Water tower at entrance of Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California

Martin Ray Winery

Cover: Water tower at entrance of Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Driving up Laguna Road toward Martin Ray Winery, the first thing you’ll notice is a water tower soaring high above the vines against a perfect Sonoma sky. As you turn down the long drive, vibrant flowers and olive trees welcome you to the beautiful, historic winery just west of Santa Rosa.

Flowers & olive trees welcome you to Martin Ray Winery
Flowers & olive trees welcome you to Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While we’d tasted Martin Ray’s wines over the years, this was our first visit to the winery and we quickly realized we’d uncovered a gem. Serene and lavishly landscaped, the winery is one of those where you grab a glass, find a chair near the vines or a table next to the gardens, and casually enjoy the wine country experience.

Relax in a chair near the vines at Martin Ray Winery
Relax in a chair near the vines
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We visited on a Saturday afternoon during Grill 116, a tasting event hosted by 12 wineries along Route 116 in West Sonoma County where attendees sampled their way through wines and grilled specialties along the route.

Grill 116 event at Martin Ray, Sonoma County, California
Grill 116 event at Martin Ray 
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Tasting at Grill 116 at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa
Tasting at Grill 116 at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As visitors meandered about, enjoying the food, wines and a glorious Sonoma afternoon, we caught up with Andy Barker, Director of Consumer Sales & Hospitality, who gave us a tour and shared a bit of the winery’s history along the way – and quite a history it does have.

Kim Hull & Andy Barker, Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Kim Hull & Andy Barker, Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The oldest continually operating winery in Sonoma County

Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Oh, the stories the vineyards surrounding the winery could tell. Martin Ray is the oldest continuously operating winery in Sonoma County and one of the oldest in all of California.

Back in 1881, Twin Fir Winery set up a vineyard and winery on this spot in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. In 1902, an Italian immigrant, Rafael Martini, purchased the winery and, in the years following, Martini further developed the estate, building a stable and bunk house where Italian immigrants stayed during harvest. Today, the Martin Ray Tasting Room is housed in this very structure.

Martin Ray Tasting Room, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Tasting Room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tanks were crafted from old-growth redwood in 1904 and, soon thereafter, Martini turned the operations over to his sons. The Martinis produced wines that put the winery on the map. Enduring prohibition by producing sacramental wines, the winery survived and the Martinis resumed making wines for the public after it was repealed in 1933.

Old-growth redwood tanks at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Old-growth redwood tanks at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 1950, Enrico Prati joined the Martini family, and the new Martini & Prati label produced wines at the location until the winery was sold to Courtney Benham in 2003.

Martin Ray Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Courtney Benham brings Martin Ray Wines to Sonoma County

One of the reasons I love visiting a winery is hearing the history of the vineyard, the winemakers and the winery while walking the grounds and tasting the wine. Somehow, from then on, when the wine fills your glass, the provenance, the terroir, and the winery visit converge in your glass along with the juice, bringing the wine country experience to you as you taste the wine, wherever you may be in the world.

2014 Martin Ray Winery Pinot Noir Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
2014 Martin Ray Winery Pinot Noir
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

By the time Courtney Benham acquired the Martini & Prati location in 2003, the winery had seen better days and was on the decline. Benham, who had acquired the rights to the Martin Ray brand in 1990, purchased the Martini & Prati vineyards and winery in 2003 and set about renovating the property, bringing it to modern standards, while still embracing its history and tradition.

Today, the winery is a great example of form and function coexisting. The beautiful barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events but, when harvest rolls around, the tables are cleared out and the room is used as a production facility.

Beautiful Martin Ray barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Beautiful Martin Ray barrel room serves as a stunning backdrop to parties and events
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

State of the art storage facilities are housed in buildings that once were home to over 1.5 million gallons of the old redwood storage tanks. Utilizing a variety of production equipment and fermentation methods, the Martin Ray winemakers have at their disposal the tools required to produce the award-winning, artisanal wines for which they are known and respected.

Martin Ray production facilities Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Martin Ray production facilities
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Barrel room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Barrel room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Leaving the barrel rooms and production facilities, we wandered over to the serene setting of the pavilion located under the water tower, which is available for corporate retreats and also used for winery events, such as wine under the stars evenings.

Event pavilion at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Sonoma County, California
Event pavilion at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Lush landscaping at Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Lush landscaping at Martin Ray Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of wine, it was time to do some more tasting – next stop, the tasting room.

Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery, Sonoma County, California
Yield to tasters, Martin Ray Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Martin Ray tasting room

Tasting room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Tasting room at Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Welcomed by a knowledgeable and friendly staff, the low-key tasting room is just what you’d expect in such an inviting atmosphere.

Martin Ray's casual tasting room
Martin Ray’s casual tasting room
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ray Wines

We’d tasted the Russian River Valley Chardonnay & Rosé during our tour and we really liked both wines and decided to also try/take home a few of the limited release wines. For our chardonnay choice, we selected the 2014 Mill Station Vineyard-Dutton Ranch Chardonnay from Green Valley.

While I’m generally not a chardonnay fan, Greg is, so we try to find chardonnays that appeal to both our tastes. This one fit the bill, refreshing and not too oaky, with a richness and clean finish. As far as the rosé – we’d loved the 2015 Estate Grown Rosé. Bone dry, complex, crisp – just a perfect summer wine.

Next up, the 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel. Robust with an earthy tone and nicely balanced. Liked it, and in the box it went.

Martin Ray 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel
Martin Ray 2013 Puccioni Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Time to get serious, we moved on to the 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. A truly special wine, the Cab was full bodied, rich and simply divine. This one was a definite purchase and probably will make an appearance around the holidays.

Martin Ray 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Martin Ray 2013 Martin Ray Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Martin Ray 2007 Diamond Peak District Cabernet Sauvignon
Martin Ray 2007 Diamond Peak District Cabernet Sauvignon
Photo: Ryan Hull © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ray has a small quantity of older vintages available in their library collection. Highly-praised by fans and pros alike, you can also find Martin Ray wines on many quality restaurant wine lists.

Certified Sommelier and general manager of Boulder, Colorado’s L’Atelier, Ryan Hull explains why he regularly features Martin Ray wines in the restaurant:

Martin Ray was legendary…one of the first to bring the French philosophies of wine making and vineyard management to California. The proof is in the pudding. This is apparent from the juice in the glass.

I was recently pouring the 2007 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass and nearly every customer opted for a second. Amazing vintage, incredible complexity and luscious fruit.”

– Ryan Hull, CS & GM, L’Atelier

Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visiting Martin Ray

Getting there: Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery is located on the quieter side of the 101, about 10 miles west of downtown Santa Rosa. The address is 2191 Laguna Road, Santa Rosa, California 95401.

Hours: The tasting room is open daily from 10am to 5pm.

Book a tour or reserve a box lunch in advance. The winery welcomes visitors to pack a picnic and enjoy the beautiful gardens while having lunch or, call two days in advance to order a box lunch for your visit. A variety of tours and tastings are available and can be reserved on the Martin Ray website.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Martin Ray Vineyards and Winery for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Martin Ray water tower, Santa Rosa, California
Martin Ray water tower, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Amgen Tour of California 2016, Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx-Quick Step

Santa Barbara to Sacramento: Amgen Tour of California 2016

Cover: Julian Alaphilippe, Amgen Tour of California 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


The 2016 Amgen Tour of California began in San Diego, California Sunday, May 15 and wrapped up nearly 800 miles later in Sacramento on Sunday, May 22. Along the route from south to north, the riders climbed mountains, traveled the beautiful Hwy 1 along the California coastline and visited majestic Lake Tahoe.

In the end, a 23-year-old Frenchman, Julian Alaphilippe, took home the yellow jersey, something he’d had in his possession since winning the third stage of the race and taking over the race lead in Santa Barbara County.

San Diego

Amgen Tour of California 2016 press conference at San Diego Yacht Club
Amgen Tour of California 2016 press conference at San Diego Yacht Club
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A couple of days before the race began, a select group of riders met with the press at the San Diego Yacht Club. A beautiful setting, the San Diego Yacht Club dates back to 1886, when local boating enthusiasts formed the club, which has been located at its current location in Point Loma since 1924.

Pre-race press conferences typically include race official speeches, sponsor promotions, local celebrity cyclists and, of course, a handful of the cyclists riding the race.

Amgen Tour of California 2016 Coca-Cola bottles
Amgen Tour of California 2016 Coca-Cola bottles
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Amgen Tour of California 2016, Bill Walton
Amgen Tour of California 2016, Bill Walton
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It was an all-star lineup of cyclists including 2012 Tour de France winner, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Alexander Kristoff, Julian Alaphilippe, Peter Sagan, John Degenkolb, and Taylor Phinney. Chatting under the California sun, the riders answered questions and bantered amongst themselves in the relaxed southern California atmosphere.

Taylor Phinney, John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff, 2016 Amgen Tour of Califoria press conference
Taylor Phinney, John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff, 2016 Amgen Tour of California press conference
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A day off followed the press conference, then it was time for the race to begin its journey toward the north.

Southern California

San Diego stage 1 circuit

The 108 mile Stage 1 began at Mission Bay, traveled through Balboa Park and various San Diego neighborhoods, moved to the nearby hills east of the city, then returned to a finish a couple of miles from the start, near Sea World.

Breakaway group, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 1
Breakaway group, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 1
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Seven riders quickly pulled off the front of the peloton, maintaining about a four minute lead on the peloton for the majority of the day. We spent the day in a media car in the peloton, near the breakaway group of riders.

Danny Pate, Rally Cycling
Danny Pate, Rally Cycling Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
2016 Amgen Tour of California Stage 1 breakaway
2016 Amgen Tour of California Stage 1 breakaway Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As with most breakaways, it fell apart near the end, with 2015 Amgen Tour of California winner, Peter Sagan of Tinkoff taking the stage 1 win.

Peter Sagan wins Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 1
Peter Sagan wins Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 1 in San Diego
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Peter Sagan in the yellow jersey, Tinkoff, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 1
Peter Sagan in the yellow jersey, Tinkoff, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 1
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I’m very happy to be here again, to catch a first victory here, in the first stage. Thank you to all my teammates. Today was a good day. I came here the first time in 2010…it was a very nice race, very good organization, very nice hotels, food.  Also, the level of the race is very good, and it’s also very good for preparation because it’s good weather. Now it’s the Giro and Tour of California. And I prefer to come here to train and prepare. And also I like California for the fans, and I’ve won a lot of stages here, and I’m very happy always to return here.”
Peter Sagan

Stage 2: South Pasadena to Santa Clarita

Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 2 start line
Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 2 start line
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Day two began in South Pasadena near Rose Bowl Stadium, the site of the finish of the 2015 race. Located only six miles from downtown Los Angeles, South Pasadena is a picturesque community in San Gabriel Valley known for its tree-lined streets and historic homes.

Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 2 Start, South Pasadena, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish,
Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 2 Start, South Pasadena, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish,
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Leaving South Pasadena, the riders spent the day covering 92 miles that included visits to Big Tujunga and Little Tujunga Canyon in Angeles National Forest, before ending in Santa Clarita, which has hosted the most stages in the history of the race.

Remember the above statement from stage one that most breakaways fall don’t make it to the finish? Yeah, well, sometimes they do.

Ben King (Cannondale) and Evan Huffman (Rally) survived the stage 2 breakaway with King taking the win in Santa Clarita. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took third along with the peloton 8 seconds later.

The win also placed King in the overall race lead, taking the yellow jersey from Peter Sagan heading into stage 3. 

I knew Evan was a pretty quick sprinter. He smoked me in both of the King of the Mountain sprints, so I was hesitant to let it come down to a sprint, but I couldn’t drop him on the climb, so in the end we both fully committed to make the breakaway stick to the finish, and in the end, Evan let out the sprint, and I was able to come around him in the finish.”
– Ben King

Ben King, Amgen Tour of California 2016
Ben King, Amgen Tour of California 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

South to Central California

Stage 3: Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara County

Julian Alaphilippe, 2016 Amgen Tour of California Stage 3
Julian Alaphilippe, 2016 Amgen Tour of California Stage 3 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) dominated on the Queen Stage of the Amgen Tour of California, taking the win on Gibraltar Road in Santa Barbara County and the overall race lead.

