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.