It’s that magical time of the year when the temperature in California dips down into the frigid 50’s, an occasional rainstorm passes through, and…an ice rink forms in Civic Park? That’s right, downtown Walnut Creek hosts an ultra-cool ice rink through Walnut Creek On Ice.
The rink, which opened on Nov. 9, and will remain in place until late January, has become a local favorite during the winter, to give us Californians a little taste of a white winter, but saving us the 3-hour trip to Tahoe! You can take a date to the rink for a couple skate, or maybe teach the kids how to skate at the open rink.
There are even an ice skating academy and private lessons for those who are getting serious about being a future San Jose Shark or the next great Winter Olympian. This is a wonderful way to spend some quality time with your friends, family, and loved ones this winter. How nice does a short stroll to La Scala after a couple hours on the ice sound?
If you’d rather skate in a colder locale, foggy San Francisco and icy Lake Tahoe both offer some awesome rinks, too! At the Embarcadero, you can skate with beautiful Bay and Bay Bridge views and then saunter over to the Ferry Building for hot chocolate. In Union Square, you can circle the rink between the buildings and even take in a “Drag Queens on Ice” show. And in Tahoe, of course, Northstar’s village ice skating rink is not to be missed. It’s 9,000 square feet of joy, surrounded by bars, cabanas, and fire pits – and if you’re up at Northstar anyway…it’s free!
Walnut Creek is the hub of the East Bay for a reason, and hosting cool events like an ice skating rink is one of them. The rink itself is in its 14th year of operation downtown, meaning Walnut Creek On Ice has brought snowy joy to our citizens since 2004 – this is bound to be the best year yet. Let me know if you check it out, and how you liked it!
Okay, now I’m really stretching this whole Road Trips theme. You could, hypothetically, drive all the way to Canada from the Bay Area. It would take a solid 16 hours and would be a pretty nice drive through Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. But, I’d recommend flying.
I recently took a 2 1/2-day trip to Whistler. I left at 4 pm on Saturday afternoon and got to Whistler at 10 pm. I skied Sunday and Monday and flew back to the bay area at 6 am on Tuesday. I was back at work by noon! With the tail end of the skiing season approaching, Whistler – which always has great snow – recently got dumped on much like Tahoe. I met a couple of friends up there and had amazing snow to ski. It was a great trip.
I had a room at the Westin on the hill on the Blackcomb side. The Whistler-Blackcomb mountain resort is also massive, it has a glacier and the longest peak-to-peak tram in the world. There is also lost of expert skiing available. I wonder if the weather is a little different because the resort is so close to the ocean, but the clouds would come in and out. At one point I felt like I was skiing in soup, could not see in front of me and we just happened to be in the Whistler Bowl (a black diamond run) at the end of the day.
And if you aren’t feeling the snow vibe, but just want to explore the area, Whistler is a really cool place itself. The village has some great restaurants; we ate at 21 Steps, which serves great comfort food and a good selection of fish, pork and meat. I would also explore the rest of the area if you have the time. Just outside the Whistler area, you can trek back to Vancouver and explore one of the underrated cities of the Pacific Northwest.
Winter is here, and it’s time to hit the slopes! Hopefully, we get some more snow this week! I love going up to Tahoe to ski, especially when the sky is blue and the snow is powdery. But, unlike many who probably prefer Northstar, Squaw and Heavenly, I love Mt.Rose! It is where I learned to ski growing up, it is a local’s resort and it has some great runs, especially if the chutes are open.
Mt. Rose is the highest peak in Tahoe and usually gets the most snow every winter. But it’s also just a cool place to hang out! Most of the mountains in Tahoe have villages, bars, restaurants, ice skating rinks, and other things to help you relax and recover after a day on the snow. And Mt. Rose is no exception, but it has a more casual local vibe with fun activities on the mountain and just some great runs (“Northwest” is my favorite), including a few with a view of Lake Tahoe!
In fact, they have some unique events like the Santa Crawl, where you can get heavily discounted lift tickets by dressing up as Santa for the day while you’re on the mountain. They also do a Beerfest, New Year’s Eve spectacular, poker runs and many other events throughout the year. Recently, they also added a “Magic” lift, a dual conveyer belt for one of their hills (it’s the 1st one in North America and only the 2nd one in the world!).