The goal at the start of the day was to be in a good position in the final kilometers and I was there thanks to the hard work of my teammates, who protected me throughout the day. I felt good, left it late to attack and from then on put in a strong effort. Now I’m in yellow, which is great, and I’m prepared to take things day by day.”
– Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx – Quick-Step

The race finished for the first time on the legendary Gibraltar Road, with the final 12 kilometers ascending at an average 8% grade.

At 10 kilometers to go, the day’s break had dissolved and the peloton began to fracture. Neilson Powless (Axeon Cycling) pulled away from the main group, riding solo for several kilometers, until he was joined by Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) and Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly).

With three kilometers remaining in the race, Stetina attacked. Alaphilippe quickly bridged to Stetina from the main group, then continued on, passing him enroute to the finish and the stage 3 win. 

Stetina finished the day in second place, as well as in the overall race, and now sits 19 seconds back.

Peter Stetina, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 3
Peter Stetina, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 3 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

George Bennett (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) was third for the day, which moved him into third place in the general classification, 31 seconds behind Alaphilippe.

I’m happy with my performance today. I didn’t know how my condition would be because I was sick in the spring classics. I want to thank the boys for their help today and the team for the possibility to train in Colorado to build up again.”
– George Bennett

Julian Alaphilippe, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 3
Peter Stetina, Julian Alaphilippe, George Bennett, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 3 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Stage 4: Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara County

Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
Peter Sagan wins stage 4 at Amgen Tour of California 2016 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) picked up another win at stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey County. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) was second and Nathan Haas (Dimension Data).

Peter Sagan, 2016 Amgen Tour of California Stage 4
Peter Sagan, 2016 Amgen Tour of California Stage 4 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

“I’m feeling pretty good after that stage. It would have better if we could have won a stage already but in the end it was a good day for us and I’m pretty happy with my form after coming back from my crash in Flanders. I think Brent and Rohan had a really good day in GC and everything went pretty well.

For me, on the uphill sections I tried to follow as if you know there is a good finish for you, you can always hang on longer. So, I tried to get over the climbs and the team did a really good job today keeping the pace pretty high. In the end, there was a little bit of gambling about how the finish would go. I’ve beaten [Peter] Sagan a few times already but this time he won so next time I will have to try and beat him again.”
Greg Van Avermaet, BMC Racing Team 

Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan, Nathan Haas, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 4 podium Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) retained the overall lead, now 22 seconds in front of Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) and 37 seconds ahead of George Bennett (Team LottoNL-Jumbo).

Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
Julian Alaphilippe, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 4 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Northern California

Stage 5: Lodi to Lake Tahoe

Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 5, South Lake Tahoe
Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 5, South Lake Tahoe Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Toms Skujins (Cannondale) survived the breakaway to win stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California at Heavenly Mountain in South Lake Tahoe. Adam De Vos (Rally) was second and Xabier Zandio (Team Sky) was third.

Toms Skujins wins 2016 Amgen Tour of California Stage 5
Toms Skujins wins 2016 Amgen Tour of California Stage 5 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

To get into the break, you have to try at least a couple of times. I knew that the altitude was going to make people suffer, and I knew that even if it wasn’t the steepest hills that the race would be blown to bits. It was a good day for the breakaway. I was really happy I could get into the move, and of course, I was happy to take out the win.”
– Toms Skujins

Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx-Quick Step, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 5
Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx-Quick Step, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 5 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No change in the top of General Classification, with Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) holding onto the overall race lead by 22 seconds over Peter Stetina (Trek Segfredo) heading into the stage 6 time trial in Folsom.

Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 5, Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx-Quick Step
Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 5, Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx-Quick Step Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Stage 6: Folsom Individual Time Trial

Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) won the stage 6 time trial in Folsom with a time of 24 minutes 16 seconds, but Julian Alaphilippe remains in yellow. Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) was second at the ITT and Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) was third.

I was fairly confident as I crossed the line that I had set the quickest time for the rest of the race. I was in a fair bit of pain, the main thing I remember was that I had that taste of metallic in my mouth for the last four or five kilometers from the lactate so it was good to get a drink and wash that out.

The wind was definitely getting stronger and stronger throughout the day which actually played into our favor a little bit with Alaphilippe because he is a smaller rider and would have been blown around a little bit more. In the end it didn’t make too much of a difference with the stage win, that was my goal for the day as well as trying to take time out. So, it was still a good day, even if we didn’t get the yellow jersey.”
– Rohan Dennis 

The ride moved Dennis into second place in the overall standings, now 16 seconds behind Alaphilippe with two stages remaining. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing Team) is in third 38 seconds back.

Of course I’m really happy, and a small surprise for me to stay in yellow today, because the time trial is not really my specialty.”
– Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx – Quick-Step

Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 5, Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx-Quick Step
Julian Alaphilippe, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Stage 7: Santa Rosa to Sacramento

Alexander Kristoff, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 1
Alexander Kristoff, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha Team) took the stage 7 victory in Santa Rosa, edging out Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Danny Van Poppel (Team Sky).

We had to chase hard and still in the end Peter Sagan was right there with me even though he had been out there by himself all that time. Unbelievable. I was happy to be able to hold him off. I think if he had saved some energy from earlier he would have beaten me. I had wanted to see how I felt after the climbs before I put my team to work, but once we came across the last one I could tell I was OK.  I was tired, but I knew everyone else was also tired. The guys all did such a good job. It’s always good to finish it off with a win and it shows I am going the right way for the Tour de France.”
– Alexander Kristoff, Katusha Team

Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 7: Sonoma County
Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 7: Sonoma County Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Julian Alaphlippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) held on to his overall lead, which should send him to the race win at stage 8 in Sacramento.

Reflecting on the 2016 race, Alaphilippe recognized the importance of his time trial performance in his overall success, while pointing to his stage 3 victory on Gibraltar Road in Santa Barbara county as the highlight:

Victory is always something special. Yesterday was a good performance for me because I’m really not a specialist and I never train with my TT (time trial) bike….I know for only 20k’s (kilometers), I can do something good.”
– Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx – Quick-Step

Stage 8: Sacramento

Julian Alaphilippe, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Stage 4
Julian Alaphilippe, Amgen Tour of California 2016 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx – Quick-Step) became the youngest winner of the Amgen Tour of California, winning the 2016 race in Sacramento at the age of 23.

It was stressful today, because everyone wanted to stay at the front and fought for a better position. Usually, I’m not nervous, but today things were different, as the victory was closer and closer. Thankfully, I had a powerful team around me, which was always in charge, and as soon as Tom Boonen hit the front with me safely tucked behind him, it was like being on a holiday. Now, we’ll celebrate the win, but once we will return home, I’ll be back on my bike, training and looking to further improve.”
– Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx – Quick-Step

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) picked up the final stage win of the race, edging out Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha Team) for the win in a sprint finish.

Its been a tough week, Nathan was third the other day, but we really wanted to get this stage win. It was a windy day, so we had to take on the race. The guys rode out of their skins, Jacques rode the whole day on the front, and then everyone was just really going for it. We had to use our whole lead-out to catch the break, so in the end it was a bit a case of free styling. I was on Sagan’s wheel and know this finish really well. I’ve won here before and knew that, if was in the right position I should win here.”
– Mark Cavendish, Dimension Data


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California

Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa: A luxury Sonoma wine country hotel

Cover: Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Quietly tucked away amongst the vineyards just off the 101, Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa treats guests to a luxurious and relaxing wine country retreat when visiting Sonoma.

Vintner's Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A four-diamond luxury hotel owned by Don and Rhonda Carano of Ferrari-Carano Vineyards, the wine country inn exudes casual elegance.

Our Vintner’s Inn stay was in conjunction with the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience, one of our all-time most enjoyable adventures, with fabulous wine, amazing food, vineyard visits led by the winery’s viticulturist, sessions with Rodney Strong’s winemakers to learn about the winemaking process, a blending seminar led by Rodney Strong’s head winemaker, and luxurious accommodations at Vintner’s Inn.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Upstairs fireplace room at Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we opened the door to our upstairs fireplace room, sunlight flooded into the warm, inviting spot we would call home during our time in Sonoma wine country.

With a big Cal King bed outfitted with a featherbed and down bedding, two overstuffed chairs, an electric fireplace, flat screen TV, desk, a small refrigerator, and a complimentary half bottle of wine, the spacious room was a delightful haven.

French doors led to the balcony with a table and chairs that overlooked the gardens – and prompted me to pop a bottle of wine into the fridge for late afternoon enjoyment.

Vintner's Inn Upstairs fireplace room, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn Upstairs fireplace room, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Luxuriously appointed upstairs fireplace room at Vintner's Inn in Santa Rosa
Luxuriously appointed upstairs fireplace room at Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The large bathroom with a vanity separated from the shower and tub was furnished with white fluffy towels, olive oil themed toiletries and bathrobes.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The hotel

Fountain at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Fountain at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving early afternoon, we had plenty of time to explore the hotel before dinner.

The 44 rooms and suites at Vintner’s Inn are set in three buildings encircling a fountain and connected by brick pathways.

Walking paths at Vintner's Inn Santa Rosa
Walking paths at Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Such a beautiful Sonoma afternoon behooved a stroll, so we set out on the two-mile hiking and jogging path that winds through the 92 acres of vineyards.

Along the way, we met up with some local residents, who seemed to be enjoying the gorgeous weather as much as we were.

Goats along Vintner's Inn hiking and jogging path
Goats along Vintner’s Inn hiking and jogging path
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's Inn vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn vineyards, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back at the hotel, we stopped by the Bocce ball court – a beautiful area with an assortment of tables and chairs under towering redwoods.

Bocce ball court at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Bocce ball court at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Quiet enclaves are scattered about the lavishly landscaped gardens and courtyards, perfect for sharing a glass of wine, stories from the day, and plans for the next.

Vintner's Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For those that don’t believe a day of wine tasting is a form of exercise, a fitness center is located near the edge of the vineyards, along side a hot tub and lounge chairs.

Vintner's Inn workout room
Vintner’s Inn fitness room
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's Inn hot tub and lounge chairs
Vintner’s Inn hot tub and lounge chairs
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving back at our room, the wine was chilled, the doors of the balcony were open, and it was time to enjoy a bottle of Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay. Cheers!

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay on the balcony at Vintner's Inn
Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay on the balcony at Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The restaurants and bar

John Ash & Co at Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
John Ash & Co at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

John Ash & Co. and the Front Room Bar & Lounge

When we lived in Santa Rosa briefly a few years back, we’d become frequent patrons of John Ash & Co. and the Front Room Bar & Lounge. It quickly became our go-to-spot for happy hours, birthdays, holidays – any excuse is a good one to head to John Ash.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A showcase of the best of Northern California cuisine, John Ash & Co. prepares fresh, local, creative food in a gorgeous setting.

From appetizers in the Front Room (the rosemary nuts and fish tacos are amazing) to dining excellence at John Ash & Co., the restaurant delivers some of the best food found in Sonoma County.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience dinner at John Ash & Co., Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience dinner at John Ash & Co., Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After an amazing evening at John Ash, only made more enjoyable by dining with the Rodney Strong team including winemaker, Justin Seidenfeld, we walked back to our room admiring how pretty the grounds at Vintner’s Inn look in the evening.

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn Café

Vintner's Inn lobby, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn lobby, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After enjoying our morning coffee from the coffee service, which is available in each of the hotel buildings every morning, we headed over to the hotel’s main building for breakfast.

A great place to have a coffee or tea, read, or spend time with friends, the lobby has multiple seating areas in a cozy environment.

Lobby of the Vintner's Inn
Lobby of the Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Vintner's inn, Santa Rosa, California
Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Various items are available for sale in the lobby, such as hats, cookbooks, and the estate’s award-winning olive oil.

