Lake Tahoe in Winter: 15 Things to Do [Plus What to Expect & Practical Tips]

Reviewed by Elina Ansary
Last updated:

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Our guide on how to make the most of a trip to Lake Tahoe in winter.

I visited Lake Tahoe recently, and–not to be cliche–I totally fell in love. It’s a premier vacation destination for a good reason. 

All lakes have a certain beauty, but Lake Tahoe is next level. The water is genuinely Caribbean turquoise and so clear you can see to the bottom. 

The cabins and condos in the Lake Tahoe area are either breathtaking or insanely charming.

The outdoor access is also incredible. Case in point: the new bike paths along the lake’s edge are easy to follow and comfortably separated from traffic. 

And there’s something particularly magical about winter in Lake Tahoe, despite the fact that I’m not really a skier.

That’s why I’ve rounded up all the best things to do in Tahoe in the winter, including activities for both skiers and non-skiers.

I hope you get some winter wonderland inspo from this article for the next time you visit Lake Tahoe during the colder months!

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

Lake tahoe piers covered in snow.

Table of Contents

What to do in Lake Tahoe in Winter [That Isn’t Skiing or Snowboarding]

#1 Sledding and Snow Tubing

People sledding and tubing in the snow in Lake Tahoe

You don’t have to shred the gnar to enjoy Tahoe in winter. Non-skiers will find plenty to do too.

Lake Tahoe’s other winter sports offerings are vast, including sledding and snow tubing. Almost all of the famous ski resorts offer space for sledding and tubing. 

A few non-ski resort sledding hills include Spooner Summit (near Spooner Lake), Incline Village Snow Play Area, and Soda Springs, which has a 400-foot drop.

If tubing is your primary interest, check out Adventure Mountain.

As the highest elevated, largest, and snowiest tubing destination in the Tahoe area, Adventure Mountain is a must-visit for tubing enthusiasts.

#2 Enjoy a Winter Festival

Two of the most popular north Lake Tahoe winter activities are Snowfest and Winter Wondergrass. 

Snowfest is a 10-day mountain Mardi Gras festival. It’s put on by a non-profit that raises money for student organizations and charities. Snowfest 2023 will be from February 24-March 5. 

Winter Wondergrass Festival is a three-day bluegrass festival. 2023 will be the first festival since the pandemic started. 

Both of these are a party!

#3 Take a Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride

Tourists enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride in downtown South Lake Tahoe

One of the most romantic things to do in Lake Tahoe in winter is to enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride in the snow. 

Sip hot chocolate and enjoy a cozy ride through a winter wonderland on one of Borges Sleigh and Carriage Rides. These are offered in North Lake Tahoe at the Sand Harbor Visitor Center. 

Borges offers summer carriage rides in South Lake Tahoe as well, but if you’re staying on the south shore in winter, you’ll have to travel north for a sleigh ride.

Sleigh rides are available even when there isn’t snow, between 11 am – 2 pm in November and December and 11 am – 3 pm in January and February.

#4 Treat Yourself With a Spa Day

Heated swimming pool at Lake Tahoe's Hyatt Regency Spa

Finish up at the ski resort and wind down your Lake Tahoe winter vacation with some spa treatment. 

Could they call themselves world-class ski resorts without day spas included? I think not. Several resorts have spas on-site, including Northstar California and Palisades Tahoe.

Other popular spas in the Lake Tahoe area include The Landing Tahoe Resort & Spa and the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa, and Casino.

#5 Rent a Cozy Cabin

Cozy cabin in Lake Tahoe during winter.

The cozy mountain vibes in Tahoe are a real thing. Lean into it by renting a cute little cabin by the lake. See my top recommendations below in the “Where to Stay” section.

You can also read our detailed guide on where to stay in Lake Tahoe.

#6 Go Ice Skating

Two men watch visitors ice skate at Northstar Village

Channel your inner Michelle Kwan! Tahoe in winter is a great time to try ice skating.

Ice skating is a more social activity if you don’t skate fast, and (with some finesse) you can look cute doing it. 

Many Lake Tahoe resorts have an ice skating rink (Heavenly Village and Northstar Village, to name two).

