While “location, location, location” is normally associated with where you buy your home, it can also apply to the lifestyle associated with that location. When it comes to wintertime adventure, Martis Camp is at the epicenter of Lake Tahoe’s finest ski resorts, whether down the street or above the lake.
This ski season, Martis Camp broke ground on what will eventually be a Lookout Lodge that will be more impressive than ever. Over the summer of ‘22, crews were busy working toward enhancing this perennial favorite that’s just minutes from most Martis Camp homes. In all, 3,900 square feet of space will be added by the time the ’23-’24 season opens, with the lower level expanding by 2,150 square feet to include more boot-up space, room for 400 more pairs of skis and boards, a larger kitchen, and the addition of an Ambassador break room. In addition, an underground parking area will be built to accommodate 16 additional vehicles. There will also be an enhanced shuttle and service area and an enclosed member shuttle wait station that will further streamline the shuttle service operations and member services. Perhaps the most visible improvement will be the main level restaurant and deck. The new restaurant with its slope-facing wall of windows will expand to where the current deck is while the new deck will reach out further toward the slopes of Northstar California. The restaurant will also have a new, larger kitchen.
Photo courtesy Katey Hamill Photography / Northstar California
All that on top of direct, private access to the mountain that Martis Camp is connected to in more ways than one: Northstar California. Quite simply, ski access doesn’t get any easier than it does here. There are several homes where you can glide right up to the back deck, unbuckle, and make a beeline for the hot tub. For others, Martis Camp’s private Ski Lodge and direct access to the mountain is a five-minute drive…at the most. As for Northstar California, 3,170 acres of skiable terrain radiate up and away from a village that feels it’s been directly imported from Innsbruck. This resort’s grooming team is legendary and the combination of 20 lifts, two gondolas, dozens of runs and a village with an ice rink, quaint cafes, fine dining and a shopping scene nothing short of “expert,” are what made Northstar the resort ranked #24 ski area in the west by Ski Magazine. Add the fact that this year Northstar California’s replaced its 4-person Comstock Chair with a 6-person high-speed lift that has increased uphill capacity by 50% and you can see why you needn’t stray far for an exceptional alpine experience.
Further afield, yet still about one cup of coffee away, is Sugar Bowl. On Opening Day 1939, the wheels kicked in gear and California’s first chairlift was in operation. While Sugar Bowl has kept up with the times in terrain management and all things skiing, there’s still a distinct Bavarian feel to the mountain that an Austrian, backed by Walt Disney, envisioned as the ideal resort. There’s another thing about this mountain that’s very distinct: it consistently tallies the greatest accumulations of snow, about 500 inches a year. Sugar Bowl is made up of four mountains and is home to 1,650 skiable acres with 103 trails, 12 lifts, a terrain park and a sun-splashed deck that compels you to grab a quick bite or a fine meal and an afternoon lounge session with front row views of the bowl.
Just across old highway 40 from Sugar Bowl is another venerable resort riding the Pacific Crest – Donner Ski Ranch. This ski hill opened two years before Sugar Bowl in 1937 and remains family owned and operated. It’s also known as an outstanding ski resort for families in search of value-conscious lift tickets as well as a great place to enjoy tubing and something else that may come as a pleasant surprise – a selection of dessert pies that more than one local has deemed the area’s best. While it’s diminutive in comparison to the high-profile resorts (500 acres of skiable terrain, six lifts and 1,000 vertical feet), its high-altitude ridgeline setting guarantees phenomenal views and often results in epic powder days. On top of that, there’s a friendly, old Sierra vibe here that’s hard to rival.
Still in the Donner Summit neighborhood of resorts is Boreal Mountain Resort. This mountain is likely the most easily accessed from Sacramento and the Bay Area as it faces I-80 and Castle Peak. It’s also traditionally one of the earliest to get the game of skiing and boarding underway. Halloween openings are never out of the question. There’s a renowned terrain park, Woodward Tahoe — a sport training facility with indoor trampolines, foam pits and ramps — and night skiing that runs until 9 pm.
