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Lake Tahoe’s Top Adventure To-Do List

All the buzz, without the caffeine. The Lake Tahoe area’s latest and greatest adventure to satisfy your restless soul.

Hang out in Truckee and Tahoe long enough and you’ll quickly realize that the streets, slopes, coffee shops, and trails are filled with an inordinate amount of people who choose turbulence over tranquility. They’re the ones with wide eyes, tanned complexions, and excess amounts of adrenaline coursing through their lives, the ones on a first name basis with a thing called risk.

We may look at them quizzically or with admiration while wondering what it’s like to take a page from their lives and apply it for a day, even if it only involves just a touch of newness and excitement, thrilling enough to say “I did it” while comforted by the notion it didn’t involve a hundred-foot plunge from a frozen cornice reminiscent of Mavericks.

Following are a variety of options for finding local thrills, laid out in degrees ranging from “what the heck” to “what in the world!” We can’t promise you’ll discover that hair-raising primal tickle at the nape of your neck, but we can pretty much assure you that, whatever adventure you choose to pursue, your life is likely to be far more colorful for having taken that step. Let’s go.

So, grab a cup of coffee, slide up to the edge of your seat, and dive into an article that’ll expose you to a variety of local activities and adventures, some heavy enough on the stoke factor that they might awaken those microscopic hairs on the back of your neck.

E-Foiling: Just add water.

A write-up on activities at Lake Tahoe is incomplete without addressing that big, beautifully blue elephant in the room: the lake. That centerpiece of pleasure is where many inevitably gravitate. And so shall we.

In the 1960s, reports of UFOs were becoming commonplace across America. It wasn’t until recently that they were seen at Lake Tahoe. Or, rather, on Lake Tahoe. “Most people can’t wrap their heads around what they’re seeing,” according to Matt Cook, owner of Cook eFoiling. “It truly looks like black magic when you first see someone flying so smoothly and impossibly fast over the water.” What Cook is referring to is the eFoil that he and his adventure company have introduced to Lake Tahoe. He provides instructions and tours introducing this high-tech thrill machine to people looking for something different, something that leaves them wide-eyed, winded, and full of wonder.

“I tell people that hydrofoiling is the powder skiing of surfing.” said Cook. “Once the board leaves the water, you’re flying across the surface in this perfectly smooth, almost surreal state of balance,” he added, noting that he’s logged successful lessons with people ranging from 8 to 72 years old and that his success rate of getting people up on a hydrofoil hovers at 95 percent. Optimal conditions for learning to ride involve calm waters, normally what Tahoe and Donner presents in the mornings and evenings. When waters kick up, he often heads for the quiet coves of Prosser and Boca reservoirs. Photo courtesy of Cook e-Foiling

To see this phenomenon in action or book a session, visit www.cookefoiling.com

Unleash your inner Kahanamoku.

A mere 6,225’ higher than Half Moon Bay’s famed Mavericks surfing scene is a new surf destination with waves that – while dwarfed by the monsters of the Pacific – are far more consistent, way more accessible, and, most importantly, nearly as thrilling. It’s called wakesurfing and at Lake Tahoe it’s become all the rage, following in the wake of water skiing, tubing, and wakeboarding. All it takes is a board, bathing suit, and a boat specially designed to kick up delicious curls and glassy pipes.

That’s where Elevation Surf Charters comes in. Their fleet of 24-foot Mastercraft boats are not only long, comfortable, and state of the art in regard to emissions, but they also produce the biggest waves on the market. “That’s where you see the grins get wide,” said Graham Vilkin, instructor with Elevation Surf Charters. “That sensation of surfing just grabs hold of you,” he explained, “especially on those sunset sessions in a glassy cove on the east shore.” Vilkin proudly touts their high success rate in introducing people to wakesurfing as well as inspiring them to comfortably push their skills further.

In addition to surfing, the company offers scenic tours, tubing, and trips to secret stashes with some stellar swimming. They’re also in high demand when firework shows are on tap. Photos courtesy of Elevation Surf Charters

To book a session or gather more details, visit www.elevationcharters.com

Fly Fishing: The art of streaming online.

Fishing – or more precisely, catching a fish – may not be the first thing to come to mind when thinking of action, adventure and adrenaline. If so, that only means that you haven’t been fishing with Matt Heron. Heron has a way of bringing you face to face with monsters, those big, buttery brown trout and ballistic rainbows that frequent the blue-ribbon waters just minutes from Martis Camp. It’s his experience with the Truckee River that Heron’s most renowned for. “If you’re looking to fish the Truckee,” he said, “we’ll work hard to put fish in the net and maybe land you the fish of your lifetime.”

Never lacking in energy or insight, the long-time resident of Truckee complements his lifelong knowledge of fly fishing with an intimate and uncanny understanding of where to go when the water’s just right and the bugs are at play. He’s also nationally recognized as having created one of the nation’s top fly fishing schools and is Regional Director for Cast Hope, a non-profit introducing at-risk youth to fly fishing the waters of Reno/Tahoe.

Heron is on the go with casting camps and classes throughout the area, including arranging frequent sessions at the Resort at Squaw Creek and at Martis Camp’s own Concert Lake. “No matter what program you go with, you’ll learn techniques that’ll last a lifetime and you’ll have a ton of fun along the way,” added Heron. Photo courtesy of Matt Heron Fly Fishing.

To book a session or gather more details, visit www.mattheronflyfishing.com

How to bring water to a boil.