Also, check out South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena. If you don’t know how to ice skate, they offer lessons. 

Don’t try ice skating on Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, Fallen Leaf Lake, or Donner Lake, as they don’t freeze over well enough.

#7 Try Your Luck at a Casino

Casinos at South Lake Tahoe during the winter

A Lake Tahoe vacation wouldn’t be complete without a stop in one of the many casinos on the Nevada side of the lake in both North and South Tahoe.

Casinos on the south shore include Harrahs and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. A popular north shore casino is the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa, and Casino.

#8 Take a Snowmobile Tour

Not all Lake Tahoe winter activities have to be on foot!

I did a snowmobile tour in Yellowstone National Park once, and it was one of the neatest and coldest experiences of my life.

You can book group or private summit tours with Lake Tahoe Snowmobile out of Tahoe Vista (North Lake Tahoe). On these tours, you’ll explore groomed trails in Tahoe National Forest.

#9 Test Your Mushing Skills with a Dogsled Tour

A dog sitting in the snow at Lake Tahoe

Dog sledding is something I think of in Alaska, but the Tahoe basin terrain is also well-suited to dog sleds. 

Check out moonlit dog sledding runs with Wilderness Adventures Dog Sled Tours based out of Olympic Valley. Tours cover 20 miles of mountain terrain and last about two hours.

You can also explore one of the most beautiful areas of the Lake Tahoe basin, Hope Valley, with the Husky Express Dog Sled Rides near South Lake Tahoe.

#10 Relive the Competition at the Olympic Museum

Olympic Museum at Palisades Tahoe

Winter sports enthusiasts will enjoy the Olympic Museum in North Lake Tahoe. 

There are only two Olympic Museums in the country. One in Olympic Valley, CA (North Lake Tahoe) and one in Colorado Springs, CO.

The California Olympic Museum primarily focuses on the 1960 winter Olympics at Palisades Tahoe.

View the memorabilia, including Team USA uniforms and items from current and past USA olympians.

#11 Enjoy Apres-Ski at a Local Brewery

Apres-ski is French for “after ski” and is a culture of drinking and relaxing after a hard day on the slopes. Think laughing with friends over outdoor fire pits with a warm drink and a greasy snack. 

Some celebrated apres-ski locations for Tahoe in the winter include:

A successful apres-ski is anywhere you, your friends, or your boo decide to relax and spend the evening together.

#12 Go on a Winter Hike

A person hiking in the snow during a winter in Tahoe.

These short, flat hikes are good options in the winter months that you can usually do with YakTrax or some other traction device. 

In the shoulder season, you can do them in hiking boots or tennis shoes before and after the snow has melted. 

  • Spooner Lake Loop: 2.5-mile trail around Spooner Lake. 
  • Paige Meadows: this trail meanders through five alpine meadows outside Tahoe City. 
  • Vikingsholm in Emerald Bay: this is a 1.7-mile route to a historic castle on the sandy beaches of Emerald Bay.
  • Donner Summit Canyon: a fairly easy trail with breathtaking views of Donner Lake. This is the same area where the ill-fated Donner party spent a perilous winter.

Read our guide to the best Lake Tahoe hikes.

#13 Warm Up in an Outdoor Hot Tub

Outdoor hot tub at Lake Tahoe during snow

I love a good hot soak in winter, especially outdoors with the snow gently falling. All of the ski resorts I’ve mentioned here have at least a hot tub, and most have heated pools and saunas as well. 

Additionally, all the places to stay below in the “Where to Stay” section have hot tubs.

If you’re looking for a more natural soaking experience, a few natural hot springs dot Lake Tahoe’s winter landscape. Check out Walleys Hot Springs or Hobo Hot Springs near Carson City, NV.

Otherwise, you can read our article on the best hot springs in California for a more comprehensive guide.

#14 Take in the Landscape in an Aerial Tram

The Tahoe aerial tram looking over a snowy landscape.

To enjoy an aerial tram, you don’t have to be into winter sports.

Several trams at the big ski resorts have activities at the top of the mountain to enjoy on their own.