Vintner's Inn Estate Olive Oil
Vintner’s Inn Estate Olive Oil
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Also located in the lobby is the Vintner’s Inn Café, which serves breakfast weekdays and brunch on the weekend.

Vintners Inn Café
Vintner’s Inn Café
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Diners can enjoy a wide variety of breakfast specialties and beverages to start their day in the cheerful indoor dining room or on the heated terrace overlooking the gardens.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Getting there

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn is located in Santa Rosa, California. From the 101, take the River Road exit and head west to Barnes Road. Turn left on Barnes Road and Vintner’s Inn is on the left.

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vintner’s Inn, Santa Rosa

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Location: 4350 Barnes Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Design: Italian architecture set in Northern California wine country

Rooms: With the exception of service animals, pets are not allowed.

Toiletries: CALI from Italy

Additional services and amenities: On-site Event Center with private banquet rooms and full-service banquet kitchen that can accommodate small groups, meetings with up to 300 participants, and receptions of up to 500 guests.

Vintner's Inn Event Center
Vintner’s Inn Event Center
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

WiFi: Free in lobby and public areas, for a fee in rooms

John Ash & Co. at Vintner's Inn
John Ash & Co. at Vintner’s Inn
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Restaurants & bars: John Ash & Co., Front Room Bar & Lounge, Vintner’s Inn Café

Parking: Free


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards for hosting us as their guest for the Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience. The content & opinions expressed in our Vintner’s Inn Santa Rosa review are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim Hull at Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Kim Hull at Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort: Great skiing & boarding for all levels

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Sierra at Tahoe is a resort that covers both ends of the skiing continuum, from beginner to expert and everything in between.

Gentle green runs, a great ski school, over 100 acres of terrain dedicated to beginners, and four beginner-only surface lifts make Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort a popular destination for those just getting started on the hill.

Sierra at Tahoe base area and Broadway
Sierra at Tahoe base area and Broadway
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Top notch tree skiing and 320 acres of expert level backcountry terrain at Huckleberry Canyon have accomplished riders and skiers heading to the resort with frequency.

Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Anything for intermediates? Half the trails are rated blue, with a wide selection of groomers of varying grades and plenty of fresh corduroy.

Lower Main at Sierra at Tahoe
Lower Main at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe: Skiing and snowboarding

Top of Grand View Express at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Top of Grand View Express at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 2,000 acres and a 2,212 ft vertical drop, Sierra at Tahoe’s 46 trails cover some ground across the mountain.

Three high-speed quads, five cozy doubles, and one triple whisk skiers and boarders up the mountain, with several separate areas on the mountain primarily defined by how they are accessed: Grandview, Huckleberry Canyon, Backside, Nob Hill and the West Bowl.

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Grand View

Grand View Express lift, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Grand View Express lift, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

The Grand View Express lift, located behind the ski school, serves the east side of the mountain, delivering skiers and riders to spectacular views of Lake Tahoe.

View of Lake Tahoe from Sierra at Tahoe
View of Lake Tahoe from Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

At the top of the lift, 360 Smokehouse BBQ is a great spot to grab lunch, head up to the rooftop deck for a photo opp of the lake, and check out Huckleberry Canyon.

360 Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
360 Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On the front side of the hill, skiers and riders will find a wide variety of terrain including bumps, groomers, and glades.

Top of Grand View lift, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Top of Grand View lift, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Just under the Grand View lift are some nice advanced runs or for a gliding groomer, head off toward the west to tackle the longest run on the mountain, Sugar n’ Spice, a 2.5 mile green run that winds down from the top of Grand View Express all the way to the lodge.

Sierra at Tahoe, Sugar n'Spice
Sierra at Tahoe, Sugar n’ Spice
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sugar n'Spice at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Sugar n’ Spice at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Huckleberry Gates

Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A short hike from the top of the Grandview lift, the Huckleberry Canyon backcountry terrain can be accessed from five gates.

Hike to Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Hike to Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 320 acres of Huckleberry Canyon delivers some of the most challenging inbounds backcountry skiing and boarding at Lake Tahoe.

Expert skiing and boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Expert skiing and boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With cliff drops, chutes, bowls, glades, and cornices, it’s steep, it’s deep, and it’s definitely an experts-only adventure.

Boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe
Boarding at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

While the extreme riding of Huckleberry Canyon is out of reach for most of us – it’s fabulous to watch some of the best in the sport tackle the incredible terrain. In 2016, Sierra at Tahoe held the inaugural Huck Cup, an IFSA Free World Qualifier event.

Men's skiing finals, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Men’s skiing finals, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

For two days, more than 50 of the top freeride skiers and snowboarders from around the world competed for Freeride World Tour qualifying points and a share of $5000 in prize money. It was an awesome display of tricks, thrills, and spills on the natural, rugged terrain. Be sure and mark your calendars for the annual event!

Backside

Heading off the back of the mountain from the Grandview lift, the Backside has some fun trails and is home to Sierra at Tahoe’s boarder cross features. Located on the south side of the mountain, the sunny Backside is best skied in the morning once spring rolls around.

Skiing at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Skiing at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Nob Hill

Terrain off Nob Hill lift at Sierra at Tahoe
Terrain off Nob Hill lift at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Popular with riders of all levels, Nob Hill departs near the base area and delivers skiers and riders to a variety of challenges, including access to the very wide and somewhat steep intermediate run, Lower Main, that ends in the base area.

Lower Main ski run, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Lower Main ski run, Sierra at Tahoe Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

West Bowl

Moving to the west side of the mountain, West Bowl is a great place for intermediate and advanced skiers to play.

The high speed quad, West Bowl Express, accesses terrain ranging from long, fast cruisers to beautiful glade runs amidst the magnificent Red Fir trees for which Sierra at Tahoe is so well known.

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Terrain Parks

Sierra at Tahoe has six terrain parks, the Smokey BoarderX course, and a halfpipe.

Designed with an emphasis on advancing skill levels in appropriate conditions, Sierra’s Burton Progression Park was created with first-timers in mind. From there, freestylers can tackle jumps, boxes, rails and build their trick repertoire at the various parks located throughout the resort.

Adventure Zones

Skiing for all ages at Sierra at Tahoe
Skiing for all ages at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The kiddos love Sierra at Tahoe’s on-mountain themed adventure zones. With animated characters, educational signs and pint-sized terrain features, children are entertained as they learn their way around the snow.

Adventure zones at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Adventure zones at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe Ski school

Along with a highly-friendly environment for those just finding their way around the slopes, Sierra at Tahoe has a great ski and snowboard school for riders of all ages and all abilities.

Parents rave about the Wild Mountain children’s program, which both gets kids on skis and entertains them at the same time. Located next to the Main Lodge, programs are grouped by age and ability and are designed to encourage children’s love of the sport and their progression through skill levels.

Wild Mountain Ski School at Sierra
Wild Mountain Ski School at Sierra
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media
Yoda's Riglet Park at Sierra at Tahoe
Yoda’s Riglet Park at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe: Dining & drinking

Sierra has some tasty options for dining and drinking, both on-mountain and at the lodge…

Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the Main Lodge & Solstice Plaza

Solstice Plaza outdoor seating at Sierra at Tahoe
Solstice Plaza outdoor seating at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Java Junction – Serving a wide variety of coffee selections, as well as breakfast and lunch items

Mama’s Kitchen – With fare from breakfast burritos to soups, sandwiches, pizza and mac and cheese

Aspen Café – Grilled items and a variety of lunch options served with one hour of free WiFi access

Golden Bear Terrace – Located outside the Main Lodge, specializing in burgers, sandwiches, craft beers and goggle tans

Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Golden Bear Terrace at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Solstice Eatery – Specializing in tasty wraps, salads and whole wheat and gluten-free pizzas

Lunch at the Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Lunch at the Sierra Pub and Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra Pub & Deli – Serving sandwiches, nachos, and pizza – a great spot for après with live music, happy hour specials and “local bar” atmosphere.

Happy hour at Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Happy hour at Sierra Pub & Deli at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media
Live music at the Sierra Pub
Live music at the Sierra Pub
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

And perhaps the best beer bargain around – join the Sierra Pub Club and get happy hour prices all day long.

Happy hour at the Sierra Pub
Happy hour at the Sierra Pub
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

On mountain

Baja Grill – At the foot of the West Bowl Express, the spot for fresh fish tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tacos

360° Smokehouse BBQ – Located at the top of the Grandview lift at 8,852 feet, specializing in soups, BBQ and stunning Tahoe views (they have a veggie burger as well)

360° Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
360° Smokehouse BBQ at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Where to stay

A wide variety of hotels and resorts are available in South Lake Tahoe which is about 17 miles from Sierra at Tahoe.

The complimentary South Shore Shuttle provides transportation from South Lake Tahoe to Sierra at Tahoe – shuttle times and information can be found on the Sierra at Tahoe website or by calling 530-659-7453.

Getting to Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sierra at Tahoe’s address is 1111 Sierra at Tahoe Road, Twin Bridges, CA 95735.

Sierra at Tahoe is located 74 miles, or about 1 hour 45 minutes, from the Reno Tahoe airport. From Sacramento, Sierra at Tahoe is 91 miles, or about 1 hour 45 minutes, on Highway 50.

From the San Francisco airport (SFO), Sierra at Tahoe is 188 miles or about 3 1/2 hours.

Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Greg Hull at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Greg Hull at Sierra at Tahoe Ski Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures 
© Chasing Light Media

Check on the Sierra at Tahoe website for discounts before you head to Sierra at Tahoe – the resort is known year after year for affordable lift tickets and great discounts on first timer lessons.

Reserve lessons and day care in advance. The kids programs are very popular, so reserve a spot for the little ones in advance. On the day of the lesson, drop off parking is available directly in front of the school.

Check the road conditions before you go. Chains are required frequently on Highway 50 so check the road conditions before heading to the resort at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

Plan on traffic on the weekends and holidays. Sierra at Tahoe draws a big Sacramento and Bay area crowd, so arrive early to spend more time on the slopes and less in your car. Or, better yet, come midweek for no lift lines and plenty of untouched pow.

Men's skiing at The Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe

The inaugural Huck Cup held at Sierra-at-Tahoe, an IFSA Free World Qualifier event

Cover: Men’s skiing at The Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


 

Huck Cup 2016, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Huck Cup 2016, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

On a bluebird Saturday morning just south of Lake Tahoe, more than 50 top freeride skiers and snowboarders from around the world gathered in Huckleberry Canyon at Sierra-at-Tahoe to compete in the first Sierra-at-Tahoe Huck Cup.

Men's skiing at The Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Men’s skiing at The Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 2 star International Freeskiers & Snowboarders Association (IFSA)/Free World Qualifier (FWQ) had the top-tier athletes pulling out their best tricks at the two-day event held February 26-27. The top finishers earned qualifying points for the Freeride World Tour and shared $5000 in prize money.

Men's skiing finals at Huckleberry Canyon, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Men’s skiing finals at Huckleberry Canyon, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Freeride World Tour consists of a series of skiing and snowboarding events where freeride athletes compete on natural, rugged terrain at legendary freeride venues in Europe, North America, South America and Oceania.

Men's snowboarding, Huck Cup atSierra at Tahoe
Men’s snowboarding, Huck Cup at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull , Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Held in what was formerly an out-of-bounds area, Huckleberry Canyon is now 320 acres of steep and deep inbounds terrain with chutes, glades, boulders and precipitous drops accessed via five gates at the summit of Sierra-at-Tahoe.

Men's snowboarding, Huck Cup at Sierra at Tahoe
Men’s snowboarding, Huck Cup at Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How tough is it? Standing on the ridge looking down at the massive rocks jutting out from the snow will get your heart pounding. Heading over its steep edge in a plummeting descent, navigating spines, flying over cliffs and tackling the canyon’s rugged curves – calling it intense is an understatement; insane is probably more accurate. It’s definitely something straight out of an extreme skiing flick and it puts the expert in expert terrain.

Jordan Nield, Snowboard competition at Huckleberry Canyon, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Jordan Nield, Snowboard competition at Huckleberry Canyon, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

During the inspection period before the competition began, riders tossed snowballs over the edge looking for a line and could be overheard discussing their strategies for attack with a combination a subdued nervousness and excitement.

