Get east of Sacramento and most skiiers begin to salivate for Sierra snow. My son’s feet start to fidget for Woodward Tahoe.
Making the haj to Woodward Tahoe is a right of passage for teens like my son Logan who tend to spend all daylight hours in a skate park. And for good reason—it’s awesome. Stepping inside makes me wish I were younger and less lame. The kids can enjoy a full skate park, giant trampolines and parkour, all in a perfectly climate-controlled setting for a fraction of the cost of a lift ticket at most Tahoe resorts (see details below). During bad snow years, it’s a great place to practice your snowboard tricks off the mountain. And older kids can stay at Woodward on their own.
Woodward is adjacent to the low-mountain resort Boreal, so it’s fully 30-60 minutes closer to the Bay Area than other Tahoe destinations. It’s also far less expensive than Tahoe for lodging, food and activities.
So while Logan is jumping his heart out, what’s a bored dad to do?!
Who knew you could mountain bike on the snow? I didn’t – until recently. It’s still tough to find snow bike rentals (see details below) and a bit tough to get the hang of – especially considering how many hours I have logged on a bike. Riding on 4-inch wide tires inflated to 5 psi definitely takes some getting used to. I turned and fell into the snow, laughing like a little kid, at least a half-dozen times before I learned to slide into the turns like you would on a snowboard. Sweet!
My wife loves the snow, but she would rather enjoy a walk in the padded stillness than fight it out with a snow bike. So the next day we escaped the crowds and headed out on snowshoes. Walking on the snow through the silent forest with only the occasional animal tracks as witness is an experience not to be missed.
We snowshoed in the area of the Royal Gorge cross country ski area, which is essentially in the backyard of the cabin where we stayed in Serene Lakes. The trails went east-west, so we took off north (naturally?) Luckily no blizzard moved in to cover our tracks and we made it back to Woodward in time to collect a very exhausted Logan and pester him into doing a few sled runs with us before dark.
Good to Know
Skatepark! At Woodward Tahoe, you pay $49 for a season pass that includes the first three-hour session. After the first three-hour session, it’s $35 for any three-hour session and $15 fee to add an additional three-hour session. So long story short, Logan’s first visit was $64 for six hours ($49 for the pass with included three hours plus $15 for the extra three hours.) If you go two or more times a season, it is far cheaper than a lift ticket.
Snowbike! Rent a snow bike in North Tahoe at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski area and Northstar Cross Country. After renting the bike, you need a trail pass; then you can ride on the snowshoe trails as well as on all the dog trails. The folks at the rental store will help you with the details.
Snowshoe! If you don’t have your own snowshoes, lots of places rent them for around $15 to $25 per day, including Soda Springs General Store. The folks that work there are super-friendly, and they also sell beer and Oreos and Frosted Flakes. You know, the priorities.
Sled! Channel your inner 5-year-old. Or, your inner 49-year-old! Find a local knoll, grab a plastic disc and just try to stop laughing. Alternatively, if the place where you’re staying doesn’t have proper sledding hills nearby, head to Soda Springs (better for young kids) or Northstar (better for older kids who are at least 42-inches tall).
Snowplow! If you’re rusty on skis and have kids that want to learn, Soda Springs and its Planet Kids area is the perfect place to learn to snowplow. Ski, snowboard and helmet rental is included in the ticket price, along with the aforementioned tubing, tube carousel and snow play area. Lessons cost a bit extra.
Shred! If mom and dad would rather ski while the little ones take lessons, or everyone can no longer resist the call of fresh powder, check out Sugar Bowl and Boreal for a bit bigger, more challenging mountain with less-expensive lift tickets than the major Tahoe resorts.
Serenenity Now! We rented a cabin for our weekend at Serene Lakes near Soda Springs. Check out Castle Peak Vacation Rentals for your pick of places. We like to eat in when possible to avoid the high cost, long lines and so-so taste of Sierra food.
by Paul Puntous, February 2016
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Keywords: family vacation, family travel, travel with kids, winter weekend, winter getaway, tahoe with kids, tahoe family vacation, soda springs with kids, woodward tahoe, snow biking, snowshoeing in tahoe, budget tahoe