Take in the breathtaking winter views in Lake Tahoe and then enjoy roller skating, guided hikes, disc golf, or lunch at the top of the aerial tram at Palisades Tahoe

Or take the 2.4-mile aerial tram at Heavenly Village.

The Heavenly gondola stops part-way up at an observation deck and then tops out at the Tamarack Express chairlift, where you can access many hiking trails.

#15 Burn Some Calories with Snowshoeing or Cross-Country Skiing

Two women relaxing after snowshoeing at Lake Tahoe

Get ready to strap in your snow boots and enjoy the winter snow with snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. 

In addition to being calmer, cheaper, and more knee-friendly, there are endless miles of trails to explore in Tahoe in the winter. 

These are just some of the excellent cross-country and snowshoeing options during winter in Lake Tahoe:

Places to Ski and Snowboard in Lake Tahoe

Downhill skier skiing down a mountain in Lake Tahoe.

North Lake Tahoe takes the cake for winter skiing and has many more options than South Lake Tahoe.

Nonetheless, South Lake Tahoe is no slouch with three premium skiing destinations. 

I’ve arranged the ski resorts below from North to South Lake Tahoe.

North Lake Tahoe

Palisades Tahoe (Formerly Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows)

Snowboarders at Palisades Tahoe.

Best for: Beginner to expert
Number of runs: 170
Beginner runs: 25%
Intermediate runs: 45%
Advanced runs: 30%
Expert runs: 0%
Number of lifts: 34
Elevation range: 6,200-9,050 ft

Palisades Tahoe is one of the most famous ski resorts, encompassing two mountains and 6,000 acres of skiable terrain. 

Palisades is renowned for hosting the 1960 Olympic Games and offers a boatload of cushy accommodations and eateries (check out the new Tram Car Bar–a restored 1970s aerial tram turned bar). 

Palisades offers a “Big Blue Zone” for beginner skiers, and The Village at Palisades Tahoe offers an insanely nice European-style ski village.

Note: Palisades Tahoe has changed *many* place names in recognition that the word “squaw” is offensive. They no longer even spell the word out–using Sq**w, instead. If you’re an old-timer to Lake Tahoe, look at the name changes here.

Northstar California

Northstar California resort in Lake Tahoe.

Best for: Intermediate skiers and snowboarders
Number of runs: 100
Beginner runs: 13%
Intermediate runs: 60%
Advanced runs: 27%
Expert runs: 0%
Number of lifts: 20
Elevation range: 6,330-8,610 ft

With 3,170 total acres encompassing 600 acres of trails for “glade skiing,” Northstar California is another excellent North Lake Tahoe ski resort. 

Winter sports of all kinds are available here. They have award-winning snowboarding, snow tubing runs, snowshoeing, telemark skiing, and cross-country skiing. Plus, an ice rink! 

Northstar Lodge by Vacation Club Rentals offers luxe lodging with luxury amenities. Perhaps most importantly, they offer a heated outdoor swimming pool, sauna, and hot tub.

Homewood Mountain Resort

Group of skiers at Homewood Mountain Resort, looking over Lake Tahoe.

Best for: Intermediate skiers and snowboarders
Number of runs: 67
Beginner runs: 15%
Intermediate runs: 40%
Advanced runs: 30%
Expert runs: 15%
Number of lifts: 8
Elevation range: 6,230-7,880 ft

Homewood Mountain Resort in Homewood, CA offers a smaller alternative to the mega-giant resorts.

An excellent spot for intermediate skiers, the resort encompasses 1,260 acres and 450 inches of snow annually. 

The longest run here is two miles long. Homewood Mountain Resort is known for affordable season passes and a landscape sheltered from winter winds.

Sugar Bowl

Skiers skiing down a hill at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort.

Best for: Freestyle skiers, snowboarders, and cross-country skiers
Number of runs: 103
Beginner runs: 17%
Intermediate runs: 45%
Advanced runs: 38%
Expert runs: 0%
Number of lifts: 12
Elevation range: 6,750-7,350 ft

Sugar Bowl has a few notable distinctions. First, it’s the closest Tahoe ski resort to the Bay Area. Second, it gets the most winter snow of all the resorts at 500 inches annually. 

