Tuesday, October 3, 2023
HomeNewsWelcome to the Alps, Palisades Tahoe style

Welcome to the Alps, Palisades Tahoe style

I have always been amazed how ski lifts, trams and gondolas magically transport you from warm and cozy base villages high up to mountainous terrain far from civilization and deep into nature, thin air and snow.

This is especially true in Europe, where I’ve ridden lifts into the breathtaking terrain of the Alps and skied vast, interconnected ski circuses in Switzerland, France and Austria. In the major Rocky Mountain resorts of Utah and Colorado, lifts have taken me to vast swaths of skiable terrain, inviting days of gravity-driven descents into the snow.

Now our very own Lake Tahoe ski area has a touch of grand Alpine and Rocky Mountain skiing with the debut of the base-to-base gondola connecting Palisades Tahoe and its sister resort, Alpine Meadows, creating the largest ski area in California with 34 lifts, 270 runs and a whopping 6,000 skiable acres across two mountains.

The new gondola at Palisades Tahoe connects that ski destination to Alpine Meadows, its sister resort. (Ben Davidson Photography)

The new gondola is a long overdue dream come true for many Northern California skiers and snowboarders who make Tahoe their winter playground. Gone are the days when skiers and riders had to choose between the steeps, clearings, and 3,600 skiable acres at Palisades Tahoe or the homey atmosphere, sprawling bowls, and hidden hikes to the borders of Alpine Meadows. It was possible to ski both resorts in a day, but quite a hassle.

I recently spent a long weekend in Palisades Tahoe, located in a comfortable condo in the heart of the village, with the goal of dividing my days between these two mountains. The new base to base gondola, which rarely has a queue, was located opposite my accommodation and I was eager to check it out.

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But before heading to Alpine, I hopped on Palisades’ Funitel (also a gondola) for warm-up laps on the upper mountain’s intermediate runs. The snow was light and crisp, and the temperatures cool and crisp: perfect skiing conditions thanks to this winter’s storms and the deepest snow in the Sierra in 30 years.

After several warm-up runs and a quick mocha enjoyed on the scenic deck of the Arc at the mid-mountain Gold Coast Lodge, I rode back to the village on the long Mountain Run. Back at base, I headed straight for the new base-to-base gondola, where an empty eight-person cabin with angel wings soared up the vertiginous slopes of the 2,200-foot KT-22.

A mid-mountain station allows experienced skiers and boarders (not tourists) to disembark for steep, mogul-strewn runs back to the base of Palisades before continuing over the ridge to a pristine, out-of-bounds backside . I continued, floating above this dreamy snowy landscape, enjoying breathtaking views of the Granite Chief Wilderness, Lake Tahoe and Palisades Tahoe’s peaks.

A mid-mountain lunch spot at Alpine Meadows, The Chalet is known for its laid-back atmosphere and Bavarian fare: pretzels, bratwurst, and draft beer.  (Ben Davidson Photography)
A mid-mountain lunch spot at Alpine Meadows, The Chalet is known for its laid-back atmosphere and Bavarian fare—pretzels, bratwurst, and draft beer. (Ben Davidson Photography)

The 16-minute, 2.4-mile ride from Palisades to Alpine Meadows gains 1,870 vertical feet from the base to the KT-22 mid-station. You descend 1,235 vertical feet to reach charming, laid-back Alpine Meadows. This is the beauty of the new base-to-base gondola: it offers access to the best of both worlds, chic and chic on one side and low-key and local on the other.

Skiing Alpine has always been a low-key affair, big on fun and sparse on crowds. I took a few quick runs from the Treeline Cirque seat in the front and the bowls in the back via the Sherwood Express seat before making it to my favorite mid-mountain lunch spot, The Chalet, for mountain meals in Bavarian style (think large pretzels, Wiener schnitzel, bratwurst and draft beer). The cabin has plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy the winter sun and is a great place to kick back and enjoy the winter splendor of the Sierra.

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Just be sure to time your return gondola ride to Palisades before it stops for the day at 4pm

If you go

Where to eat: The classic spot for après ski in Palisades Tahoe Village is Le Chamois & Loft
Bar, which is not only a great place to have a drink, but the pizza ($16 and up) is pretty good too. The “Chammy” also serves soups and salads, tasty oven-baked sandwiches and pastas. Open daily in winter from 11am to 7pm; squawchamois.com.

The classic spot for apres ski in the Palisades Tahoe Village is Le Chamois & LoftBar, known as the "Chammie

The Auld Dubliner is an old-fashioned Irish pub and restaurant, a warm and cozy place for après-ski libations and dining. The “Dub” is known for its hot wings ($15) served with BBQ sauce or Buffalo style. The Guinness beef stew ($22) has tender pieces of sirloin steak, and the fish and chips ($24) are made with a black and brown batter and served with lemon caper tartar sauce. It is open daily from 11am to 9pm; aulddublinertahoe.com.

Ceviche, flautas, and other Mexican dishes tempt diners at Tremigo Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar in Palisades Tahoe Village.  (Courtesy of Chris Gallagher)
Fajitas, flautas, and other Mexican dishes tempt diners at Tremigo Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar in Palisades Tahoe Village. (Courtesy of Chris Gallagher/Palisades Tahoe)

Tremigo Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar is one of the newest eateries in the Village, offering a family-friendly spot for tasty Mexican food. Try the ceviche ($20) with tiger shrimp, lime and avocado or the chicken tinga flautas ($18) filled with chipotle-braised shredded chicken and farmer’s cheese and topped with queso fresco, crema and guacamole. And the family-style Molcajete ($55) with grilled shrimp, carne asada, chicken, and nopales is served in a traditional lava rock. Open daily from 11am to 9pm; tremigotahoe.com.



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