Sierra-at-Tahoe: Big-Mountain Feel with a Locals’ Vibe

by Dan Giesin | March 10, 2020

With all the consolidations of ski resorts these days and their mega passes and lift tickets, you sometimes get the feeling you’re simply a faceless cog in a corporate machine.

Look at your pass: It has a number and that’s basically what and who you are.

But there are isolated pockets of independence, and one of those places is Sierra-at-Tahoe.

Located a dozen miles southwest of Lake Tahoe, Sierra, as most everyone calls it, is your proverbial locals mountain, drawing its hard-core clientele from the southern reaches of the Tahoe Basin and the west slope of the Sierra Nevada range all the way down to Sacramento, about 90 minutes away.

This is a working man’s or woman’s place, not some glam resort. You’re more likely to see gear from REI than Bogner here.

Snow, and Lots of It

However, don’t think for an instant Sierra is some podunk hill with little to offer but local color and, perhaps, cheap beer.

Sierra can deliver the goods.

Sprawled over 2,000 acres of El Dorado National Forest just west of the Sierra Nevada crest, the resort receives the brunt of the storms that come off the Pacific in winter and generally gets around 400 inches of snow annually.

And when the snows lie deep and heavy on Sierra’s 2,212 feet of vertical, it can be a powder-hound’s paradise. Check out Avalanche Bowl, looker’s right of the Nob Hill chair. Or the glades off Preacher’s Passion and Dynamite runs. Or anywhere in the 320-acre backcountry playground of gate-accessed cliff, chutes, glades and pillows known as Huckleberry Canyon.

Terrain for Everyone

What? You said you left your fat boards at home? 

Not to worry. Sierra and its 14 lifts have plenty of other terrain that will suit any type of skier or snowboarder.

Long, long cruisers — such as Horsetail, Clipper, Pyramid and Dogwood — can be found in the West Bowl section of the resort (which is also a great tree-skiing area during and after a storm).

For you mogul bashers, Dynamite, Preacher’s Passion and Castle are well-regarded bump runs.

Park rats have their choice of six terrain parks, including a Burton Progression park, and top-rated half pipe. There’s also a boardercross run.

And because Sierra likes to think of itself as a family-friendly resort, there’s plenty of gentle terrain, including a large, dedicated teaching area off the Broadway lift, the 2.5-mile, top-to-bottom green run known as Sugar and Spice and two adventure parks where kids can improve their technique and learn a bit about the history of the area.

Food with a View

There are several dining options, the most popular — for good reasons — being the 360-degree Smokehouse BBQ with its signature view of Lake Tahoe at the resort’s 8,825-foot summit and the Baja Grill, which has a Caribbean beach vibe at the base of the West Bowl chair.

And don’t forget the Pub, upstairs at the main lodge. Where else would you find a resort’s general manager — in this case John Rice and his Rice Brothers band — occasionally laying down some licks on a weekend afternoon?

Only at Sierra-at-Tahoe.

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