A snowmobile tour through California’s back country is an exhilarating experience in winter. There are plenty of Lake Tahoe attractions in winter but none as fun as a snow mobile adventure.
Woodlands of conifers zoomed past as our snowmobile flew along the wide groomed track. The winter scene was a page out of a children’s storybook.
This was my first time on a snow mobile and I was riding in the back seat while my husband, Roger, had control of the vehicle.
I felt a little out of my comfort zone at first, but Roger soon got the hang of how to handle the vehicle.
We were following a line of other snowmobiles while on a tour with Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours. Our destination was Mount Watson, 2563m above ocean level, along the Fiberboard Freeway.
Lake Tahoe winter scenery
The snow mobile tour was heaps of fun, with plenty of photo stops along the way.
Our first stop was a vantage point with a lovely view of Lake Tahoe, where pale snow-topped mountains were a tantalising teaser for what was to come.
The forest was breathtakingly beautiful but you could easily get lost. Fortunately, our guides knew these backcountry trails well.
We had a guide at the front of the group and one at the back, to make sure no one got left behind.
I bumped up and down on my seat (wishing I was driving) as we flew around the mountain-side.
Watson’s Lake Snow mobile fun
We pulled up at Watson’s Lake, which is a frozen lake that is a great spot for snow mobile races. I decided to hop off and let Roger whip around the lake on his own.
If you have the urge to satisfy a need for speed, this is the spot to do it. Although, our guides did warn us that a day doesn’t go by without someone taking a tumble.
Roger hit the throttle and his snowmobile flew around the icy lake. I was apparent he was having a ball.
Then it was my turn and I drove the snow mobile around like a granny at first while I familiarised myself with the controls. It didn’t take long before I was speeding too! It was so much fun!
There was a collective groan from everyone in the group when it was time to move one.
The rest of the tour revealed more natural wonders and the view from Mount Watson was worth the trip.
The scenery of snow-covered mountains looked like a white winter fairyland. It’s especially enchanting if you come from a region that doesn’t have snow.
Lake Tahoe is huge (35km by 19km). The lake has enough water to flood all of California to 35cm. The water is so clear they say you can see a white dinner plate as far down as 24m deep.
Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, is partly in California and partly in Nevada.
Our guide pointed out Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.
We had our very first skiing lesson in Lake Tahoe at Squaw Valley the day before and were impressed with the patience of our instructor at High Camp.
Although I felt rather daunted at first, I was surprised at the wide expanse of gentle beginner’s slopes and soon found myself skiing “s” curves with some degree of confidence.
High Camp has an ice-skating pavilion, a heated open-air swimming lagoon and an Olympic Museum. The museum’s displays and photos of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games is a portal into the past.
Squaw Valley town has a picture book appeal and a vibrant après-ski buzz. There are activities for children, ample opportunities to go shopping and lots of cafes and restaurants. During ski season, there are live music events throughout the week.
We stayed at the Resort at Squaw Creek, which offers ski-in/ski-out convenience from the base of the slopes.
A good reason to stay at the Resort at Squaw Creek is to avoid the public queues. The resort’s chairlift has its own access to the mountain.
Staying at the Resort at Squaw Creek is an excellent option for luxury travellers and even if you’re not a strong skier, there are plenty of other winter activities offered are dog sledding and snowshoe tours.
Northstar Mountain offers private and group lessons. Upon joining a group lesson, I find myself at the top of the mountain wondering if I have enough skill or confidence to ski down.
The view of the lake is absolutely jaw-dropping.
Even though this was only my second time on skis, my instructor was confident I’ll make it. I do manage to make it down without falling
Northstar village has a delightful winter wonderland ambience and a central fire pit where you can sip hot chocolate and watch the ice skaters on the lake.
Another mountain obviously noticeable from our snowmobile tour was Heavenly Mountain. The neat thing about skiing Heavenly Mountain is it’s partly in California and partly in Nevada.
The California side has views of the Desolation Wilderness alpine forest, peaks and valleys while the Nevada side offers vistas of the Carson Valley.
South Lake Tahoe has a vibrant nightlife and the Nevada side is a mini Las Vegas, with casinos that are open 24 hours a day.
There’s one last surprise on our way back to the snowmobile base.
We followed our guide into the forest and the track vanished as our snowmobiles hurtled down a steep slope.
As we swung around some bushes, one edge of our snowmobile lifted off the ground and started to tip over to the left. My heart skipped a couple of beats as I leaned hard to the right trying my best to balance the weight. I was so relieved when we were back on the track speeding off into the white winter wilderness.
Christina Pfeiffer was a guest of the Resort at Squaw and Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours.