How to Safely Ski in Tahoe

Tahoe’s ski season is going to look a little different this year. Many skiers and snowboarders are itching to get back on the slopes after last year’s ski season came to an abrupt end at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the safest option is always to stay home, Tahoe’s resorts have gone to work to create safe options that will allow skiers and snowboarders to get their turns in.

Once you’re on the slopes, skiing and snowboarding are relatively low risk activities: At least 6 feet of distance is already preferred when flying down the slopes at high speeds, and face coverings are essential for keeping warm—but winter favorites like après-ski, hanging in the lodge, and chatting it up on the chairlift will have to wait another year. Instead, resorts will be offering grab-and-go food options and increasing outdoor seating.

Skiing in Tahoe
Photo © Stasvolik |

As of now, all 13 of Tahoe’s ski resorts are planning on staying open for the 2020/2021 ski season and have created plans to increase sanitation and limit crowds. While every resort has their own precautions and rules, a few universal rules apply. Guests are required to wear masks unless actively eating or drinking. Only members of the same party are allowed to ride chairlifts and gondolas together, transactions will be cashless, and use of lodge areas will be limited to restroom use only. On top of the precautions put in place by the resorts, here are a few general ways to stay extra safe during your Tahoe ski trip.

Plan and Book Ahead

Due to reduced capacity at resorts, many ski areas are requiring that guests reserve their spot ahead of time. Since capacity is limited, priority will be given to season pass holders. If you are planning on skiing for 3 or more days, a season pass might be the best option for both price and ensuring you will get a spot on the mountain. If you aren’t planning on getting a season pass, try booking further in advance to ensure you get the days you want. The same rule applies for lessons and rental equipment. Many resorts are getting rid of group lessons altogether in exchange for private lessons. Those ski areas that are continuing to offer group lessons will require advance reservations and class sizes will be limited. For visitors requiring rentals, same day rentals will be difficult to come by. To limit in-person interaction, consider using a rental delivery service, such as those available at Heavenly and Northstar. With so many changes at resorts, picking your destination well in advance will allow for plenty of time to understand the requirements of that ski area. The more you prepare, the smoother your trip will be.

Make Your Car Your Base

Since hanging in the lodge isn’t an option, consider making your car your base this season. Before heading to the mountain, make sure to get your boots and equipment on in your car. Plan on storing all bags in your vehicle instead of in the lodge or indoor lockers. Keeping a folding chair in your car can be helpful while getting yourself ready. It’s also helpful to bring snacks and water to limit your time spent at on-mountain restaurants.

Choose a Winter Sport Alternative

sledding on mt rose
Photo © Wirestock |

If you’re craving snow-filled day in Tahoe but want to skip the lifts altogether, consider opting for another socially distanced winter sport. Tahoe has many Sno-Parks and winter trails where you can enjoy a winter workout without any crowds. No matter what activity you choose, always wear a mask and maintain 6 feet of distance.

Snowshoeing is one of the most accessible options and lets you access many of Tahoe’s amazing trails. With minimal equipment, snowshoeing allows you the flexibility to find trailheads with fewer visitors. It’s easy to get the hang of, and snowshoe rentals do not require in person fittings. Just make sure to wear a good winter boot and proper snow attire.

Fat-tire biking is another sport that has been gaining traction in Tahoe. The wide tires allow you to bike through the snow. Northstar has fat-tire bikes for rent which can be used to access trails directly from the resort. Fat-tire bikes can also be rented from local shops around the lake.
If you just can’t shake the thought of skiing, cross-country skiing is a great alternative without lifts or lodges!