Tossing snowballs, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Tossing snowballs, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The women snowboarders and skiers kicked off the day, followed by the men in both categories.

Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe's Huckleberry Canyon, Lake Tahoe
Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe’s Huckleberry Canyon, Lake Tahoe
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The riders brought their best big mountain riding skills, with thrills, spills and some highly-creative approaches to tackling the snow-covered rock face.

Jordan Nield, Finals, Men's snowboarding, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Jordan Nield, Finals, Men’s snowboarding, Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull , Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Throughout the day, spectators took in the action from points around the canyon ridge and on the rooftop deck at the 360° Smokehouse, cheering on the riders under the warm, early-spring skies.

Spectators at Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Spectators at Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull , Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Huck Cup, Men's Skiing at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Huck Cup, Men’s Skiing at Huckleberry Canyon, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Huck Cup at Sierra-At-Tahoe final results

Women – Snowboard

  1. Brittany Thompson, Resort: Kirkwood
  2. Abigail Penfold, Resort: Whiteface
  3. Holly Enderle

Women – Ski

  1. Kelsey Hyche, Resort: Alpine Meadows
  2. Lindsay Nagle
  3. Savannah Amos, Resort: Sierra-at-Tahoe

Men – Snowboard

  1. Morgan Hebert
  2. Dave Brumm, Resort: Squaw Valley
  3. Aspen Weaver, Resort: Sierra-at-Tahoe
  4. Mika Kuntz-Hight
  5. David Brown
  6. Sam Wallace, Resort: Alpine Meadows

Men – Ski

  1. Eric Bryant, Resort: Squaw Valley
  2. Taylor Pratt, Resort: Alta
  3. Seth Klein, Resort: Alta
  4. Colby Albino, Resort: Sierra-at-Tahoe
  5. Skyler Smith, Resort: Kirkwood
  6. Dylan Hagan

 

Greg Hull at Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Greg Hull at Huck Cup, Sierra at Tahoe
Photo: Kim Hull , Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Kim Hull, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull, Sierra at Tahoe, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Big mountain skiing at Kirkwood Ski Resort

Big mountain skiing at Kirkwood Ski Resort

Cover: Big mountain skiing at Kirkwood Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Are you a fan of big mountain skiing with no lift lines? Then Kirkwood Ski Resort is the place to go. With 2,000 feet of vertical drop from a summit of 9,800 feet/2987 meters and 2,300 acres of terrain, Kirkwood delivers a day of challenges, adventure, and pure skiing pleasure.

Kirkwood Ski Resort
Kirkwood Ski Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

But, don’t let the term “big mountain” make you think Kirkwood isn’t a great spot for all levels. Kirkwood has plenty of diverse terrain for skiers and boarders of all levels, from gentle greens, to wide blue groomers, to legendary steep chutes and cornices.

Skiing for all levels at Kirkwood Resort
Skiing for all levels at Kirkwood Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kirkwood’s high elevation also delivers some of the driest skiing in the west, creating plentiful powder stashes throughout the mountain.

Kirkwood Ski Resort tree skiing
Kirkwood Resort tree skiing
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A bit off the beaten path, Kirkwood is located 80 miles south of Reno and 34 miles south of South Lake Tahoe – a little extra drive that is rewarded with less crowds, great skiing and boarding, and an unpretentious atmosphere.

Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kirkwood Ski Resort: Skiing and snowboarding

The Bunny Lift at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
The Bunny Lift at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Starting with the beginners’ areas, 12% of Kirkwood’s trails are rated green and are primarily located near each of the base areas off of the Snowkirk and Bunny lifts. Kirkwood’s greens are gentle and the terrain near the Bunny lift is all green, making it a perfect environment for novices to gain skills and confidence without dodging faster, higher level riders.

For intermediate skiers, 30% of the runs are blue, with most of the trails spread across the resort at the mid-mountain level. A great intermediate plan of attack – take the Snowkirk lift out of the Village, then turn left and head over to the Caples Crest lift.

Intermediate skiing at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Intermediate skiing at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Kim Hull skiing the blues at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Kim Hull skiing the blues at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the top of Caples Crest, take Herringbone Straight off the back, then head up the Chair 4/Sunrise lift. Enjoy the stunning views as the sun begins to warm the day, then head down Elevator Shaft or my favorite, Happiness Is.

Skiing off of the Sunrise Lift at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Skiing off of the Sunrise Lift at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After a morning of play near the Sunrise lift, the Sunrise Grill is a great on-mountain spot to grab a burger and a beverage, soak up some rays in one of the Adirondack chairs, and marvel at the views.

Sunrise Grill at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Sunrise Grill at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When you are ready to explore further, take the Ironhorse lift to connect to any of the blues back to the Village, then hop aboard Solitude.

Greg Hull at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Greg Hull at Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
A bluebird day at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
A bluebird day at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At the top of the Solitude lift, turn right and then watch for Home Run on the left on the descent, which will deliver you to the Timber Creek Base Area.

Solitude Lift at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Solitude Lift at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The tree-lined trails off the Timber Creek lift are an intermediate playground, with multiple blue trails and loads of tree skiing fun.

Kim Hull heading into the trees at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Kim Hull heading into the trees at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Famous for its advanced (38%) and expert (20%) terrain, Kirkwood has it all for skiers and snowboarders looking for a true challenge.

58% of Kirkwood's terrain is rated advanced or expert
58% of Kirkwood’s terrain is rated advanced or expert
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From chutes, to cornices, to glades and bowls, Kirkwood has some jaw-dropping descents. That said – expert is really expert at Kirkwood, so don’t underestimate the extreme terrain and overdo it, putting yourself and others at risk.

Advanced skiing at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Advanced skiing at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kirkwood has two terrain parks – Bandit at Timber Creek (closed for the 2015-2016 season) for beginner-level boxes, jumps and rails and Outlaw off the Solitude lift, with three box and rail features and three table top jumps.

Working at the Bandit Terrain Park at Kirkwood
Working at the Bandit Terrain Park at Kirkwood
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How about some cross-country skiing?  Kirkwood boasts 80 kilometers of groomed cross-country trails amidst fabulous scenery – even a one-kilometer loop adorned with animal cutouts called the “Kiddy Kilometer.” The cross-country center is located near the Kirkwood Inn and offers lessons as well as equipment rentals.

Ski and ride school

Kirkwood Ski & Ride School
Kirkwood Ski & Ride School
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Kirkwood Ski & Ride School is a great place to begin a visit to Kirkwood. With lessons available for beginners, intermediates, and experts, even a one day lesson provides tips and tricks that enhance your time on the snow.

In addition to the ski school, Kirkwood offers online equipment rental, a demo center, a tuning center and ski shops at both villages with a full range of equipment from skis and boards, to boots, to soft goods.

Timber Creek Base Area at Kirkwood
Timber Creek Base Area at Kirkwood
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Kirkwood Ski Resort: Dining & drinking

The Village at Kirkwood Ski Resort
The Village at Kirkwood Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A variety of shops, restaurants, and bars are located around and on the mountain, providing a wide variety of choices whether you’re seeking something to grab and go or a slopeside patio.

Slopeside dining at Off the Wall at Kirkwood
Slopeside dining at Off the Wall at Kirkwood
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the Sunrise Grill, one of our favorites is Off the Wall in the village, with an authentic lodge feel indoors or spectacular views on the patio. Try the blackened shrimp and avocado quesadillas – they are tasty!

Off the Wall at Kirkwood
Off the Wall at Kirkwood
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Where to stay

Lodging at Kirkwood Ski Resort
Lodging at Kirkwood Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Accommodations near Kirkwood are primarily townhouses and condominiums rented through property management companies and/or the owners. A wide selection of hotels are available in South Lake Tahoe, which is located about 55 minutes away. If staying at South Lake Tahoe, be sure to check into the Kirkwood shuttle that provides roundtrip transportation for $20.

Getting to Kirkwood and parking

Kirkwood’s address is 1501 Kirkwood Meadows Drive, Kirkwood, CA 95646.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort is located 80 miles from the Reno Tahoe airport, or about 1 hour 40 minutes. From South Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood is 34 miles or about 55 minutes. From San Francisco (SFO), Kirkwood is 184 miles or about 3 hours and 35 minutes.

Know before you go

"Skiing Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Understand the symptoms of altitude sickness. Altitude sickness most commonly occurs above 8,000 feet/2400 meters due to the lower oxygen levels. If you live at a lower elevation and travel quickly to a high elevation, you are more likely to experience some form of altitude sickness, which can include tiring easily, headaches, nausea, loss of appetite and other symptoms. Drink plenty of water, limit alcohol consumption and take it slow when you arrive. If you fly into Reno, which sits at 4,415 feet/1,346 meters, consider spending a night or two in Reno to acclimate before heading to the mountains.

Carry chains if driving. Road conditions and weather change quickly in the Sierra and frequently chains are required. Information on road conditions can be found at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

Consider hiring transportation to the Kirkwood or South Lake Tahoe. Several private companies offer shuttle services to South Lake Tahoe, so you simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the view.

Zip lines at Kirkwood Mountain Resor
Zip lines at Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Visit in the summer as well. Kirkwood is a year-round destination with lift-accessed hiking and mountain biking, disc golf, fishing, boating and zip lining.

Kim Hull skiing at Kirkwood
Kim Hull skiing at Kirkwood
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The content & opinions expressed in our Kirkwood Ski Resort Review are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Homewood Ski Resort views, Lake Tahoe, California

Magnificent views & uncrowded skiing at Homewood Ski Resort

Lake Tahoe skiing & riding at Homewood Mountain Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Located in quiet Homewood, CA across the street from Lake Tahoe, Homewood Mountain Ski Resort offers spectacular views of Lake Tahoe, over 2,000 acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain, one of the best value ski and snowboard school deals around, and a family friendly, low-key locals’ vibe.

Family skiing at Homewood Ski Resort
Family skiing at Homewood Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Not glitzy like the nearby larger resorts, Homewood is relaxed, where it’s about the skiing experience. Friends and families gather at large tables over lunch, laughing and sharing stories about their day on the hill, then it’s back up for some more fun on the snow.

Homewood North Lodge base area
Homewood North Lodge base area
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Homewood Ski Resort: Skiing and snowboarding

Homewood Mountain Resort views
Homewood Mountain Resort views
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Homewood Ski Resort’s 64 trails and 6 terrain parks are accessed via 8 lifts. Situated on the west shore of Lake Tahoe with a variety of terrain, Homewood is big enough to keep it interesting, but small enough to maintain its laid back appeal. And, with views that skiers and boarders visiting from both near and far stop to capture.

Photos at Homewood Ski Resort
Photos at Homewood Ski Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Combine receiving an average of 450 inches of snow per year with being notoriously uncrowded (especially on non-holiday weekdays) and you have an authentic day of skiing with plenty of secret stashes to be found – all the way into the afternoon.

Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Protected from ridge-winds by Ellis Peak’s unique position, the wind is far less of an issue than at other resorts, keeping lifts turning.

Half of the trails at Homewood are rated intermediate, with plenty of wide cruisers and paths to explore and 35% of the runs are advanced, with some incredible tree skiing and exhilarating terrain.

Heading for the trees at Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Heading for the trees at Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The base elevation at Homewood is 6,230 feet/1,899 meters, with the lift-accessible terrain topping out at 7,880 feet / 2,402 meters. Above the lifts, an additional 750+ acres of terrain can be accessed on one of the Homewood Snowcat Adventures guided tours, which provides snowcat access for groups of 10 skiers and/or riders maximum to the top of the mountain, which reaches 8,740 feet/2,664 meters.

Homewood Snowcat Adventures participants gain access to over 750 acres of backcountry terrain on Ellis Peak, ranging from bowls to glade skiing.

Snowboarding at Homewood
Snowboarding at Homewood
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While only 15% of the terrain is for beginners, Homewood has four surface lifts and a great beginners area for new skiers and riders.