I always have a great time when I go to Mt. Rose. Usually, I stay in Reno and then it is just a 20-minute drive up the hill, but it is also easily accessed from Incline or Kings Beach; even from Northstar. They have a newer lodge on the old Slide side of the hill and many locals on a nice day will tailgate in the parking area. The Mt. Rose lodge is more crowded, but the bar is my favorite, with no kids allowed and a taco/burrito bar.
According to multiple weather reports, La Nina is expected to strike certain parts of the U.S. this winter – the Rockies are on the path. Though after a big season for snowfall in Northern California last year, they are predicting it to be less wet and snowy in the upcoming months, without so much that it’ll be difficult to get to like last year!
With the season turning and snow on the mind, let me recommend a really cool annual event coming up tomorrow. Warren Miller’s “Line of Descent” is the latest in a series of snow documentaries that brings a traveling event to towns across the world. Last year I watched it at Squaw with Johnny Moseley as MC.
This year? Walnut Creek! You can see the show at the Lesher Center’s Hofmann Theater at 8 p.m. tomorrow night. There were a few balcony tickets left last I checked, but they will go fast. Tickets are about $23 right now, but it’s well worth it. The movie itself is always really awesome, and you can win free snow swag at the show!
If you love to ski or ride like me, make sure to check out this year’s trailer above. Then, once you’re thoroughly pumped up for snow season, go buy a ticket and meet me at the Warren Miller show! As you can see in the trailer, they’re featuring Squaw Valley in part of this year’s movie. How cool is that?
Have you been to Tahoe this season? It is absolutely breathtaking how much snow has fallen! Check out this panoramic picture from my ski trip to Mt. Rose a couple weekends ago:
My research confirms what I’ve heard: that Mt. Rose has the most snow in the nation (more than 600 inches this year alone!). Because of its elevation (base elevation: 8,260 ft.), Mt. Rose was still getting snow when places like Squaw were getting rain. Check out this picture from the Mt. Rose website:
Right now, Rose has the best conditions in Tahoe by far. They have 53 feet (!!!) of snow already. It’s a record-breaking year. Here is a chart from Weather.com to give you a good idea of the snowfall on the West Coast:
Pick up a lift ticket and check it out before the season ends. This is a once-in-a-lifetime stellar snow season!
Diablo Magazine has written an “Ultimate Guide to Tahoe” for those who are planning trips to the area for some winter fun. And given all the fresh snow over the last couple weeks, who wouldn’t want to take a weekend to Tahoe? I know I will!
I grew up in Reno and two of my favorite ski resorts are Mt. Rose and Kirkwood – both get more snow than the rest of Tahoe, and Mt. Rose has some really challenging runs with the development and opening of the chutes.
If you want to stay at a great resort with short walks from the lift to the lodge, Sugar Bowl is your spot (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the easiest resorts to get to from the Bay Area). If you’re not much of a skier or snowboarder, head to Old Town Truckee for some shopping.
No matter what you do, get up to Tahoe this winter and take advantage of the epic snowfall. It’s a beautiful place to spend a few days! 2017 is shaping up to be a stellar ski season, and I am off to Mammoth soon to celebrate my birthday!
Good news for all you skiers and snowboarders out there: a few resorts in Tahoe have opened up recently and more trails and lifts should continue to open as we get into the coldest part of winter!
I am excited to use my Mountain Collective Pass, which gives me two days at various resorts like Squaw, Mammoth, Sun Valley, Aspen, Whistler, etc. Last year I had a season pass to Squaw, but my best friend had a pass to Mt. Rose, so I decided to go for a more flexible pass (she got the Mountain Collective pass too).
Below is some information on the main Tahoe ski resorts. Most are already open for business due to all the snow-making and cold nights, but it has actually snowed and more is on the way!
Here are my comments on a few of my favorites:
Sugar Bowl, quick to get to for a day trip from the Bay Area, challenging runs and a great cozy hotel close to the lift. They have a great New Year’s celebration and a wonderful bar!
Mt. Rose – I know it like the back of my hand. It is where I really learned to ski. Now that Rose & Slide combined and they built a new lodge, it is a great place to be – all the locals from Reno come here and it feels like home to me.
Kirkwood – a bit off the beaten path and in need of a few new lifts, but I love the runs and bowls. It’s not crowded and worth a day trip if you’ve never been.