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Fat Bike riding Lake Tahoe

7 things to do in Truckee and Tahoe this winter.

A seven-pack sampler of the greatest wintertime adventures at Martis Camp and beyond.

If your ears perk up at the thought of getting out and about and accenting your wintertime with a dash of adventure, take heart: we’ve gathered seven exciting escapes that are guaranteed to create moments that won’t soon be forgotten. Some are right here in Martis Camp while others are further afield, such as in the deafening silence one will encounter in those pockets of back country solitude in the Truckee/Tahoe area. It’s a list that you can turn to time and again over the course of the season in order to satisfy the curiosities of you and your family. And along the way, you can rack up badge after badge that shows your commitment to being adventuresome.
So how about it, ready to go?

1. Getting fit by going fat. Snowbiking: the latest wintertime escape to hit Truckee/Tahoe.

First time you see it, you’re a bit mystified: up there in the ether of a local winter wonderland, you spy a pair of people carving up the slope – on bikes. It’s a scene that goes against everything you remember from your days of riding the neighborhood on a Sting Ray or BMX. But then again, this is now. And today this winter sport – fat tire snowbiking – is plowing its way into the mainstream.

“There’s a growing group of fat-bike evangelists who are spreading the word about snowbiking in the Truckee/Tahoe area,” said Dylan Renn, of A Single Track Mind, a biking coaching and skills instruction service based in Truckee. “These are people who like to ski as well but the beauty of snowbiking is that it’s at its best when ski conditions aren’t,” he added. That translates to firm (aka, “Sierra Cement”) conditions. “When skiing sucks, it’s usually a good time to go biking,” said Renn.

Destinations include the likes of resorts that groom their trails religiously, specifically Royal Gorge and Tahoe Donner. A great alternative that’s just beyond the back yard of any Martis Camp home is a day of snowbiking on the groomed trails around Martis Camp.

2. A far cry from the crowds. Big times in the backcountry: the essence of adventure.

Donner Lake Backcountry skiing

Photo courtesy of Paul Hamill Photography

All that big country that surrounds us can mean only one thing: big adventures. And when winter kicks in, one company in particular excels at exposing people to the wonders of skiing, boarding and snowshoeing the backcountry. Alpenglow Expeditions is a well-oiled machine of guides who introduce and expose people to the challenges and joys of going beyond the ski boundaries and experiencing wilderness adventures. Those adventures are non-mechanized (aka “human powered”), further exposing participants to a world far different than what one might find at a busy resort.

“Our mission is to introduce you to moments of inspiration that you may have never experienced before,” said Sean Kristl of Alpenglow Expeditions. “Once you encounter that sense of thrill and newness and you’re confidently armed with all the knowledge we share with you, you’re hooked for life,” he added. That knowledge includes avalanche awareness and training, along with tips from guides that go a long way toward helping you operate more efficiently and safely. Those tips and lessons are shared by guides trained, evaluated and certified by AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association).

Based in Olympic Valley, Alpenglow Expedition is permitted to operate in Tahoe National Forest, covering a range that extends from Castle Peak to Palisades Tahoe. They also offer tours to Mount Shasta and run international wilderness expeditions. Full day backcountry tours normally run 6-8 hours and half-day introductions are available as well. Ages run from kids in their early teens to curious and fit souls in their 80s. “You should be prepared for the elevation of the Tahoe area,” mentioned Kristl, “and you have to be confident and fit enough to walk in open, normally uphill terrain for about an hour.” Intermediate to advance ski and boarding skills are required as well. Rentals are available and while attendees are encouraged to dress in layers and bring extra gloves, Kristl advises them to pack along a great sense of curiosity as well. “This is one experience that will stay with you for a very long time,” he added.

3. Unleash the Blade Runner within you. A few suggestions on taking
to the local ice rinks.

Northstar California ce rink

Photo courtesy of Paul Hamill Photography

There’s something about skating under wintertime skies that harkens images along the line of a Currier & Ives painting. Throw in some hot chocolate, apple cider, s’mores and warm blankets under portable heaters and the picture becomes even more attractive. Here are a few options for where to cut loose with your best pirouette.
Northstar California
Step onto this 9,000-square-foot ice rink and you’ll feel you’ve stepped into a snow globe. There are lights strung throughout, hot drinks, cocktails and snacks, outdoor firepits. And skating is free (rental skates available).
Palisades Tahoe
This rink – located high above Olympic Valley and accessible from the Tram – comes with a side dish of Sierra scenery. It makes it one of the country’s most spectacular. Bring your own skates or rent them on site.
Regional Parks
There are a couple of local, down-home ice rinks buzzing with action. Truckee’s is just a mile from downtown and features a snack bar, music and bonfire. Tahoe City’s Winter Sports Park also makes the list with a lively outdoor rink.

4. A great cause, an awesome effect. The Alpenglow Sports Winter Speaker Series at Palisades Tahoe.

Aplenglow Sports Speaker series

Photo by Zoya Lynch of athlete Elyse Saugstad. Courtesy of Alpineglow Sports Winter Speaker Series.