Homewood is an affordable place for families to learn and play together. Homewood offers Value Days throughout the season (tickets must be purchased in advance – check the Homewood website for dates & pricing), free skiing for active military on non-peak days, and kids under 4 ski free.

Magic carpet, Homewood Ski and Snowboard School
Magic carpet, Homewood Ski and Snowboard School
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Homewood Ski and Snowboard School

Homewood Ski School
Homewood Ski School
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Homewood’s ski and snowboard school offers classes from beginners to advanced and has one of the most affordable ski/snowboard deals around. The 2016 Homewood Learn to Ski or Learn to Ride package is available on non-holidays, Sunday-Friday, for $52 and includes a half-day lesson, all day equipment rental, and a beginner lift ticket – an incredible bargain. Learn to Ski or Learn to Ride packages must be purchased online at least 2 days in advance of the lesson date.

Equipment rentals are available at the North Lodge rental shop, as well as retail items and waxing services.

Homewood Mountain Sports, Lake Tahoe, California
Homewood Mountain Sports, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Homewood Ski Resort: Dining & drinking

There are two-day lodges at Homewood, with the North Lodge at the north base area and one at the South Lodge at the southern base area. At the South Lodge, The Southwest Grill serves up southwestern fare and the Fireplace Tavern is a full bar with daily drink specials.

89 Bar & Grill, Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
89 Bar & Grill, Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Upstairs at the North Lodge, the 89 Bar & Grill is a popular spot with a full bar and restaurant offering burgers, soup, and salads.

89 Bar & Grill at Homewood
89 Bar & Grill at Homewood
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Downstairs, the Madden Cafe is a great spot to grab a quick coffee or pizza and enjoy it at one of the plentiful outdoor tables at the base of all the action.

Madden Cafe at Homewood, Lake Tahoe, California
Madden Cafe at Homewood, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Just below the top of the Madden Triple Chair is the Big Blue View Bar, with burgers, hot dogs, a full bar, and incredible lake views.

Big Blue View Bar, Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Big Blue View Bar, Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Homewood Ski Resort: Where to Stay

The West Shore Café & Inn is located directly across from Homewood with five guest rooms & suites and two villas. Additionally, a variety of lodging options is available in Tahoe City about 7 miles away.

Homewood Ski Resort views, Lake Tahoe, California
Homewood Ski Resort views, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Homewood Ski Resort: Getting there

Homewood Ski Resort’s address is 5145 W Lake Blvd, Homewood, CA 96141.

Homewood is located 58 miles, or about 1 hour 10 minutes, from the Reno Tahoe airport, and approximately 213 miles from San Francisco. From Highway 80, take the CA-89 S (exit 185) exit and continue on Highway 89 for 21 miles to Homewood, California.

Parking at both of the lodges is free, close and convenient – but limited. The Homewood Shuttle is an on-call service for guests from Incline Village to The Rubicon. Homewood Visitors who take Tahoe Area Regional Transit (TART) receive a voucher for $5 off a lift ticket.

Homewood North Lodge, Lake Tahoe, California
Homewood North Lodge, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Homewood Ski Resort: Know before you go

Check the road conditions before you go. Chains are required frequently on Highway 80 and Highway 89 and be sure to check the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Homewood.

Stay hydrated. Remember you are at elevation, which causes you to lose water through respiration, so drink extra water while in the mountains.

What to bring/send with your child to ski school. To get the most from any day in ski school, dress in layers to stay comfortable throughout the day’s changing temperature, wear waterproof jacket and pants, bring gloves or mittens, wear warm socks, and always wear a helmet when on the snow.

Kim Hull at Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Homewood Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The content & opinions expressed in our Homewood Ski Resort Review are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Rockaway,Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California

The Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience

Cover: Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


When one of our favorite wineries, Rodney Strong, called a couple of months ago to see if we’d like to come out for a few days to learn more about the winery and attend a blending seminar, we only had one question – when? Whatever the date, we would clear our calendar to attend such a unique experience.

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our Master Blender experience was scheduled for the first week of February and when we received the final agenda the week before – wow! Amazing food, wine tastings, luxury accommodations, visits led by the winery’s viticulturist to locations few get a chance to ever see, sessions with Rodney Strong’s winemakers to learn about the winemaking process, and a blending seminar led by Rodney Strong’s head winemaker, Rick Sayre.

Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience Day 1: Arrival and welcome dinner

Vintner's Inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We arrived early in the afternoon at the Vintner’s Inn in Santa Rosa where we would be staying during the event. A four-diamond luxury hotel, the Vintner’s Inn is the epitome of wine country elegance, with stately rooms, elegant gardens, and one of our favorite restaurants, John Ash & Co.

Vintner's inn, Sonoma County, California
Vintner’s Inn, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With such a beautiful Sonoma afternoon at our disposal, we set out for a hike on the two-mile trail around the property while a bottle of Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay chilled in the fridge – the perfect post-hike refreshment upon our return!

Luxurious accommodations at the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience in Sonoma County, California
Luxurious accommodations at the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience in Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Our welcome dinner was at John Ash & Co. with winemaker, Justin Seidenfeld, Rodney Strong’s social media manager, Laura Perret Fontana, and the four additional event attendees, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Jana Seitzer, Annabelle Pericin and Robert Larsen.

Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we worked our way through savory courses accompanied by Rodney Strong wines, Justin provided the background and details on each of the wines. Originally from Colorado, Justin graduated from the University of California, Davis in 2006 with a B.S. in Viticulture & Enology and has been making wine in Sonoma county since 2005, and at Rodney Strong since 2010.

Off to a great beginning to a fascinating week, we were eager to explore the vineyards and learn more about the winemaking process.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience Day 2: Vineyard tours, barrel tasting, and an abundance of spectacular food & wine

Winegrower relations manager, Ryan Decker, was our guide for vineyard tours for the morning of day two. Our first stop – Chalk Hill in Windsor.

Chalk Hill

Kim Hull, Winegrower Relations Manager: Ryan Decker, Robert Larsen, Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Annabelle Pericin, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Alexander's Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Kim Hull, Winegrower Relations Manager: Ryan Decker, Robert Larsen, Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Annabelle Pericin, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Alexander’s Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by Rodney Strong Winery Chef Tara Watchel amidst the vines, Ryan explained the unique properties of the Chalk Hill area, where the soil appears “chalky” due to ash deposits from a long-past volcanic eruption.

An excellent start to the day – learning about the vines that produced the very Chardonnay that was in my hand just the afternoon before.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alexander’s Crown

Alexander's Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Alexander’s Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

First released in 1974, Alexander’s Crown was Sonoma’s first single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, quickly gaining acclaim, including being named the highest rated Cabernet Sauvignon in Robert Parker’s first issue.

Alexander's Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Alexander’s Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Situated on hills that rise 360 feet above the valley floor, 66 acres are planted at Alexander’s Crown, with Block 1 at the top of the hill producing the prime, most intensely flavored grapes. Listening to Ryan describe the meticulous grape growing processes, it became obvious there are no shortcuts in creating a spectacular bottle of wine.

Alexander's Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Alexander’s Crown, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each detail is constantly analyzed in an effort to gain even a fraction of improvement. Grapes are picked in 1/2 ton sections to isolate the best blocks or sections of vines. Cross arms were added to the stakes a few years back to “add shade with dappled sunlight” as overexposure can result in too much tannin. And the list goes on, in pursuit of producing an even more perfect bottle of wine.

The Alexander’s Crown property is also the home of Rodney Strong’s owners, the Klein family, and the location of a former home of Rod and Charlotte Strong. Ryan explained that Charlotte bred Bull Mastifs and would frequently take the dogs down to play in an area between Alexander’s Crown and the Russian River. That same area, where she spent so much time, now produces a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, called Charlotte’s Home.

Rockaway at Rockaway

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we drove through the back roads of Sonoma County on our way from Alexander’s Crown to our next destination, Rockaway, Ryan would point out highlights along the way. Given that his family first settled in the Alexander Valley in 1858, it’s understandable that he knows the area like the back of his hand.

Along the way, Ryan explained that the Pine Flat vineyards next to Sausal Creek produced some of the best Merlot of all the vineyards and it was one of the few that could be dry farmed, meaning no supplemental water was required. Dry farming requires a high vigor, deep rooting stock.

Rockaway,Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Entering the Rockaway vineyards, we began to climb up through the rolling, vine-covered hills which rise to an elevation of 750 feet. Rodney Strong purchased the property, which grows mostly Bordeaux varietals, in 2003. It produces the grapes for the single vineyard Rockaway Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

As we passed a few olive trees, just barely visible from the road, Ryan explained there were more – he’d found an olive orchard on the property. Following his discovery, he’d torn out the brush and pruned the trees and, in 2014, they produced their first batch of oil from the orchard.

Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Arriving near the top of the hill, we left the car and climbed to the summit, where sweeping views of the Sonoma Valley and a bottle of Rockaway awaited our arrival.

Such an appropriate ending to our morning vineyards tour – sipping an amazing wine at such an amazing place. Standing atop Rockaway, gazing out over the Alexander Valley with its many vineyards, farms and ranches, it re-emphasized the importance that Rodney Strong places on location in artisan winemaking.

Greg Hull, Winegrower Relations Manager: Ryan Decker, Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Kim Hull, Annabelle Pericin, Jana Seitzer, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Greg Hull, Winegrower Relations Manager: Ryan Decker, Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Kim Hull, Annabelle Pericin, Jana Seitzer, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, at Rockaway, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From such a vast amount of potential spots to grow grapes, narrowed down to the very place where we stood, then artfully created into a spectacular wine that made its way back again to this spot to be enjoyed with this stunning view – Rockaway at Rockaway is not your average morning.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lunch at Catelli’s in Geyserville, California

Catelli’s in Geyserville, California, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Catelli’s in Geyserville, California, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lunch was just a few minutes down the road at Catelli’s in Geyserville. Originally opened by Santi and Virginia Catelli in 1936, the restaurant is now owned and operated by third generation Catellis and siblings, Domenica and Nicholas Catelli, and specializes in local and organic creations served in the historic location.

Catelli’s in Geyserville, California, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Catelli’s in Geyserville, California, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A variety of appetizers, salads, and bottles of wine quickly appeared at the table, including our first sampling of a Davis Bynum wine. Rodney Strong acquired the Davis Bynum winery in 2007, and the commitment to preserving Bynum’s passion for quality winemaking is apparent throughout Rodney Strong.

David Bynum wines, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
David Bynum wines, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Ryan recommended the kale salad with blood oranges, which was delectable, and then we selected the award winning 10-layer layer lasagna with the slightly spicy Domenica’s sauce. Pasta perfection. For dessert, Catelli’s delivered “grown up” root beer floats to the table. One taste and Annabelle exclaimed, “That will put chest on your hair!”

Grown up rootbeer float at Catelli's, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Grown up rootbeer float at Catelli’s, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An afternoon wine tasting touring with Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld and Ron Washam

Arriving back at Rodney Strong Vineyards after lunch, it was time for a winery tour and some wine tasting. Our guide for the afternoon was Ron Washam, whose 35 years in the wine industry have included twice being named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers’ Association and who also judges at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Kim Hull, Annabelle Pericin, Jana Seitzer, Ron Washam, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Kim Hull, Annabelle Pericin, Jana Seitzer, Ron Washam, Marlynn Jayme Schotland, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each step of winemaking at Rodney Strong is a combination of art and science, with industry-leading techniques deployed where appropriate to assist in crafting world-class wines. Meeting up with winemaker Justin Seidenfeld in the tank room, Justin walked us through the conversion process that brought square fermentation tanks to the winery.

Rodney Strong Vineyards
Rodney Strong Vineyards Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The square tanks allow more wine to be stored in a given space as compared to traditional cylindrical tanks. The tanks can be monitored and controlled by an app on a smart phone or tablet, complete with alerts, from anywhere in the world.

Winemaker: Justin Seidenfeld, Kim Hull, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Winemaker: Justin Seidenfeld, Kim Hull, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Additionally, the interior surface of the square tanks is easier to clean, reducing water waste, which supports Rodney Strong Vineyard’s commitment to protecting the environment. Rodney Strong Vineyards operates the winery with a carbon impact of zero, making it the first carbon neutral winery in Sonoma.

Ron Washam, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Ron Washam, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Next stop, the barrel rooms and barrel tasting of the Symmetry 2014 and the 2014 Rockaway. Barrel tasting is like getting to open a present before it’s actually your birthday. Sampling from a barrel provides a glimpse of the future wine  –  a glimpse in that the wine changes as it matures and the winemakers may adjust the blend as well. While the primary purpose of barrel tasting by the public is for purchasing futures, a private barrel tasting in the warehouse is an entirely different experience and a great chance to learn more about the winemaking process.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following our barrel tasting, we headed to the tasting room to do some finished works sampling, which culminated with a side by side tasting of the three 2012 Rodney Strong single vineyards wines: Alexander’s Crown, Rockaway and Brothers.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 2012 having been an excellent vintage for Sonoma County, all three are remarkable wines. Which was best? As head winemaker, Rick Sayre, would comment the next day – it’s about taste preference. Describing a side-by side tasting, he stated favorites were nearly always split 1/3, 1/3, 1/3.

Tours and tastings at Rodney Strong
Tours and tastings at Rodney Strong Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dinner at Jackson’s Bar and Oven with Winemaker Greg Morthole

After an hour’s rest at the hotel, our ride picked us up for a dinner at Jackson’s Bar in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square.

Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Social Media Manager: Laura Perret Fontana, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Owned and operated by Chef Josh Silvers, Jackson’s is a casual, wine country eatery, serving comfort food crafted from seasonal, organic Sonoma ingredients. Our winemaker host for the evening was Greg Morthole, who oversees the Reserve and Single Vineyard wine making.

Dinner at Jackson’s Bar and Oven with Winemaker Greg Morthole
Dinner at Jackson’s Bar and Oven with Winemaker Greg Morthole, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The evening was a wonderful blend of wine, food and conversation, ending with amazing beignets served with chocolate sauce, vanilla anglaise, and a fresh raspberry sauce.

Rodney Strong Vineyards Master Blender Experience Day 3: Blending seminar with head winemaker, Rick Sayre

Just when you think it wouldn’t be possible to eat or drink anything ever again, the next day dawns and breakfast sounded pretty good.

The group met at the Vintner’s Inn Café for a healthy start to the day, then it was off to the winery for a blending seminar with head winemaker, Rick Sayre, who joined Rodney Strong Vineyards in 1979 and Rachel Voorhees, director of education for the winery.

Morning blending seminar with head winemaker Rick Sayre and director of education Rachel Voorhees

Head winemaker, Rick Sayre, Greg Hull and Robert Larsen, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media
Head winemaker, Rick Sayre, Greg Hull and Robert Larsen, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Heading into the blending seminar, we had no idea what a cool morning we were going to experience. Rounding the corner to the room, each place was set with tasting glasses of each of the varietals used in the 2012 Symmetry, and a glass of the actual 2012 Symmetry. Historic vintages of wines lined the walls of the room, including some bottles with hand written labels by Rod Strong dating back to 1970.

Handwritten label by Rod Strong, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Handwritten label by Rod Strong, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Symmetry is a Meritage (pronounced like heritage), with the wine being crafted like a Bordeaux blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. A Meritage must not contain more than 90% of any one single grape type.

Annabelle Pericin, Director of Wine Education: Rachel Voorhees, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Annabelle Pericin, Director of Wine Education: Rachel Voorhees, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rachel and Rick walked us through a brief overview of Rodney Strong Vineyards, the history of Meritage, and the properties each grape brings to the blend. Then it was time to blend some wine.

Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Armed with bottles of the varietals, beakers, and pipettes, we each set out to blend our own version of the wine. When finished, Rick tasted our creations, commenting on our blends, and awarded an overall winner.

Robert Larsen, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Robert Larsen, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

I called mine “A Secret.” As in, “What are you drinking?” “It’s A Secret.” I went with the 80/20 rule, as in 80% Cab and 20% of the others (it donned on me later that I should have named it Pareto). My blend consisted of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.

My blend ended up 2nd runner up, with Annabelle’s winning the day. The experience was fun, educational and truly a cool adventure!

Lunch prepared by Rodney Strong winery chef Tara Watchel with head winemaker Rick Sayre

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our time at Rodney Strong ended with a lunch with Rick Sayres in a dining room above the tasting room.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Head Winemaker: Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The lunch, prepared by winery chef, Tara Wachtel, was exquisite, served with perfect wines and some of the olive oil from the orchard Ryan had discovered at Rockaway. The group chatted about fishing in Alaska, Sonoma county, and Rodney Strong’s history, savoring the time remaining in our amazing visit.

Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Huge thanks to Laura Perret Fontana, Justin Seidenfeld, Ryan Decker, Greg Morthole, Ron Washam, Rachel Voorhees, Tara Wachtel, Rick Sayre and everyone at Rodney Strong Vineyards for such a wonderful experience.

Mustard in the vineyard, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California
Mustard in the vineyard, Rodney Strong Master Blender Experience, Sonoma County, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California

Ski in two states in one day at Heavenly Lake Tahoe Ski Resort

Cover: Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


It’s not every day you hit the slopes for a day and ski from Nevada to California.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With the state line between Nevada and California running down the middle of Heavenly Ski Resort at South Lake Tahoe, you’ll do just that – ski in two states on one day. It may take you awhile though, considering the fact that Heavenly is massive.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly is without a doubt one of the most appropriately named ski resorts in the world. With many runs providing sweeping views of the sapphire blue waters of Lake Tahoe, the experience is simply… Heavenly. While most all of the Tahoe resorts have beautiful lake views, Heavenly’s are the most expansive, with a photo opportunity around every bend. So, grab your skis or board and your camera phone, and plan on an incredible day on the snow.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Lay of the land

A giant of a resort, Heavenly’s 4,800 skiable acres make it the largest ski resort at Lake Tahoe and the fourth largest in the United States. Understanding how to access all that terrain is important for making the most of your time at the resort.

Gondola/Heavenly Village area: The gondola departs from the Heavenly Village area at Stateline, where numerous hotels, casinos, restaurants, equipment rental shops, and retail stores are located. The Tamarack Lodge is at the top of the gondola and all levels of skiing can be accessed from this point. However, parking is limited near the gondola area so one of the other lodges may provide a better starting point for those arriving by car.

Gondola at Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Gondola at Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The California Lodge, Heavenly’s original mountain base, is located and about two miles from the Heavenly Village gondola area.

California Lodge, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
California Lodge, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at the bottom of the Gunbarrel run (a very long, double black, mogul run – don’t freak out, there are other ways down), the California Lodge has free & premium parking, an equipment rental shop, The California Bar, a ski school and the Aerial Tram.

Gunbarrel, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Gunbarrel, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Aerial Tram, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Aerial Tram, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The World Cup ski area, where race events are frequently held, is also near the California Lodge.

Racing events, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Racing events, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Oh, and, that way to get back down without tackling the Gunbarrel bumps – near the base of the Powderbowl Express and Patsy’s take the intermediate Round-a-Bout down, or just simply download on the Tram or Gunbarrel Express.

Nevada side lodges: Boulder Lodge and Stagecoach Lodge are located on the Nevada side of the mountain about 4-6 miles from the Heavenly Village gondola area. Both have free parking and offer equipment rental. Boulder has an adult and children ski school and provides access to the entire mountain for all levels of skiers and riders. Stage Coach also provides access to all of Heavenly but is only appropriate for intermediate and advanced skiers.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Skiing and snowboarding

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How big is Heavenly? 97 trails, two terrain parks, 28 lifts (14 in California & 14 in Nevada), a gondola, a tram, and great skiing and boarding for all skill levels.

The base elevation on the California side is 6,540 feet/1,995 meters and 7,200 feet/2,195 meters on the Nevada side.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you think the sights are great on the lower trails, head to the summit where you’ll feel like you just stepped into a Heavenly ad with its panoramic views. Reached via the Sky Express lift (not suitable for beginners as trails are blue and black), the summit sits at 10,067 feet/3,069 meters, the highest at Lake Tahoe.

Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Madeline, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While at the summit, be sure to stop by the Ski Patrol, pick up a Heavenly Avalanche Rescue Dogs t-shirt, and say hi to the friendliest group of Ski Patrollers you’ll meet on a mountain and their fabulous four legged companions – who by the way, star in their own Heavenly video…

Now, that we have the sightseeing finished, it’s time to get down to business with 3,500 feet/1,067 meters of vertical to explore.

Well-known for their wide-open, blue cruisers, 45% of Heavenly’s trails are intermediate.

Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From the top, you have two choices – ski toward Nevada along the spectacular Skyline Trail, linking to the Big Dipper which lands you in an assortment of tree-lined intermediates serviced by Dipper Express and Comet Express.

Or, continue to play in California, heading out on Ridge Run, then taking Liz’s or High Five, both which are pure fun.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Experts and advanced skiers have 35% of the terrain to navigate with steeps, chutes, moguls, and some of the best tree skiing in North America. The expert areas of Mott Canyon and Killebrew Canyon on the Nevada side, really are expert, so don’t attempt these double blacks unless you have the skills to pull it off. Last, but not least, the above mentioned Gunbarrel is a huge mogul hill leading down to the California Lodge.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the beginners, 20% of Heavenly’s runs are gentle green groomers. Near Powderbowl Express, Mombo and Maggies are enjoyable runs and Easy Street can be accessed close to the Tamarack Lodge at the top of the gonodola. For those just starting out, Boulder at the Boulder Lodge is a good option.

Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

But, an even better choice is to spend some time with the Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School. With schools located across the mountain for children and adults, including a First Timer option at the California Lodge, a few lessons will greatly improve both your skill and enjoyment of snow sports.

Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Ski and Snowboard School, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: On mountain dining and drinking

From microbrews & burgers to pizza & paninis, to snacks & warm beverages, the multiple dining options spread across the mountain offer something for all tastes.

The Sky Deck, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
The Sky Deck, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our favorites: The Sky Deck at the foot of the Sky Express lift, with grilled fare (try the black bean burger), a bar and plenty of space to catch a few rays and relax during your lunch break.

Steins, near the Patsy’s and Powderbowl Express lifts – also a great place to grab a beer and a soup and soak up the sun.

Steins, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Steins, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Additional mountain activities

For skiers and non-skiers alike, a wide variety of mountain activities are just a 2.4 mile, breathtaking gondola ride up to the Tamarack Lodge.

Observation deckTake the Observation Deck stop on the gondola ride and take in the panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and grab a drink or bite to eat at Café Blue.

Tubing and sledding at Adventure Peak. With five lanes of tubing and sledding fun on a 500-foot long course with a 65-foot vertical drop, Adventure Peak offers great family fun.

Unbuckle après ski party. A perfect spot for skiers and non-skiers to meet and share some on mountain fun. Located at the Tamarack Lodge at the top of the gondola with drink specials, live DJs, and dancing.

Ice skating. Near the base of the gondola in the village, the Heavenly Village Ice Rink is an open-air ice skating rink which is open daily throughout the ski season.

Ice rink at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Ice rink at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Where to stay

Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From luxury hotels to casino hotels to rustic cabins, South Lake Tahoe has a wide variety of lodging options. Hotels located in Heavenly Village, nearest to the gondola, include Grand Residences by Marriott, Marriott’s Timber Lodge, and Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel.

Heavenly Village, Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Heavenly Lake Tahoe’s address is 4080 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150.

Heavenly Ski Resort is located 58 miles or about 1 hour, 8 minutes from the Reno Tahoe airport or about 200 miles from SFO airport in San Francisco. From Reno, take I-580 south to Carson City, then take US-50 W in South Lake Tahoe.

Heavenly offers a complimentary ski shuttle service throughout South Lake Tahoe and Stateline, making stops at most major facilities, from 8:00am-5:00pm.

Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Heavenly Lake Tahoe:  Know before you go

Bring the sunscreen. While you may want to go home with a goggle tan, you don’t want a sunburn. With over 300 days of sunshine and the highest elevation of all the Tahoe resorts, sunscreen should be applied often.

Drink lots of water. According to experts, you lose water through respiration at high altitude twice as quickly as you do at sea level. Whether you’re skiing on the hill all day, shopping in Heavenly Village or out for an evening in the casinos, you need to drink extra water to combat the effects of higher altitude.

Dress in layers. Conditions change quickly on the mountain and what starts out as a warm, bluebird day on the mountain, can quickly change to cold and snowy conditions. We ski with a small backpack for different gloves, hand warmers, and other items.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Weather and road conditions change quickly in the Sierra and chains are frequently required. Check out the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Heavenly or better, hire transportation, so you can relax and enjoy the trip.

Learn more about Heavenly Lake Tahoe on their website.

Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Heavenly Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Santa Cruz, California

10 Things to do in Santa Cruz County, California

Cover: Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Well-known as one of the top surfing spots in the world, Santa Cruz is also a vibrant community along the California central coast with great hotels and resorts, restaurants featuring dishes crafted from fresh local ingredients, fabulous hiking trails amidst the area’s natural beauty, amazing wildlife viewing, and beautiful beaches.

Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Situated along scenic Highway 1 just 70 miles/112 km south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz is the perfect spot for a quick getaway or a longer retreat. The warm sun, low humidity, and plentiful activities attract visitors from both the region and the world to the scenic destination.

Santa Cruz: Where to stay

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a wide selection of lodging options from quaint coastal lodges to luxury resorts, Santa Cruz has something for every vacation style and budget.

Our choice when visiting the area is Chaminade Resort & Spa. Recently renovated, Chaminade is the perfect combination of quiet retreat, with top amenities, numerous on-site activities, a full-service spa, great food, a super staff, and gorgeous views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay. Learn more about Chaminade Resort & Spa »

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Santa Cruz: Things to do

1. Stroll the Santa Cruz Wharf

Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located between Santa Cruz Main Beach in front of the Boardwalk and the popular surfing spot, Cowell Beach, Santa Cruz Wharf is the longest wharf on the west coast of the United States at a length of 2,745 feet /836.68 meters.

Built in 1914, the Wharf today is a hub of activity with shops, restaurants, boat tours, kayak rentals, fishing, and a great spot for watching sea lions.

Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Wharf, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

2. Play at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The famous seaside amusement park, the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, is just down the beach from the Wharf and is home to the Looff Carousel built in 1911 and the Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster, which dates back to 1924. Both are National Historic Landmarks, as is the entire Santa Cruz Boardwalk, which has been operating since 1907.

Admission to the amusement park is free, with small fees charged for rides. In addition to the rides, the Boardwalk has the largest selection of games in Northern California and a wide variety of food choices ranging from corn dogs to deep-fried artichokes.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

3. Shop or take in a movie in downtown Santa Cruz

Downtown Santa Cruz, California
Downtown Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

An eclectic shopping area centered around Pacific Avenue, downtown Santa Cruz has over 100 boutiques, restaurants, movie theaters, and art galleries, attracting a diverse mix of patrons in an outdoor mall atmosphere. The pedestrian-friendly small town is a great place to grab a coffee or ice cream and people watch, visit the weekly farmer’s market, or browse the monthly Santa Cruz Antique Faire.

4. Visit the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, Santa Cruz, California
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Established in 1992, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary stretches along the coastline from San Francisco to Cambria and is one of the United States’ largest marine sanctuaries, with a vast array of wildlife including seals, sea lions, sea otters, and whales.

Located near the Santa Cruz Wharf, the Sanctuary Exploration Center features a variety of displays and interactive exhibits for visitors to explore to gain a better understanding of the marine sanctuary and how they can help protect this underwater treasure.

5. Explore the Santa Cruz Harbor area

Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Santa Cruz Harbor area is a great spot to take a walk along the beach, have lunch, visit the Walton Lighthouse and watch the boating activity in the harbor.

Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With over 800 permanent slips, the Santa Cruz Harbor also serves as a launching point for kayaks and paddleboards. Bring a camera and stroll along the harbor area as a kaleidoscope of colorful boats and pleasure craft navigate the harbor.

Adjacent to the harbor on the east side of the water, is Santa Cruz Harbor Beach, a popular spot with volleyball courts, kayak rentals, restaurants, and shops.

Santa Cruz Harbor Beach, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Harbor Beach, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If visiting on a Saturday morning, grab a coffee at the Java Junction and enjoy the music of the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz, a talented group of locals that have a great time playing tunes on the beach.

Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Time your visit near mid-day, then head to The Crow’s Nest for lunch. Located on Harbor Beach and frequented by locals and visitors alike, The Crow’s Nest has been serving great food with spectacular views since 1969.

The Crow's Nest, Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
The Crow’s Nest, Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Across the harbor are Walton Lighthouse and Seabright Beach.

Seabright Beach, Santa Cruz, California
Seabright Beach, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A paved walking path leads out to the Walton Lighthouse, also known as Santa Cruz Breakwater Lighthouse, built in 2002 on a jetty at the harbor entrance has been the site of a light station of some form since 1964.

Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Harbor, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz, California
Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Huge waves crash along the jetty, which is lined with tetrapods, structures that look like giant concrete jacks. Tetrapods, which in Greek means four-legged, dissipate the force of the waves, allowing water to flow around the structures, rather than against it.

Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz, California
Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The view from the lighthouse back to the coastline is beautiful in both directions, with great views of Santa Cruz Harbor, Harbor Beach, Seabright Beach, Santa Cruz Main Beach, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, and the Santa Cruz Wharf in the distance.

Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

6. Watch the surfers

Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Nicknamed “Surf City,” Santa Cruz consistently nears the top of all surfing destinations lists.

Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While donning a wet suit and grabbing a board may not be on your to-do list, heading to one of the popular spots around Santa Cruz County to watch the skilled surfers is an activity not to be missed.

Top spots to check out the surfing action are Pleasure Point, Manresa State Park, Steamer Lane, Waddell Creek, and 26th Avenue.

Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Surfing, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

7. Kick back at the beach

Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

29 miles of coastline along Santa Cruz County provides a wide selection of beaches to choose from.

Whether you are looking for a quiet place for a picnic, a dog-friendly beach, or the perfect spot for some volleyball or water sports, there’s a beach in Santa Cruz County that will fill the bill.

Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

8. Sip some wine

Santa Cruz wineries
Santa Cruz wineries
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Home to over 70 wineries and tasting rooms, the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is mostly well-known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon varietals.

One of the oldest wine growing regions in the United States, wineries range from small, boutique locations to larger operations including David Bruce Winery in Los Gatos, Ridge Vineyards’ Monte Bello Estate in Cupertino, Bonny Doon Vineyard in Davenport, Byington Vineyard in Los Gatos, and Bargetto Winery, which has a tasting room in Soquel. Many wineries in the region offer visits by appointment only or only on specific days of the week, so call ahead before visiting.

9. Take a hike

Hiking, Santa Cruz, California
Hiking, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The abundant natural beauty of Santa Cruz beckons one to get out and hit the hiking trail. The only question in Santa Cruz County is which one.

From the popular Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park with its giant Redwoods to California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods where you’ll find the largest continuous stand of Ancient Coast Redwoods south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz County’s 14 state parks has a hike for everyone. Find yours by visiting the California State Parks website – just select “Find by County” and choose “Santa Cruz” for a great list of options.

10. Pay a visit to Capitola Village

Capitola Village, California
Capitola Village, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Founded in 1869, charming Capitola Village sits beside the sea, drawing visitors with its colorful buildings, beach, boutiques, antique stores, galleries, restaurants, and wharf.

Capitola Wharf, Capitola Village, California
Capitola Wharf, Capitola Village, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The oldest seaside resort town in California, Capitola Village is home to outdoor movies in the summer, numerous festivals throughout the year and the Capitola Historical Museum.

Capitola Wharf, Capitola Village, California
Capitola Wharf, Capitola Village, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Climate: Average daily high temperatures in the winter and early spring months (November – March) range in the neighborhood of 60°F, with daily highs from April to October reaching into the 70s. Nighttime temperatures drop into the 40s in the winter and 50s in the summer, so a sweater or light jacket is a good idea for evenings year round.

Driving: In northern and coastal areas of California, it normally takes longer than in other areas due to winding rows and heavy traffic. Allow extra time. Upon arrival, do not leave any valuables in your car and watch out for pedestrians.

Poison oak. When hiking, be aware that poison oak is prevalent in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Conserve water. California is in a historic drought, so re-use hotel towels and conserve water whenever possible. Restaurants generally do not bring water to tables without it being requested, so don’t think its bad service – simply ask the server for a glass.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California

A relaxing retreat at Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz

Cover: Room at Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Nestled amidst towering Redwood and Eucalyptus trees, the Chaminade Resort and Spa sits atop a mountain overlooking the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
View of Monterey Bay from Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we drove up the tree-lined road to the resort, we anticipated a rustic lodge – the typical upscale resort in the woods with dark woods and lots of leather furniture. Boy, were we wrong.

Drive into Chaminade
Drive into Chaminade 
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The rooms & suites

Entrance of Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz, California
Entrance of Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Spanish mission style resort is spread across 300 acres, with 156 rooms and suites in 11 buildings, and has recently undergone a huge renovation. Arriving at the door of our junior suite in building 11, a smile crossed our faces as we were greeted with a room number plate created from dominos.

Room number plate at Chaminade
Room number plate at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Opening the door…warm colors and an eclectic sense of playfulness filled the room – so appropriate for a community well-known for its vibrant lifestyle.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Junior suite, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The clever, bohemian decor ranged from a cabinet styled like an antique refrigerator that housed the mini-fridge to the measuring stick inspired coat rack. But the pièce de résistance was the headboard – an abacus!

Headboard, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Headboard, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Coat rack, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Coat rack, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Each item in the spacious room seemed to have been carefully selected for both form and function. Underneath the coat rack was a bench with built-in cubbies – perfect for storing backpacks and shoes, as well as providing extra seating.

Jr Suite, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Jr Suite, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No matchy-matchy nightstands here. Each side of the bed had different tables – both with a cool factor, plenty of built-in power, and bright red lighting accents.

In one corner, an oversized leather chair with a stylish reading lamp and a laptop table provided a comfortable spot for catching up on email or watch the huge flat panel TV. On the opposite side of the room, a nook with a sectional couch & rustic coffee table was the perfect place for enjoying a glass of wine.

Sitting area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Sitting area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The bath was sleek with a clean, fresh feel, natural wood accent pieces, BeeKind – Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, and fluffy white towels.

Bath, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Bath, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Industrial-inspired shelving, drawers, and racks in an alcove outside the bath provide plenty of storage and a full-length mirror turns it into a great dressing area. An oversized safe, bathrobe, hair dryer and coffee/tea maker rounded out the amenities.

Dressing area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Dressing area, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our first-floor room had a private patio overlooking the forest – a tranquil spot to relax and enjoy nature.

View from patio, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
View from patio, Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The resort

Walking paths
Walking paths
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Paths meander throughout the resort, leading from each of the guest room buildings to the main building, spa, pool and other amenities. We thoroughly enjoyed the short strolls to dine in the main building, but for those not desiring to do so, the hotel has a van to shuttle guests back and forth.

Each morning, we headed over to the main building where coffee was available in the lobby. Numerous seating areas are scattered throughout the main building, from small intimate tables for two to larger sections for groups.

Lobby seating area, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Lobby seating area, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After coffee, we’d wander out to the back of the resort to watch the day come to life and take in those stunning views of the Santa Cruz hillside and Monterey Bay in the distance.

Fountain at Chaminade Resort
Fountain at Chaminade Resort
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sunrise over the Monterey Bay
Sunrise over the Monterey Bay
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Things to do

With a wide variety of activities available throughout the resort, it’s easy to understand why Chaminade is well-known as a great getaway spot. Guests can choose between hiking trails, a spa, a heated outdoor pool, hot tubs, tennis courts, a volleyball court, and a great fitness center to create their own special retreat.

3 miles of private hiking trails

Greg Hull hiking the blue trail
Greg Hull hiking the blue trail
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chaminade has three hiking trails on the resort’s 200+ acres: the short half-mile green loop near the main building, the 1 1/4 mile red trail or the 1 3/4 mile blue trail, which was our selection. The hiking trail map can be downloaded on the Chaminade’s website and one is provided at check-in as well.

The red and blue trails wind through soaring Eucalyptus & Redwood trees, a babbling stream, miles of lush greenery and past the Lindwood Lodge where Judge Curtis Lindley built a summer home in the early 1900s on the property.

Lindwood Lodge, Hiking trails at Chaminade
Lindwood Lodge, Hiking trails at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fitness center

Chaminade's Fitness center
Chaminade’s Fitness center
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’s no excuse for missing a workout at Chaminade. The fitness center is large, with a great selection of top of the line equipment and machines including treadmills, ellipticals, stair machines, and bikes. If group sessions are more your style, yoga, Zumba, Pilates, or circuit training classes are offered most mornings and some evenings.

Spa at Chaminade

Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

No retreat is complete without a visit to the spa and Chaminade’s is 1,700 square feet of luxury and serenity.

Treatment room, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Treatment room, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Alluring aromas, tranquil sounds, and beautiful artwork await at The Spa at Chaminade – which definitely is a splurge-worthy way to relax and recharge the senses and deserves a spot on your retreat agenda.

Featuring handmade, all organic products, The Spa at Chaminade offers a full menu of innovative services administered in rooms named after essential oils like Jasmine, Rosemary, Sage. Following treatments, spa guests are invited to relax on the private spa patio next to the koi pond overlooking the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Koi pond, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Koi pond, Spa at Chaminade, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Tennis anyone?

Tennis courts, Chaminade Resort
Tennis courts, Chaminade Resort
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chaminade has four lighted tennis courts and equipment is available by loan at the fitness center.

Swimming pools and hot tubs

Swimming pool, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Swimming pool, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Whether you want to soak up some California sun or go for a swim, Chaminade’s heated 50-foot outdoor pool and hot tub are available daily from 7am to 11pm. For a special day at the pool, cabanas and poolside food and beverages are also available seasonally.

Dining & beverages

Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While at Chaminade Resort & Spa, we had drinks and appetizers at the bar, dined at Linwood’s Bar & Grill, attended a special event, and experienced Sunday brunch at the Sunset Restaurant – and the food and the service were spectacular.

Linwood’s Bar & Grill

With a menu featuring local, seasonal fare, Linwood’s Bar & Grill is a casual meeting place popular with hotel guests and locals alike. At the bar, the sautéed prawns stole the show, accompanied by a mean lemon drop martini. For the main course, the scallops were seared to perfection and the grilled eggplant in a fig reduction was sublime.

Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Chaminade special events

Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Throughout the year, Chaminade hosts special food & beverage events ranging from their popular Farm to Table Wine dinners in the summer, to holiday dinners, to events featuring a specific beverage like… tequila!

We were fortunate to make the Patrón Tequila tasting party while visiting, where Chaminade unveiled their own bespoke barrel (about 27 cases) of aged Patron tequila unique to the resort.  The Reposado had been aged for 9 months in a Hungarian Oak barrel and was featured throughout the event in specialty cocktail flights.

Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Patrón Tequila tasting party, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sunday brunch at Sunset Restaurant

Sunday Brunch bubbles in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Sunday Brunch bubbles in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always a fan of a Sunday that begins with bubbles, the Chaminade Sunday brunch is an indulgence extraordinaire.

As with Linwood’s, Sunday brunch at Sunset Restaurant was once again a blend of locals and guests, which is always a good indication of great food and service.

Sunday brunch in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Sunday brunch in Santa Cruz at Chaminade
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Chaminade Sunday brunch
Chaminade Sunday brunch
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The food was superb and plentiful doesn’t quite describe the multitude of offerings. Raviolis smoked salmon, eggs Benedict, a carving station, custom omelets, waffles, an array of vegetables – and the list goes on, and on, and on.

My personal favorites – the raviolis in an arrabbiata sauce and the stuffed french toast. Oh my – heavenly.

Bubbly & mimosa at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Bubbly & mimosa at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Sunday Brunch at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Sunday Brunch at Chaminade in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The top 5 things we loved most about Chaminade

  1. The staff at Chaminade was exceptional – helpful and friendly from morning to night, throughout every area of the hotel.
  2. The guest rooms are large, well-appointed, creative, and functional with plenty of seating room.
  3. The food is outstanding and the Sunday brunch was one of the best we’ve experienced.
  4. The on-site, private hiking trails are beautiful and convenient.
  5. The resort reflects Santa Cruz’ casual charm in a beautiful, tranquil setting – the atmosphere is upscale, yet comfortable.

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Chaminade Resort & Spa for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Olympic skiing for everyone

Cover: Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


It doesn’t take too long on your first visit to Squaw Valley to see why it was selected as the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With its six peaks, varied terrain, stunning alpine and lake views, and average annual snowfall of 450 inches, Squaw Valley is a snow sports paradise. Add to that natural skiing perfection the Village at Squaw Valley (with nearly 60 restaurants, shops and galleries), a wide variety of activities off the snow, world-class lodging, and lift tickets that grant unlimited access to both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, and you have today’s Squaw Valley Ski Resort, one of the top ski resorts in the world.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Skiing and snow boarding

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With 3,600 skiable acres, 29 lifts, 170 trails, 16 bowls and 4 terrain parks, Squaw Valley has a lot to offer in sheer size. Spread across six peaks in the Olympic Valley about 10 miles from Lake Tahoe’s northwestern shore, Squaw Valley has skiing and boarding for all ability levels.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While well-known for its extreme terrain with 30% of its runs ranked advanced or expert, the remaining 70% of Squaw’s trails range from mild to challenging, with 25% suitable for beginners and 45% intermediate – making it a perfect resort for everyone.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Beginners can learn with a view at Squaw Valley. A scenic tram ride to High Camp lands beginners in the middle of numerous gentle, groomed green runs, as well as a skating rink, swimming pool and the Terrace restaurant and bar.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For beginners of all ages, Squaw Valley has created first time and beginner programs with dedicated learning zones and teaching methodologies designed to reduce obstacles and accelerate progression to more advanced skiing. The Squaw Valley Ski School also offers intermediate, advanced, expert, children and family programs.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has the reputation of not having much intermediate skiing. Yet, nearly half of the trails at Squaw are blue runs. If you like blues, jump on the Gold Coast Funitel and head up to some beautiful runs (a funitel has two steel cables versus the one on a classic gondola, allowing it to tolerate higher winds). Many of the trails off the Siberia Express, Emigrant, Gold Coast Express, and Shirley Lake Express chairlifts are intermediate with varying levels of steepness and difficulty. The 360° views at the top of Emigrant are stunning and not to be missed.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The longest run at Squaw Valley is Mountain Run, a 3.2-mile intermediate trail that winds down to the base of the mountain. The Red Dog lift, at the base, delivers some tree skiing and riding opportunities, as well as a good ride down the intermediate Champs Elysees.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the experts – KT-22 and Headwall are legendary for their jaw-dropping descents, steep chutes, moguls, cliffs and bowl skiing.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has four terrain parks – Gold Coast, High Camp, Snow Ventures and Belmont – with 44 features between them.

Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Terrain parks, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: On mountain dining & drinking

Squaw Valley has some amazing restaurants and bars, but we have to start this section with my favorite place on the mountain – a ski in/ski out Starbucks!

Squaw Valley Starbucks
Ski in / Ski out Starbucks, Squaw Valley Ski in-Ski out Starbucks
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located at the top of the Funitel, it is one of the best places to grab a chai or latte and enjoy the view. Also at the top of the Funitel are Funi’s On-mountain Market for a quick sandwich, soups and Funi Crepes and The Arc, with assorted food stations offering soups, salads, pizzas, grilled fare, and Asian cuisine.

At High Camp, Silvey’s Cafe offers quick fare with paninis, soups, and snacks and the Terrace is a sit-down restaurant and bar that serves tasty lunch offerings with panoramic views.

The Terrace, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Terrace, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Village at Squaw Valley

The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Village at Squaw Valley’s 60 restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries provide a wide variety of shopping, dining and après ski options at the base of the mountain. Especially on weekends and holidays, the Village has a bustling, jovial and diverse atmosphere, where upscale Bay area residents mix with powder-seeking ski bums.

The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Other activities

In addition to the world-class skiing, the resort has numerous other activities to enjoy during a stay at Squaw Valley including:

The Tram at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Tram at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A scenic ride on the Aerial Tram, climbing 2,000 vertical feet to High Camp at 8,200 ft elevation, can be enjoyed year round by skiers and non-skiers alike.

At High Camp, the Olympic Ice Pavilion offers ice skating with panoramic views for adults and children. Hockey or figure skate rentals are available at the rink.

Ice skating, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Ice skating, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Snow tubing is located at SnoVentures Activity Zone at the base area of Squaw Valley near the parking lot. A popular activity, tubing tickets are limited per session and sold on first come, first served basis. Also at Squaw Valley’s SnoVentures Activity Zone, kids ages 6-12 can take a mini snowmobile for a whirl around the mini snowmobile course.

Snowshoeing on Squaw Valley’s trail system is a fabulous way to explore nature in the Olympic Valley. The Nordic Center rents snowshoes for adults and kids and snowshoe trails originate at the Resort at Squaw Creek.

High Camp pool & hot tub, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
High Camp pool & hot tub, Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, that’s just a start. Also available are dog sledding, climbing walls, visiting the Olympic Museum, taking a dip in the High Camp pool & hot tub (seasonal), bungee skyjumping, and yoga.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Where to stay

The Village at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
The Village at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Squaw Valley has a variety of lodging options including the Village at Squaw Valley, Squaw Valley Lodge, Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn, and the Resort at Squaw Valley. Additionally, hotels are available in Tahoe City and Truckee, with each town located about 12 miles away.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort at Tahoe: Getting there and parking

Squaw Valley’s resort address is 2600 Alpine Meadows Rd, Tahoe City, California 96145.

Located off Highway 89, between Truckee and Tahoe City, on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley is just 47 miles from the Reno Tahoe airport, 96 miles from Sacramento and 196 miles from San Francisco. From Highway 80, take the CA-89 S (exit 185) exit and continue on Highway 89 for about 10 miles. Turn right on Squaw Valley Road.

Free parking is available next to the Village, with a short walk to the Funitel.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort: Know before you go

Ski conditioning will make your ski vacation more enjoyable.  Some time in the gym and/or using a ski conditioning program before your ski vacation will improve your time on the slopes.

Don’t ski above your ability. Warren Miller films have been shot at Squaw Valley – and extreme is really extreme here. Watching a film while throwing back a beer is one thing; hiking a ridge and heading down one of Squaw’s steeps is something else. There are many expert skiers and riders at Squaw – they aren’t on vacation. Don’t get caught up in it all, overdo it and put yourself and others at risk.

Squaw Valley Ski Resort, Lake Tahoe, California
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Dress in layers. Consider skiing with a small backpack for storing layers as the day moves from cold to warmer temperatures and also take gloves of various weights and hand warmers. Mountain conditions can change from warm to cold and back again quickly. Another option – day use lockers are available at the top of the Funitel, providing easy access throughout the day without going all the way down to the base.

Rent gear. Renting provides a good chance to try out new skis or boards and simplifies travel, especially in airports.

Consider hiring transportation to the mountain. Squaw Valley has so many restaurants and activities, a car isn’t really needed. Hiring transportation lets you enjoy the scenery as a professional navigates the weather and road conditions that can change quickly in the Sierra. If you choose to drive, remember that chains are required frequently on Highway 80 and Highway 89 and be sure to check the road conditions at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) before heading to Squaw Valley.

Kim Hull at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Kim Hull at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.