North Lake Tahoe Double: Snowboard and Paddleboard in One Day
Anyone who knows me, or perhaps even follows me, knows that I’m a dual-sport athlete I love dual-sport, dual-season days. No, not as in going to bowl and putt-putt in one day, but more in the way of multiple outdoor adventure sport days that cross into multiple seasons. In Southern California that consists of what some affectionately call the California Double, where you ski (or snowboard) and surf in one day. But as I recently discovered in North Lake Tahoe, you can have a double, triple, or quadruple sport day without even having to sit in traffic. Lake Tahoe Double anyone? A couple Sundays ago I stood at the bottom of Alpine Meadows, awaiting the bell to ring to hop on the Summit Express chairlift to the top for a full day of snowboarding. You really can’t go wrong on any ski mountain in North Lake Tahoe, but the combo of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows is hard to beat. Squaw Valley really speaks for itself, being the location of the 1960 Winter Olympics, while Alpine Meadows has an offbeat feel to it that you don’t get from many of Lake Tahoe’s other top ski resorts. Not to mention that Alpine Meadows is home to one of my favorite ski bars, The Chalet, a Bavarian-style beer garden that is only accessible by skis or snowboard. Because apres-ski.
As far as I'm concerned, the Dixie Chicks song “Wide Open Spaces” couldn’t be any more appropriate for my sentiment toward Alpine Meadows. I’ll typically arrive to Alpine Meadows and take the Summit Express lift to the top of Alpine Meadows to access any number of the nearby bowls, some of which are accessible just off the lift, and others that require a short hike. It's here, too, that you get one of your first glimpses of Lake Tahoe itself from Alpine.
From Alpine's summit, I'll usually ride down the mountain a time or two before making my way to Lakeview, which as you may have guessed, features views of the lake, and is among my favorite lake views in all of Lake Tahoe. What I perhaps love the most about Alpine is that you feel like you’re deep in the wilderness like no other Lake Tahoe ski resort. It feels about as close to backcountry skiing and snowboarding without actually being in the backcountry.
On this particular day, however, after three straight days of snowboarding in North Lake Tahoe, my body slammed its Gandalf-like staff down, and said this far, but no further shall you snowboard on those ankles. But it didn’t say anything about other outdoor adventure activities.
And this is where I think Lake Tahoe sets itself apart from other ski destinations. Within minutes of leaving Alpine Meadows, I was riding along the north shore of Lake Tahoe, where a number of beachgoers were donning bikinis. While much cooler atop the 8,600-foot Alpine Meadows, it was a warm spring day at lake level. And while I wasn’t going to be doing any snowboarding, hiking, or running the rest of the day, that didn’t mean I couldn’t stand stationary while paddling around Lake Tahoe.
I drove east along the north shore of Lake Tahoe keeping my eyes peeled for either paddleboarders on the water or a paddle shop that looked open. It seemed only natural that I’d find it in one of Lake Tahoe’s most well known beach towns, Kings Beach, where I saw a paddle shop, Adrift, was bustling and advertised paddleboard rentals. Cha-ching!
In less than an hour I had gone from atop a snowboard in the snow to atop a paddleboard in the crystal-clear water of Lake Tahoe. Adrift’s shop is mere yards from the beach, so within a few minutes of walking into the shop, I had a board and paddle and was putting in along Kings Beach.
Before paddling out, I asked Marcus, the owner, how cold the water was, as I quizzically looked up at the snowy mountain peaks and looked down at my pale feet, board shorts, and dri-FIT tee. He looked up at me and chuckled, before responding, “It’s coldddd.” I considered the consequences, shrugged, and continued on out into the lake.
From Adrift, you can really paddle where you would like. Paddling to the right (west) would've taken me in the direction of my accommodations for the weekend, Cedar Glen Lodge (hello free nightly s'mores), which shares a beach that you can paddle at Mourelatos Lakeshore. However, I took Marcus’ recommendation, and hung a left, paddling parallel to the shore toward new Lake Tahoe nooks and crannies. Within minutes I was paddling just over large boulders that were below the surface of the water. In about a mile I had paddled across the California/Nevada border, giving me fodder I could brag to friends about (though perhaps leaving out the part about tweaking my ankle and being too old to snowboard several days in a row). After all, it’s not every day you can paddle from one state to another (unless you live in Lake Tahoe).
Continuing east, I paddled by a number of beautiful private and semi-private beaches, some of which are highly esteemed (and protected) by locals. My favorite of which included large boulders bigger than my apartment that stuck out of the water just beyond the shore. Here, the water had that emerald color to it that Lake Tahoe is so known for in places. I weaved in and out of boulders before turning around and paddling back to Adrift.
I got back to Adrift’s shop by 3, giving me another few hours of daylight. With that much daylight I could’ve paraglided from the top of nearby peaks, hiked a part of the 150-mile Tahoe Rim Trail, cross-country skied (or gone fat tire biking) at the recently opened Alder Creek Adventure Center in Tahoe Donner, or bicycled the Truckee River Bike Trail. Being Sunday Funday, however, and wanting to preserve my body, I decided that a Lake Tahoe Double (or perhaps Cal-Nevada Double) was enough for this day.
My day of snowboarding and paddleboarding in North Lake Tahoe really summed up everything that I love about Lake Tahoe. You have access to one of the most beautiful corners of America with some of the best things to do in America. Lake Tahoe takes many of my favorite adventures and characteristics of some of my favorite destinations, and puts it in one place. You could do much worse on a Sunday.