World’s only ski-up Starbucks open for business at Squaw Valley

Two days ago, while visiting my brother and his family in Lake Tahoe, my nephew uttered the words I’d hoped never to hear. “Starbucks just opened a ski-up window at Squaw’s Gold Coast mid-mountain complex!” he snorted, before pondering aloud how it was possible to ski with a triple venti Cinnamon Dolce Latte while wearing gloves and holding poles.

Truly, I think the world has enough Starbucks in it, and if you can’t get through a day of skiing without a fix, you just might have a problem. Not everyone feels that way, however, as reported on today. Says Squaw Valley president and CEO Andy Wirth, “Nowhere else in the world can skiers and riders enjoy a delicious Starbucks coffee without missing a beat on the slopes.” My nephew might disagree with the logistics of that statement, but never underestimate the power of a Frappuccino habit.

Luxury travel: Three days of sun and ski in Lake Tahoe

There’s a multiple personality syndrome happening in Lake Tahoe. In the winter, the region is packed with snowboarders, skiiers and skaters ready to take on the chill and hit the slopes. In the summer, Lake Tahoe turns laidback with endless nights on the lake and festivals in the streets. The area is frequented by skiers, sun-worshipers, families, singles and solo-travelers. You can spend the night roasting marshmallows by an open fire or enjoying sushi at the local Japanese restaurant. Whether you come here to ski or sit in the sun, luxury travel in Lake Tahoe can be a traveler’s paradise.

Where to stay:

The Northstar -at-Tahoe Resort is one of Lake Tahoe’s newest “villages” and features everything from an ice skating rink to hot dog stands to sushi bars. The village at Northstar offers different accommodations, but to make the most of your stay choose a condo at Northstar and take advantage of the full kitchen, washer-dryer in unit and electric fireplace. The condos have balconies that overlook the village and because of its location on the mountain, you can walk from your condo to the gondola in less than 3 minutes, hitting up Starbucks along the way.

For the ultimate in luxury travel in Tahoe, head to the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe – an oasis in the mountain. The resort is accessible via a private gondola from Northstar to the Ritz-Carlton, so you can easily shuttle between the village and the hotel, if you choose to do so. Or, you can hit the slopes straight from the Ritz. After a day of skiing or boarding, let the massage therapists at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe spa ease away your muscle aches. My suggestion: Opt for one of the spa packages that includes a bath soak. The copper tubs in the spa are meant to release stress on your muscles. After a day of snowshoeing at Tahoe, I can say with certainty this spa service saved me from the pain I was bound to wake up with the next morning.

%Gallery-117172%What to eat:

Northstar-at-Tahoe village has everything from French hotdogs and burritos-to-go to gourmet pizzas and wine bars. For sushi lovers, don’t miss a meal at Mikuni Japanese Restaurant & Bar. The restaurant offers typical Japanese food and the sushi bar is full of unique rolls and combinations.

If the pub scene is more your style, TC’s Pub in the village is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is typical American bar style and the burgers are worth the wait from the kitchen on a busy day. Thanks to its location near the lifts, TC’s is also a great place to warm up after a day on the slopes or in between runs.

Don’t miss an opportunity to dine at Manzanita, Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe’s signature restaurant. (Suggestion: let the chef plan the course for you and ask the sommelier to pair your food with wine. You’ll never forget the meal.)

While it’s great to spend time in the village, it’s also worth it to get out and explore the Tahoe region. Head into town (only a 10 minute drive from the Northstar village) and check out the local shops and restaurants. Our favorite meal in town was at Pacific Crest Grill, the restaurant attached to the favorite local hangout, Bar of America.

What to do:

If you’re here in the winter, you’re hitting the slopes. If you’re here in the spring, you’re hitting the hiking trails. But aside from the obvious, there are few hidden treasures to check out.

For winter visitors, take a spin around the ice skating rink at Northstar. At night, the rink lights up with strands of bulbs and decorations, and fire pits surround the rink for watchers to roast marshmallows.

Dogsledding with Wilderness Adventures takes place at Squaw Valley, the next village over from Northstar. The dogs run a few times a day, but it’s advisable to book your reservations in advance as this popular activity books up fast.

If skiing or snowboarding isn’t your thing, rent some snowshoes and head out for a hike. My suggestion: go first thing in the morning when the trails are clear and you have the mountains to yourself. Because you have the flexibility to walk various trails and weave in and out of trees, you’ll come across some of the best views from the mountain that skiers and boarders won’t likely see. Word to the wise: snowshoeing is harder than you think! Even as a long-time runner, I was sore for days after a 3 mile snowshoe hike. My advice: stretch often and hit the spa after your hike for some good massage therapy!

On rainy days, or days when you just need a break from the mountain scene, hang out in the village and take the kids to some creative shops. The Northstar village has jewelry making and candle making shops, and stores just for kids who want to do their own shopping without mom and dad.

The Lake:

Let’s be honest, you might be here to ski, snowboard or skate, but you’re not going to miss a turn around the lake. The Lake Tahoe region is, in fact, situated around an expansive lake that provides some of the best scenes you’ll ever see out West.

The entire drive around Lake Tahoe can take up to three hours, but if you’re up for it you’ll enjoy the various twists and turns of the roads that lead to some of the peak spots for pictures. If you don’t have an entire three hours to spare, head toward the Lake and drive into South Lake Tahoe, just over the Nevada border and about a 45-minute drive from the Northstar village. The town area has a cute shopping center and boardwalk, and you’ll still get to see some picturesque Lake Tahoe views.

Side trip: Lake Tahoe is only a three hour drive from San Francisco. On your way back to San Francisco from Lake Tahoe, make a special stop at the Jelly Belly Factory, located off I-80 about halfway between the two destinations. The Jelly Belly Visitor Center is open daily from 9am-5pm. You can take a guided tour of the factory, or just head straight to the good stuff in the Jelly Belly retail store.


Parts of this trip were sponsord by Northstar-at-Tahoe, but the opinions expressed in this post are mine.