Sometimes, adventure can best be enjoyed not on a sheer cliff or in a free fall in a wingsuit, but rather from the comfort of a cozy seat. Such is the case with The Alpenglow Sports Winter Speaker Series, an inspiring event that locals have anticipated each winter for the past 18 years. And all it involves is attending. For free. Simple enough. But once there, you’ll find yourself inspired by tales of amazing adventures – this year from a lineup of five individuals who are among the biggest names in adventure sports, each one taking the stage to raise funds for their chosen charity. To date, those speakers have helped raise over $1.3 million for non-profit causes such as The Courage Project, Scotty Lapp Foundation, and the Send It Foundation which provides outdoor adventures for young adult cancer patients and survivors, creating space where they can play, connect, and enjoy the outdoors.

“This is the largest free speaker series in the country,” said Brandon Madigan, co-founder of the series and owner of Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City. “This is a special gathering, both for our community and for our speakers,” he added. “The word is out in the outdoors community about this series and our speakers continue to spread the word, helping us recruit these great storytellers and adventure athletes.”

Those speakers attend voluntarily and do so to raise funds for their specific non-profits. Typically, they’ll raise $75,000 per evening event and this year they’re sharing a couple of events with their sister mountain – Mammoth – for the first time in order to help them raise local funds as well. “This is beyond what Dave (co-founder Dave Nettle) and I envisioned when we founded this 18 years ago,” said Madigan.

Event information at

5. Strap in and soldier on! Snowshoeing in the footsteps of a Truckee local.

Donner Lake Snowshoe - Paul Hamill

Photo courtesy of Paul Hamill Photography

As a relentlessly curious, 28-year resident of Truckee, Paul Hamill – Creative Director for Martis Camp Realty – has a great understanding of all things outdoors when it comes to Truckee/Tahoe. That includes those forests, meadows and mountains that stand out as some of the area’s finest snowshoeing destinations. Join him here on a few of his favorites.
Donner Lake
This adventure starts by the Donner Memorial State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum and parallels the lovely, forest-lined Donner Creek. It’s the end, however, that provides that “ah-hah!” moment, as you arrive at China Cove for a jaw-dropping reveal of Donner Lake. “This is by far my favorite snowshoe after, or during, a snow storm.”
Pacific Crest Trail
That spine of rock and forest to our west, better known as the Pacific Crest, serves up an inordinate amount of eye candy and tasty trails. Best access is as simple as heading up old Highway 40 toward Sugar Bowl and Donner Ski Ranch. Park up, strap in, and have a great day.
Schallenberger Ridge
Named for Moses Shallenberger whose heroic efforts unfolded here as he attempted to escape the winter that doomed the Donner Party in 1846-47. Today, stunning views of Donner Lake, the Sierra Crest, and Truckee await you.
Martis Camp
Got an afternoon Niners game to catch on tv? Or a morning brunch you need to work off? Either way, a snowshoe down the trails of Martis Camp or into the nearby Martis Valley keeps this wonderful escape close to home.

6. Taking life in stride. An uncommonly peaceful escape to North America’s largest cross-country resort.

Royal Gorge cross country

Photo by Vinnie Zacha-Herthel/Royal Gorge

Rarely would we associate “largest” with something so intimate and quiet as what you’ll find here, at Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort. Located just over the west edge of Donner Summit, Royal Gorge is a skinny-sticks-only kind of place where trail grooming has been honed to a science. In total, skiers can glide, skate and snowshoe their way over 92 trails spanning more than 140 kilometers. There are open meadows and frozen lakes, deep forests, and gentle ascents culminating in stunning views. And neatly situated over those 6,000 acres of bliss are eight separate warming huts.

Rentals and lessons are available, and you can begin or end your day with a meal at the picturesque and historic Sugar Bowl Village.

And if the urge suddenly arises where you’ve got to get out and stretch the legs on a well-groomed trail, think closer to home. Much closer. Martis Camp has its fair share of paths to explore – more than 20 miles of groomed trails that start out the door and down the street. A break at the Family Barn for hot chocolate and a warm lunch goes well with the day, too. And best of all, your day on skinny sticks may well end up at your hot tub, firepit, and in the comfort of family and friends on the back porch.

7. Toss some RPMs at your adventure. Saddle up and spend the day snowmobiling.

Snowmobiling Lake Tahoe

Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh is nice. Throw even more horsepower into the picture and you have the makings of a high-octane day of outdoor excitement. One of the area’s best resources for snowmobile outings is Coldstream Adventures. One tour is an adventure through Coldstream Canyon, climbing up 2,000 vertical feet to the ridge of the Sierra Nevada, culminating in stunning views.

Coldstream Adventures offers two-hour tours twice daily – one at 11:00 am and the other at 2:30 pm. Minimum riding age is five years old with children riding as passengers. To operate a snowmobile, you must be a licensed driver. The weight limit on a two person snowmobile is 360lbs. Coldstream Adventures will provide you with a helmet and goggles and they also provide winter clothing rentals.

Written by Scott Mortimore