If you like cross-country skiing, you’ll enjoy exploring the backcountry and Nordic ski trails here as well.

Sugar Bowl has two terrain parks popular with freestyle skiers and snowboarders. The longest run here is three miles and the biggest vertical drop is 1,500 ft.

Mount Rose

Mount Rose Ski Resort.

Best for: Advanced
Number of runs: 60
Beginner runs: 20%
Intermediate runs: 30%
Advanced runs: 40%
Expert runs: 10%
Number of lifts: 8
Elevation range: 8,260-9,700 ft

Mount Rose Ski Resort near Incline Village is excellent for advanced skiers. 

The resort features 1,200 acres and views of Lake Tahoe. The most challenging runs feature 1,800-foot drops and there are lots of black diamond runs available. 

Snowboarders will enjoy two terrain parks here as well.

South Lake Tahoe

Have a blast in winter in South Lake Tahoe at these popular ski resorts.

Heavenly Mountain Resort

Skiers skiing down a mountain that looks over Lake Tahoe at Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Best for: Intermediate-expert
Number of runs: 97
Beginner runs: 5%
Intermediate runs: 43%
Advanced runs: 26%
Expert runs: 23%
Number of lifts: 28
Elevation range: 6,567-10,067 ft

Heavenly Resort and Heavenly Village are on the border of California and Nevada in South Lake Tahoe. Heavenly Resort is the largest ski resort in Lake Tahoe at 4,800 acres. 

One thing Heavenly is famous for is views, views, views–especially of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada.

One of the most famous runs here is the 1,800-foot drop Gunbarrel Run, and the longest run at Heavenly is a staggering 5.5 miles.

The Heavenly gondola is an attraction in itself, with non-skiers taking it as a joyride up the mountain.  

Another attraction at Heavenly Resort is the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster, a gravity-powered alpine roller coaster that offers thrilling views.


Group of snowboards at Sierra at Tahoe.

Best for: Beginner-intermediate skiers
Number of runs: 47
Beginner runs: 25%
Intermediate runs: 50%
Advanced runs: 25%
Expert runs: 0%
Number of lifts: 14
Elevation range: 6,640-8,852 ft

Sierra-at-Tahoe is excellent for beginner skiers because it has a good number of beginner and intermediate runs. Plus, it has two lifts just for beginners.

Let’s be real; the lift is definitely part of the challenge for new skiers

Sierra-at-Tahoe gets 480 inches of annual snow and features 2,000 acres of land plus six (SIX) terrain parks. The longest run here is 2.5 miles.


A mountain at Kirkwood Ski Resort.

Best for: Advanced
Number of runs: 86
Beginner runs: 12%
Intermediate runs: 30%
Advanced runs: 38%
Expert runs: 20%
Number of lifts: 15
Elevation range: 7,800-9,800 ft

Kirkwood Ski Resort is known for its rugged terrain. There are two terrain parks here if you’re keen to practice dying–er, I mean, jumps and flips. 

That said, Kirkwood Ski Resort also has runs dedicated to tubing, plus cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The resort gets an average of 350 inches of snow a year. 

The Mountain Club has ski-in/ski-out access and all the heated amenities you could want.

Where to Buy Lift Tickets

A group of people buying lift tickets in Lake Tahoe.

There are a ton of websites selling Tahoe lift tickets.

Be aware that the earlier you buy, the better the deal. The first price hike of the season typically happens in early October. 

You can buy lift tickets from each resort individually, or you can check out the follwing websites:

Look for discount tickets by shopping at these locations:

  • Sports Basement (they usually run an in-person sale, check with your local Sports Basement for more info)
  • Costco (Has vacation packages to South Lake Tahoe)

Where to Rent Snowboarding and Skiing Gear

A group of rented snowboards.

Most ski resorts will have gear rentals on-site. However, in my experience, the morning rental lines can be horrendous.

Save time (and sometimes money) and rent your gear elsewhere or the day before. 

You can get outfitted with the right gear at any of these rental locations:

Lake Tahoe

Bay Area

Reasons to Visit Lake Tahoe in Winter

A few people staring at the lake and enjoying a winter wonderland at Lake Tahoe on a sunny day.

