Tag Archives: Lake Tahoe

Today’s Tip: On Winter Driving

Those long car trips with kids can be a big fat drag. When you add snow, ice, road closures, chain controls, and that bumper-to-bumper California traffic, then you have a recipe for a meltdown (yours, of course). I am not a safety or driving expert, but I can share some tips for how I have learned to make the long, snowy drives more bearable, and a whole lot safer.

1. Know the weather and road conditions before you get in the car.

If you’re expecting clear skies and roads, then skip ahead to tip number 2. If you’re expecting blizzard conditions, then you have more to consider (while you drink a soothing, calming tea). You may consider postponing the trip for another weekend, or delaying the departure for the next day. Unfortunately, most people make reservations for lodging that can’t be changed at the last minute without a cancellation fee. If you decide (or are forced to) to change your trip plans because of highway closures, call the hotel to see if they will let you change your reservation without penalty.

2. Carry the right equipment and supplies no matter what the weather forecast says.

Weather conditions change quickly, so sunny skies are not an excuse to be unprepared. Carry chains if you need them. Take along food, water, blankets, maps, and flashlights. And always let someone know where you’re going and what road you plan on taking.

3. Make a pit stop before you begin the climb up to the summit.

The traffic may be flowing, the roads may be clear, and you may be ready to get there already, but make a quick pit stop before you continue your journey to family ski nirvana. Fill up the tank with gas, have the kids take a potty break, and get some food. Believe me, I have been stuck up on a mountain highway for hours, waiting for an unexpected accident to clear up. That’s when I see people climbing through 5 feet of snow at the side of the road, looking for a spot for their potty break. I’m not painting a pretty picture, right?

4. Don’t drive at night or while fatigued.

There’s nothing worse than getting in the car on a Friday night, after working all week, and driving through a snow storm. If you’re tired, don’t get behind the wheel.

5. Timing is everything.

Driving up to ski areas in the winter can mean heavy traffic, regardless of the weather conditions. If possible, you’ll want to travel early in the morning, even if this means leaving work or pulling the kids out of school early. If your trip coincides with a school holiday vacation, then use the extra days to your advantage. You can leave early on a Saturday morning instead of a Friday night, or you can avoid the days before major holidays.

So it’s a lot to think about, I know. But it’s all worth it to see your happy skiers race past you down the hill. Well, kinda. 

What do you do if your car starts to spin, or you get stuck in the snow? I may or may not have some experience with that. If you’re looking for driving tips to help you handle snowy, icy road conditions, then this article has some excellent suggestions. No idea, if I’d actually remember what to do if my left rear wheel started to skid though.


Linking up to Talking Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday for other family travel news.

Spawning Kokanee Salmon in Lake Tahoe

Every autumn the Kokanee Salmon of Lake Tahoe, make their triumphant but tragic journey up Taylor Creek to fulfill their spawning destiny, and every year I drag my son out to see it. Maybe I’m just giving him one more reason to hate me when he turns sixteen, but I’d like to think I’m teaching him all about one of nature’s most fascinating cycles. So far, my son thinks the whole thing is pretty cool.

Throughout the month of October, you can walk the trail along Taylor Creek and come within inches of the salmon as they swim upstream. There are sections of the creek that turn red, they’re so full of salmon. The trail goes through the Stream Profile Chamber, where you can get an underwater view of the creek and a look at a few informational exhibits on the wildlife of Taylor Creek. Did you know that the Kokanne males develop a humped back and a hooked jaw to help their chances with the whole mating thing? Well you and the kids may get a close-up view of this distinct hooked jaw through the aquarium windows. They will also enjoy looking at the 180-degree diorama mural of Taylor Creek and spotting the animals hidden throughout the room.

I have to admit that besides witnessing the exciting journey of the Kokanee, I enjoy our autumn visits to Taylor Creek because of the beautiful views of the aspens in their fall colors. There are not many places in California where I can walk in forest of golden trees, so the Rainbow Trail at Taylor Creek is one of my favorite fall foliage destinations. The trail is paved, an easy hike for all ages, and begins outside the Visitor Center. There are other trails that fork out from the visitor center, including the bike trail that leads to Tallac Historic Site.

I hope I can make a visit to Taylor Creek again this year (haven’t asked my son, though). I’m penciling in a weekend in October, packing my picnic basket, and looking forward to a brisk autumn afternoon with the Kokanee.

Useful Tidbits: The Taylor Creek Visitor Center is off Highway 89 in South Lake Tahoe, just north of the Tallac Historic Site. The Kokanee Salmon Festival will be held on the weekend of October 2-3 this year. Although I have never gone, there are plenty of kids’ activities, food, ranger talks, and Sammy the Salmon Mascot. This weekend may be more crowded, so check website link for more information. Oh, and there are bear sightings during the spawning season, so take precautions.

