South Lake Tahoe Correspondence – November 2016

Young skiers enjoying a sunny day at Heavenly Valley
                                    Young skiers enjoying a sunny day at Heavenly Valley

November is a month of great anticipation: who is going to be elected the next president of the United States?  Will marijuana be legalized in Nevada?  But up here at the Lake we have a more important issue: we need it to snow, and snow a lot.

Sure, we’ve had the occasional dustings here and there, but those are just teasers.  A great winter is good for everything. Lots of the white stuff means the ski resorts are operating at full capacity, which means the economy booms all over town. Not to mention that the lake fills up, and that creates a great summer season.

Even though the mountains remain snow-free for now, Heavenly Mountain Resort has announced they are scheduled to open November 18.  Between Mother Nature and snowmaking efforts, people may be schussing down the runs at Heavenly before Thanksgiving. According to the National Weather Service, the weather system La Nina will make an early appearance on the West Coast and hopefully provide a nice kickoff to the winter recreational season.

Forecasters can use all the science they want to predict how much snow we’ll get, but locals like to do their rendition of an Indian rain dance — or get together and have a party and send good vibes to the snow gods.  One such event has been happening for decades, and this year marks the 34th annual Fresh Ketch Pray for Snow Party.  The seafood restaurant at 2435 Venice Drive in the Tahoe Keys Marina, South Lake Tahoe, CA will be holding their shindig November 17, starting at 6 pm.  The two-story space will be shaking with live entertainment, fun games, raffle prizes, and good times with good people trying to persuade the weather into giving up some fresh powder for people to carve through.

View from Castle Rock near the Tahoe Rim Trail
                                                                     View from Castle Rock near the Tahoe Rim Trail

While we wait and pray for the snow to start flying, get out and get your body and all its muscles ready for the upcoming ski season.  The trails in and around the Lake are in prime condition for a hike or bike ride, especially if you’re a mountain bike enthusiast the trails are perfect.  The good rain we received in mid-October made the bike paths nice and tacky, instead of dry and slippery, for the tires to cling to as you whiz down the hill.  Since for the most part skiing is way up at elevations usually above 7,000 feet above sea level, it’s a good idea to acclimate yourself.  The Tahoe Rim Trail can offer a good tune-up for the body, soul and, very importantly, the lungs, because it’s a workout hurling yourself down a ski run. The entire TRT is a trek of over a hundred miles,  but you can cut in at number of different spots around the Lake.  One great place to try is the Kingsbury North trailhead off of Kingsbury Grade (Hwy. 207). Turn north on North Benjamin Drive near the summit and go two miles till the road dead ends at a parking lot.  A good destination for a day hike on the TRT is Castle Rock, four miles round trip; enjoy panoramic views of the Lake and see ancient fir trees while walking to the rock.  Perched atop the Carson Range, Castle Rock is a dominant landmark on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, along with Mount Tallac and Cave Rock.  The views are breathtaking, and it’s fun to try some novice rock climbing too.

Happy customer at Wally's Huddle Grill & Bar
                     Happy customer at Wally’s Huddle Grill & Tavern

Welcome back winter, and welcome back Wally’s Huddle Grill & Tavern. The former Sam’s Place is back in business at Zephyr Cove (611 Hwy 50, Zephyr Cove, NV). The oldest tavern on the Nevada side of the Lake reopened in October under the new name of Wally’s because of some dispute over rights to the name by former management, according to an anonymous longtime regular.  But whatever the name on the sign outside says, it’s still the same charming place. The old cherry-wood bar was refinished and looks beautiful.  A complete overhaul in the kitchen, with all new pizza ovens, fryers, grills, and ventilation system, will be churning out the good bar food it has long been known for, with a Wally Burger taking the place of the Sam’s Burger.  Always a cozy place in the winter, with a fireplace burning in the dining room and the friendly patrons and interesting conversation happening, especially during election season.


Here come the winter months, and the more snow the merrier. Sure, man-made snow can enable the resorts to open, but only Nature can bring a truly epic winter. Paraphrasing a longtime ski-bum about an abundant snow season, as opposed to creating some runs with the snow making cannons: only having a few runs open is fun at first, but the crowds get dangerous. I like to ski in the trees; they don’t crash into you!

— Brendan Packer