The Snow

Even if you’re a non-skier, fresh winter snow is a beautiful thing to behold. Some areas of Tahoe get up to 500 inches of snow annually!

The Outdoor Access

From the groomed trails for snowmobile tours to winter hiking, cross-country skiing, ice skating, skiing, and snowboarding, your Lake Tahoe winter vacation will have plenty of ways to keep you busy outside.

The Cozy Atmosphere

Winter in Lake Tahoe is just the cutest. I love all the charming homes and I enjoyed seeing all the quaint architecture in the cabins during my last visit to Tahoe. 

In addition to the picturesque neighborhoods, the city centers around Lake Tahoe really lean into the warm cozy vibes during the winter season. 

There are plenty of well-appointed places to gather, drink, sit by the fire, or soak in a hot tub.

The Stunning Mountains

People visit Lake Tahoe for both the lake and the mountains.

I’ve lived in many mountainous areas, and there’s something extraordinary about mountains with a fresh coat of snow. 

The snow brings out the detail in the crags, contrasts beautifully with the dark green conifers, and endows the space with a sense of quiet.

The Lake

Listen, Lake Tahoe is a spectacular sight to behold in winter or summer.

Most people think of “lake time” as a summer activity, but have you ever considered winter kayaking in Lake Tahoe? 

Even if that’s not your jam, the snow-dusted lake with turquoise water is a wonderful place for peaceful winter meditation.

How to Get to Lake Tahoe in Winter

Lake Tahoe sits at 6,220 feet of elevation. The road conditions at this elevation differ drastically from the Bay Area or the Nevada desert on the other side.

Icy road in Lake Tahoe.

Driving Directions from the Bay Area

From the Bay Area, take I-80 E towards Sacramento. In Sacramento, you can branch off and go either north or south. Continue on I-80 E to head to North Lake Tahoe. To end up in South Lake Tahoe, take US-50 E.

Note: North Lake Tahoe is more popular in winter because it has 10 peaks to ski versus South Lake Tahoe’s three.

Read our complete guide to North vs South Lake Tahoe.

Driving Directions from Las Vegas

From Las Vegas, take US-95 N through Nevada and then I-80 W towards Carson City. 

If you want to drive through Death Valley on your way to Tahoe, follow the signs through Death Valley, then take US-395 N (in California) to Tahoe.

Frequently Closed Roads

Highway 120 (Yosemite National Park)

Highway 120 (Tioga Rd) in Yosemite National Park is a through road east-west across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It closes every year from about the end of October until late May.

Highway 89 (West Lake Tahoe)

Highway 89 is the main road along the western shore of Lake Tahoe. It will take you along the famous and scenic Emerald Bay, which is part of Lake Tahoe. This road will close after big winter storms for short periods.

Resources to Check Road Conditions

Arrive alive for your winter activities in Lake Tahoe! Use these resources to check the weather and road conditions before you start the drive to Lake Tahoe. 

Driving Conditions: What to Expect

Snow coming down at Lake Tahoe.

Winter driving conditions can be hit or miss around Lake Tahoe.

Depending on the snowfall, which isn’t as predictable as it used to be (thanks to climate change), the roads can be clear and dry or icy and dangerous. 

One thing is for sure. Some parts of the road that don’t see much sunlight will stay icy, so stay alert regardless!

The key is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. Here’s how you can do that. 

  • Prepare for a longer driving time than what Google Maps says. Snowy conditions require slower driving. 
  • Keep your gas tank over half full to help prevent the lines from freezing. 
  • Keep an emergency kit with a blanket, snacks, and water in the car. 
  • Get all your fluids (especially antifreeze) topped off before the winter season.
  • Practice putting your chains on. Confession alert: I have never done this, and I live in the mountains (facepalm).  

Check out these winter driving tips from Caltrans or this helpful article on driving to Tahoe in winter.

Chains are Needed

Girl, just get your chains. No, I haven’t practiced putting them on, but I at least *have* them in the car all the time. 

Don’t just get any chains though! Make sure you get chains that fit your tires. If they don’t fit, you’re actually creating a *more* dangerous situation than if you didn’t have them at all.

Check out these tire chains on Amazon.

Lake Tahoe Winter Temperatures & Weather

A serene scene of cabins nestled in snow on the lake in Lake Tahoe.


Average temperature: 40 degrees Fahrenheit (Avg high is 65 F; Avg low is 14 F)

November can be a fabulous time to visit Tahoe since it’s the end of the shoulder season.

And although there might be some snow, you can still enjoy winter hikes in Lake Tahoe without having to throw on all your snow gear. 

Note that accommodation prices go up in peak season, which means they tend to go up around Thanksgiving.


Average temperature: 30.4 degrees Fahrenheit (Avg high is 43 F; Avg low is 18 F)

The first real snow of the season starts to fly in December, and there’s nothing like fresh snow on the mountains. 

Lake Tahoe in December is the start of the busy season. Early December may still be quieter, with lower-priced accommodations, but the prices go up in Lake Tahoe after Christmas.


Average temperature: 30.6 degrees Fahrenheit (Avg high is 43 F; Avg low is 18 F)

Lake Tahoe in January is the peak winter tourist season. The weather this time of year is marked by bracing cold spells, with Bay Area crowds following major snow accumulation.


Average temperature: 31.3 degrees Fahrenheit (Avg high is 43 F; Avg low is 19 F).

Tourist season starts to taper in February, except Valentine’s Day, because, obviously. It still won’t be warm enough to do a long hike, however, snowfall is intermittent in February.


Average temperature: 35.8 degrees Fahrenheit (Avg high is 48 F; Avg low is 24 F)

Lake Tahoe in March is the start of the spring shoulder season, so you can get warm days and snowfall, depending on the year. 

Come in March if you’re not jazzed on crowds as this is a quieter time for Lake Tahoe but the skiing and snowboarding is still often decent.

What is Winter Like in Lake Tahoe?

The overall vibe in Lake Tahoe in winter is cozy meets upscale meets breathtaking nature.

When Does it Snow in Lake Tahoe?

Wooden building in Lake Tahoe with snow coming down.

Generally, the best snow starts to fall in January in Lake Tahoe.

On average, the Lake Tahoe basin gets just over 200 inches of snow a year. Higher elevations around the lake can get between 300-500 inches, though, including many ski resorts. 

Typically, the higher you go, the more snow you’ll get (which is why I included the elevation ranges in my ski resort summary).

Read our guide to the best places for snow in California.

Lake Tahoe vs Yosemite in Winter

Lake Tahoe lake view from above with snow on the ground around the lake.

I’ll cut to the chase: choose Tahoe. 

Yosemite is pleasant enough in the winter. There is a small ski area with one lift, a handful of runs, and an ice skating rink in Curry Village. 

But besides that, one of the main entrances is closed (the east entrance), the winding highways have no shoulder (unlike the state-maintained roads into Tahoe), and many of the trails are closed. 

Compare that to Lake Tahoe’s winter atmosphere, which bends backward to welcome winter visitors. 

Tahoe also has the better snow-clearing infrastructure (plows, etc.), all the businesses are open, and there are a million places to ski, snowboard, tube, and enjoy a social life.

Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe During the Winter

A Lake Tahoe hotel covered in snow.

Part of the experience of a Lake Tahoe winter trip is your cozy cabin (or your chic ski-in condo, if that’s your thing).

Looking for more options? If you’re coming in the shoulder season and you’re an intrepid camper, check out our Lake Tahoe camping guide.

Best Lake Tahoe Winter Resorts

Northstar Lodge by Vacation Club Rentals: Truckee’s ski-in, ski-out luxury resort has a heated pool with furnished balconies and outdoor fire pits. 

The Village at Palisades Tahoe: Take in panoramic views of Lake Tahoe from your private apartment balcony in Olympic Valley, all under an hour from the Reno-Tahoe Airport.

Desolation Hotel: This South Lake Tahoe is just an eight-minute walk from Lakeside Beach and a few minutes from the gondola at Heavenly Mountain Ski Resort.

Best Lake Tahoe Winter Cabins

All of these winter cabins have hot tubs because why even bother if there’s no hot tub? 