Video Zen: View From the Top

This weekend I remembered that I don’t like to sit out, when there is fun to be had. If you’ve been reading the posts of this past week, you know that I haven’t been skiing since before my son was born. You also know that my son had a small triumph of sorts this past weekend: he got on skis for the first time.

The problem is that I only got to share in his skiing debut, from the bottom of the hill. That’s no place for me to be. I want to take him all the way to the top of the run, chatting on the chair lifts as we get there, and then race him down to the bottom.

I’ve always been there to share all of the adventures with him, so I’m determined to make it up the hill with him soon. It’s time to tune up those skis, buy some new ski pants, and work out those lazy muscles of mine.

Today I’m dreaming of hitting the slopes again. And just in case I try to talk myself out of it, I put together this little video of my son shredding down the hill (filmed courtesy of his very patient, snowboarding aunt). This is the view I want of my son skiing.

This post is dedicated to those Monday Dreamers-Backpack to Buggy and Mother of All Trips-who have also been chronicling their skiing dreams and adventures this past month.

Go check the new Monday Dreams this week at Mother of all Trips.

King of the Bunny Hill

One thing I’ve learned in my eight years as reigning mami, is that teaching your kids new things, and exposing them to new experiences is hard work. It takes planning, preparation, and a lot of cooperation. So with that in mind, I offer you the back story to how my son conquered the bunny hill on a fine, winter day. I could just share the happy ending, but where’s the fun in that?

I planned: Once I had the green light from my son on the whole skiing thing, I began the research phase of the operation. I went online to learn more about ski lessons at Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area-a small ski area a few minutes from our cabin in Truckee, California. I decided on the type of lessons that would work best for his age and personality. Most ski resorts offer a whole host of options for ski lessons. I knew I was willing to pay a bit more for a private instructor the first time, with the hopes that he would feel more comfortable his first day on skis and would get much more attention.

I prepared: Weeks before we were to hit the slopes, I went shopping for new ski pants and goggles (which were the only things missing from our snow gear inventory). The week before our ski trip, I took the kiddo to a ski rental place near our home to try out his boots and skis and place the reservation for his equipment. Before a busy holiday weekend, this turned out to be a very wise move. Of course, that particular store was out of helmets in his size. We had to rent him a helmet at a different ski rental store in Truckee, the day before his ski lesson. That week, I also called Tahoe Donner to reserve a ski lesson for him. Again, this was also a smart move.

I got a lot of cooperation: Nothing would have been possible, without my son’s cooperation. He was finally, after many years of prodding, ready to ski. He was excited to try on his gear-even though we went through a bit of ski boot frustration. Although he showed moments of nervousness and trepidation, he was willing to get over it because he really, really wanted to learn how to zoom down those snowy hills. That was key. Without the enthusiasm, he wouldn’t have been willing to put up with all of the hassle involved in learning how to ski. This is not to say, that kids much younger than him can show this type of enthusiasm. Or that it isn’t possible to take out a less enthusiastic child out on the slopes. But for us, it was worth waiting until he was ready.

The happy ending: My son is finally a skier. He got on skis for the first time today, and he loved it so much we had to drag him away from the ski lift. I’m breathing a big sigh of relief that he had a great first experience on the slopes, because it could have just as easily been a negative one. It’s a fine line between bliss and tantrum. So I’m grateful, feeling lucky, and patting myself on the back for being such a savvy mom. I’m now ready to take on many more days on the bunny hill, ski rental shops, and ski lesson charges. And as for my son, he’s ready to take on the half-pipe.

Lake Tahoe Family Travel Tips

Lazy Fall Weekends…

IMG_0947_2…are my favorite. The weekdays are full with work, errands, and homework, so that by the time Friday comes around, I feel like a deflated balloon. That’s when I need to take a weekend trip, and head outdoors to get my vitamin D, sunshine fix. It turns out that these weekend mini-trips are also good for my kid. He needs to catch his breath and reflect on the difficulties on being a third grader (which is not an easy job these days).

I was reminded of this when, browsing through my photo library, I landed on this Lake Tahoe scene. In this photo, he is a wee kindergartner, lazying around on a Saturday by the lake. The photo reminds me of how I would like this weekend to be: gloriously unproductive.

So we’re being a bit lazy this weekend. Right after we clean the house, get groceries, reorganize some sock drawers and click over to Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday to check out all the other travel photos. I know we’ll get it all done somehow.