSierra’s best tree stashes. Sierra-at-Tahoe’s terrain is mellower than Squaw or Sugar Bowl, but then so arethe people. Sierra’s staff is one of the friendliest you’ll find anywhere, making it easy to feel right at homesipping a microbrew on the sun deck that overlooks the halfpipe. Sierra also has some unique and innovativeprograms for families, like its Flexible Ticketing, which allows parents to purchase only one lift ticket so theycan take turns riding and watching young children. Sierra-at-Tahoe’s smaller feel is a nice alternative toHeavenly, but if you’re lookinil Face for some steeper powder or do laps on the trees up from the lodge,you’re bound to discover some really fun lines. And since it sits on edge of the lake, Homewood gives youthe strange feeling that you could ride right down into the water. It was a great day at Homewood, but youkeep remembering what that guy you met on the lift said: “I put ten bucks down on seventeen red andwalked away with enough to come back out next week.” It’s time to make the beautiful lakeside drive pastEmerald Bay to the different world known as South Lake Tahoe. State line is the hub of the South LakeTahoe scene, with Highway 50 west and east, the Kingsbury Grade, and the Pioneer Trail all convergingthere. On the Nevada side lies the never-sleeping “casino district,” where a day of riding can be topped offwith a night of gambling or a show at Harvey’s, Harrah’s, or any one of the hotel-casinos that light up thesouth shore of Lake Tahoe. But don’t spend all your money, because the three South Lake resorts are nogamble, and each one is worth checking out.

A quick shuttle ride from the hotels in South Lake brings you to Heavenly Valley. Although Squaw gets most of the media attention, Heavenly is not only the largest resort in Tahoe, but also the largest in North America, boasting Tahoe’s highest summit (10,040 feet) to boot!Heavenly’s 31 lifts and one tram provide access to a 4,800-acre expanse with 3,600 feet of vertical drop.Consisting of nine separate peaks and 81 trails, Heavenly lies in both California and Nevada. Amidst thesepeaks are three base lodges and a several day lodges at higher elevations, which makes the place feel a littlelike the Alps, with better weather. Heavenly is famous for its well-laid corduroy, and long,perfectly-groomed runs await the carver’s edge. The Ridge Run or the California Trail have plenty ofrail-burying potential. Freeriders are just as happy at Heavenly, if they know where to go. The area belowSkyline Trail is a playground of small trees, wind contours, and little rock launches. The Mott Canyon andKillbrew Canyon sections of the resort have the best steeps and are definitely the call on powder days.There seems to be a higher percentage of skiers at Heavenly than at the other Tahoe resorts, and since theytend to stay on the marked runs, good powder stashes can be found days after a storm with a littleexploration, but getting around the mountain can take some time, so plan on spending a couple of days toreally get a sense of the place.

There’s another resort nearby, though, that you can easily cover in a day. Thiscan be a good thing, allowing you to ride the entire mountain, decide on the area you like best, and thenreally get to know it. Just follow scenic Highway 50 west to the peaks of Sierra-at-Tahoe. AlthoughHighway 50 has had more than its share of problems over the last couple years, Sierra-at-Tahoe is theclosest resort if you’re coming from San Francisco or Sacramento. Sierra’s one of those places where there’smore than meets the eye. Looking up from the base lodge, it’s hard to miss the halfpipe or the treeridingpotential in all directions, but once you head up on one of the express quads, the mountain unfolds likeorigami. A handful of lifts serve up 2,000 acres of densely forested terrain with a total vertical drop of 2,212feet. If you head boarder’s right off the top of Huckleberry Mountain, a rolling traverse leads you to some ofSierra’s best tree stashes. Sierra-at-Tahoe’s terrain is mellower than Squaw or Sugar Bowl, but then so arethe people. Sierra’s staff is one of the friendliest you’ll find anywhere, making it easy to feel right at homesipping a microbrew on the sun deck that overlooks the halfpipe. Sierra also has some unique and innovativeprograms for families, like its Flexible Ticketing, which allows parents to purchase only one lift ticket so theycan take turns riding and watching young children. Sierra-at-Tahoe’s smaller feel is a nice alternative toHeavenly, but if you’re looking for somewhere further removed from the crowds of South Lake, a trip downto Kirkwood should do the trick. Kirkwood is off the beaten path a bit, and as a result it possesses a moreisolated, adventurous atmosphere. Yet it has all the ingredients of a great Tahoe resort-steeps, cliff drops,bowls, good tree runs, plenty of epic hikable terrain, morning corduroy-with the added benefit of fewerpeople on powder days. With the highest base elevation of any area resort, Kirkwood is also home to someof the driest and deepest Sierra powder. Big money is being poured into Kirkwood right now to bolster itsappeal as a destination resort, so you can expect plenty of added amenities in the near future. ButKirkwood’s real allure is the freeriding-cornice to bowl to glade to groomer all in one run, this is the place tohone your abilities. All good things must come to an end some time, and perhaps it’s time to head home. Butyou must come back soon.

You’ve yet to experience Northstar, Mt. Rose, Diamond Peak, Donner Ski Ranch, Soda Springs, Tahoe-Donner, and Boreal-seven more reasons why Tahoe can’t be touched for abundance and variety. These resorts each have a unique character and charm and shouldn’t be overlooked.Of Lake Tahoe, Mark Twain once wrote, “A noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feetabove the level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snow clad mountain peaks … as it lay there with theshadows of the mountains photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the fairest picturethe whole earth affords.” We can only imagine what he would’ve penned had he been snowboarding on asunny Tahoe powder day.oking for somewhere further removed from the crowds of South Lake, a trip downto Kirkwood should do the trick. Kirkwood is off the beaten path a bit, and as a result it possesses a moreisolated, adventurous atmosphere. Yet it has all the ingredients of a great Tahoe resort-steeps, cliff drops,bowls, good tree runs, plenty of epic hikable terrain, morning corduroy-with the added benefit of fewerpeople on powder days. With the highest base elevation of any area resort, Kirkwood is also home to someof the driest and deepest Sierra powder. Big money is being poured into Kirkwood right now to bolster itsappeal as a destination resort, so you can expect plenty of added amenities in the near future. ButKirkwood’s real allure is the freeriding-cornice to bowl to glade to groomer all in one run, this is the place tohone your abilities. All good things must come to an end some time, and perhaps it’s time to head home. Butyou must come back soon.

You’ve yet to experience Northstar, Mt. Rose, Diamond Peak, Donner Ski Ranch, Soda Springs, Tahoe-Donner, and Boreal-seven more reasons why Tahoe can’t be touched for abundance and variety. These resorts each have a unique character and charm and shouldn’t be overlooked.Of Lake Tahoe, Mark Twain once wrote, “A noble sheet of blue water lifted six thousand three hundred feetabove the level of the sea, and walled in by a rim of snow clad mountain peaks … as it lay there with theshadows of the mountains photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the fairest picturethe whole earth affords.” We can only imagine what he would’ve penned had he been snowboarding on asunny Tahoe powder day.