Eight-Person Townhome: This gorgeous South Lake Tahoe townhome is adjacent to Forest Service land, with lots of hiking and snowshoeing. Plus, it’s close to Heavenly Ski Resort.  

Brookside Chalet: Incline Village is a North Lake Tahoe winter sports mecca, and this home is just five minutes from Diamond Peak Ski Resort and sleeps five.

Olympic Valley Studio: This five-star condo sleeps three and is just 700 feet from the closest ski lift.

Tips for Visiting Lake Tahoe in the Winter

Tire with snow chains on it.

Plan Early

Planning well ahead is a good idea for almost anywhere, especially mega-popular destinations like Tahoe. 

The lake basin gets over three million visitors annually, and you can expect it will be hectic during peak winter season.

Start planning in September or October (or earlier), if you can, for the best prices and lodging options.

Bring Snow Chains

Every year the towing companies in Lake Tahoe get into the black because people don’t know how to drive in snow or don’t have the right gear. Don’t let that be you!

Be Avy Savvy

If you plan to snowshoe or cross-country ski in the backcountry, check the avalanche conditions!

Carry your avalanche gear (if you don’t know what that is, you shouldn’t be in the backcountry until you do) and check the Sierra Avalance Center conditions before you head out.

Prepare a Winter Car Kit

Once I got stuck driving over a pass in Colorado in winter. They closed the pass while I was on it, and I had to pull over and mill about at a gas station for a while.

If this happens, but there’s no gas station, you’ll want to have food, water, first aid, a light source (i.e., headlamp), a folding shovel, and a few ways to keep warm (blankets, hand warmers, etc.).

Stay Hydrated

You can dehydrate in winter just like in summer. Be sure you’re following up your apres-ski with lots of water or herbal tea.

What to Pack for Lake Tahoe in the Winter

Man in winter gear looking out over a snowy Lake Tahoe.
  • Base layers: Whether they’re fleece or silk, have a long-sleeved and long-legged base layer. 
  • Winter boots: Waterproof and lined.
  • Wool socks: Don’t skimp on good socks in the winter, especially if you plan to enjoy winter sports.
  • Snow pants: My snow pants are waterproof and have zips in the, um, inner leg area that are clutch for venting during strenuous winter activities. Read our guide to the best women’s snowboard pants.
  • Puffy winter coat or ski jacket: I like my winter coats longer than my behind because you lose heat from your hips.
  • Snow bib: If you’re skiing, get some insulated overalls and keep the snow out of your personal business.
  • Winter hat: Think warm beanie. I recommend the biggest poof ball you can get on the top because it helps with balance (just kidding, I just think they’re fun).
  • Two pairs of gloves: Have one beefy pair for snow sports and a thinner pair for going out and about in town. Read our guide to the best heated gloves and best snowboard gloves.
  • Safety kit: Keep pairs of Hot Hands and Toe Warmers, a blanket, high-calorie snacks, water, and a basic first aid kit.
  • Sports gear: Whether snowboarding, skiing, or cross-country skiing, don’t forget the accouterments for those activities: helmets, ski goggles, poles, etc.

What Not To Pack for Lake Tahoe in Winter

Snowman dressed like a skier in Lake Tahoe.

Anything cotton: We have a saying in the outdoor community. “Cotton kills.” Scary, right? Cotton doesn’t hold heat in when it’s wet the way wool does. So cotton jeans, t-shirts, and base layers will sap your heat away from you rather than keep it in.


Meredith Dennis headshot

Meredith Dennis

Meredith is a biologist and writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. She has lived in six states as a biologist, so her intel on hiking and camping is *chef’s kiss* next level. One of her earliest camping memories was being too scared to find a bathroom at night on a family camping trip. Thankfully, she’s come a long way since then and she can help you get there too!

Planning a snow day or a Sierra Nevada adventure? Check out these related articles below!

Best Lake Tahoe Beaches 

Yosemite Camping Guide

Best Hot Springs in & Near the Mammoth Lakes Area 

Things to do in Mammoth Lakes, California

Where to Celebrate Christmas in California

Romantic Getaways in California

A Pinterest pin of Lake Tahoe with snow-covered piers.

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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.


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