Adding to those local water-based attractions are other places serving up adventures and scenery that make for amazing days and brilliant memories. There’s sailing on Tahoe and the option of a slow cruise across the lake in a classic woody or on a well-appointed yacht, including a 70-foot million-dollar beauty built in 1966. You can rent kayaks or paddleboards for Tahoe and Donner or book a parasailing ride that lifts you into the ether above the lake.

Finally, a classic that doesn’t necessarily instill visions of danger and daring are those classic therapeutic options of renting a tube and floating the Truckee River from Tahoe City to River Ranch. If that’s too sedate, ramp it up and look into booking a whitewater rafting trip into the local stretches of frothy waters. To look more deeply into your options, consider visiting these sites while your coffee’s still warm. Photo courtesy of Paul Hamill Photography

Lake Tahoe aboard Wild Goose II – www.wildgoose2.com

Lake Tahoe Bleu Wave Cruise – www.tahoebleuwave.com

Action Water Sports – www.awsincline.com

West Shore Sports – www.westshoresports.com

Adrift Tahoe – www.standuppaddletahoe.com

Truckee River Rafting – www.truckeeriverrafting.com

California Parasail – www.californiaparasail.com

North Tahoe Watersports – www.parasailtahoe.com

Mountain Biking: Kick it up a gear.

Away from the water and woven into the forests and slopes of the area is a mixed bag of goodies that will leave you in a wide-eyed state of wonder. Pick your pleasure – from bikes to boulders to trails for runners, hikers and horses – and rip into some terra firma fun.

For most of us, the notion of riding a bike is as simple as, well, riding a bike. Not so, according to Dylan Renn of A Singletrack Mind, a locally based company specializing in building mountain bike riding skills and arranging tours, camps and clinics for everyone from first timers to those looking to drop in on some of the area’s legendary mountain bike trails. When it comes to coaches, few rival the talent of Renn. He’s raced at expert and pro levels for 20 years and has been a professional coach for 12. And yet, as Yelp reviews consistently testify, he gets just as much thrill out of seeing the spark of life light up in kids working their way up the ladder of progression.

Tahoe Mountain Biking“These programs are all about safety and skill and inspiring people of all ages to enjoy biking as a lifetime passion,” explained Renn, who focuses primarily on such details as body positioning, mental attitudes, cornering, enhancing hand/eye coordination, and mastering jumps, drops and stomps. Chances are, you’ve seen him around Martis Camp on trails with riders in tow who are learning skills as well as being exposed to the many paths around the community. He also is called upon by those looking for more advanced lessons that take them to such places as Big Chief, Sawtooth and Hole-In-The-Ground. “Those rides are ideal,” Renn explained. “You get a morning of riding some fantastic country and are back in time for an afternoon round of golf.”  Photo courtesy of A Singletrack Mind and Abner Kingman

More information on tours and clinics from A Singletrack Mind can be found at www.asingletrackmind.com

Tahoe Via Ferrata: A mountain of adventure.

In homes throughout Martis Camp, walls, hallways and coffee tables are adorned with photos of family outings throughout the Tahoe area, most prominent being those captured on ski slopes and at the lake itself. Gaining quickly on those standards, however, are images that look like something out of Eiger Sanction, with people ascending cliffs and overhangs and crossing from one boulder face to another via ropes and ladders. And the funny thing is, they’re all smiling – kids of all ages accomplishing feats they never imagined. Stranger yet, those photos were taken not in the French Alps but rather Squaw Valley.

Tahoe Via Ferrata“We’ve had people from 7-84 years old conquering this course,” said Sean Kristl, of Tahoe Via Ferrata. “They all come down with this ‘holy smokes, I did it’ sense of accomplishment,” he added. “And all this from people who mainly have no previous experience in climbing.” Kristl and the AMGA-certified guides at Via Feratta have a great track record for instructing newcomers in the art of mountaineering. More importantly, they’re just as skilled at recognizing and overcoming any fears that might arise. “That’s a natural response that we’re prepared to deal with,” explained Kristl. “The option to bow out is always there but – knowing that they’re locked into harnesses and cables and that every safety precaution is taken care of – rarely does anyone take us up on that. Instead, they discover how to move more freely with the mountain and they learn how to move beyond any fears of climbing.”

Many who got their starts at Tahoe Via Ferrata have gone further afield with their climbing, including those once-rookies who are now summiting mountains across the world. Still others are happy to simply show up for a birthday party, bachelorette party, or team building session unlike any they’ve ever experienced.

Tahoe Via Ferrata promises a great sense of accomplishment, as well as a few amazing photos (courtesy of the guides) to add to your walls and hallways. For details, visit www.tahoevia.com

Photo courtesy of Paul Hamill Photography

Rock Climbing: We will rock you.

If you’ve ever taken the scenic route to Tahoe via the Old Donner Pass Road, chances are you’ve seen humans hanging spider-like on rocks that are among the west’s most famous. The Tahoe Truckee area features many promontories that call to those in search of new skills and thrills.

Paul Hamill - Bouldering Donner Summit

Photo courtesy of Paul Hamill Photography

Among those companies that are adept at exposing you to this sport and these routes are:

North American Ski Training & Climbing School (NASTC)  – www.skinastc.com

Alpenglow Expeditions  – www.alpenglowexpeditions.com

Tahoe Mountain School  – www.tahoemountainschool.com

Blackbird Mountain Guides – www.blackbirdguides.com

Story by Scott Mortimore

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