Photo courtesy of Palisades Tahoe
The Lookout Lodge isn’t the only place where changes have taken place. One of the most impressive to top the Lake Tahoe ski scene is Palisades Tahoe. It’s in the same family as Palisades Alpine. For skiers and boarders, the decision for these two mountains to join as one was cause for great celebration. Their terrain includes some of the west’s greatest names, including the legendary Headwall and KT-22. In fact, this union resulted in the resort being voted Best Ski Resort in North America in 2016 by readers of USA Today. The resort hosted the 1960 Olympics and the ski vibe has only become more vivid with the years. The mountain itself is the largest skiing complex in the Lake Tahoe area with 34 lifts, six peaks, a top elevation of 9,010 feet, more than 6,000 skiable acres, one leg-burning run that stretches 3.2 miles, and terrain that ranges from groomers to terrain parks, forested glades to extreme cliff chutes.
Never, however, have these two mountains been more connected than now, with plans to open a stunning new addition to the resort this ski season: the Base-to-Base Gondola, the first of its kind in North America. This gondola transports guests between The Village at Palisades Tahoe and the Alpine Lodge. It’s a 2.4 mile stretch that will take 16 minutes to complete and will cut down on auto traffic in the area. This addition will make Palisades Tahoe the third largest ski resort in North America.
Photo by silent A Photography, Courtesy of Homewood Mountain Resort
In the battle for which resort is blessed with the most amazing views of Lake Tahoe, Homewood Mountain Resort often finds itself wearing the crown. Located six miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89, Homewood literally rises straight up from near lake level, landing at a perch whose views of the lake will put any poet to the test. There are eight lifts that lead you to 67 runs and six terrain parks, including Money Booter which is well known for the photo ops it provides featuring boarders sailing into a virtual infinity pool of sunny skies and deep blue waters. Being so close to the lake, Homewood’s annual snowfall is impressive, averaging 450 inches. Just as attractive are the quaint dining options that exist on the mountain as well as along the West Shore that’s known for its old Tahoe charm.
Photo: Ryan Salm – Courtesy of Diamond Peak Ski Resort
There’s another mountain that’s quick to challenge Homewood’s claim of having the best views of Lake Tahoe: Diamond Peak. There are six lifts, dozens of runs, one terrain park and a constant sense that you’re being drawn toward the lake as many of the runs offer non-stop views from top to bottom. Diamond Peak was the first Tahoe resort to install snowmaking in the 1960s and continues to be at the edge of the latest evolutions in creating ski conditions that are as attractive as the lake itself. Even the drive to Diamond Peak makes for a great escape. From Martis Camp, drive to Kings Beach on 267, then left on Highway 28 to Incline Village, where you’ll turn left on Country Club Drive, then right on Ski Way.
Photo courtesy of Heavenly Lake Tahoe
On the other side of the lake with its own claim to Tahoe’s most jaw-dropping scenery is Heavenly Lake Tahoe. This aptly named mountain straddles Nevada and California with 4,800 acres of moguls, steeps, terrain parks and long, groomed stretches of sheer bliss. There are 28 lifts (including a gondola that rises from the Heavenly Village), 97 trails, a 3,500 vertical foot descent, two terrain parks, countless pubs and cafes on the slopes and at the lodges, and – as a Martis Camper you’ll like this — a direct connection to the same Vail Resorts season pass that Northstar belongs to. Translation: that pass you bought for Northstar is also good at Heavenly Lake Tahoe (among many other resorts), a nice perk that makes this candy jar of alpine happiness even tastier.
There are a lot of factors that come into play when choosing where to ski:, including snow conditions, ease of access or the fact that curiosity calls out to you to explore new horizons. Either way, you’ve got a lot of great choices. And when the day’s over, you’ve got a great après scene at Martis Camp itself, whether it’s treating yourself to a lunch, dinner or apres cocktail and live music at Lookout Lodge, a spa session and dinner at the Camp Lodge, or settling into a hot chocolate and a pair of slippers by the fireplace. It’s a pleasant skinundrum to be confronted with. Enjoy.