This Year’s Challenging Trip to Tahoe and Park City

Our family has been going to Lake Tahoe between Christmas and New Year’s for the last 15 years. We all typically meet in the Bay Area and drive up to Tahoe together. This year was no different. After our ski week in Tahoe (this year only five days), we drove back to the Bay Area. After saying goodbye to the kids, we swapped the huge beast of a car for a smaller 4×4 to head on to Utah.

A Lake Too Far

This year’s trip to Tahoe was a little more memorable than others, not in a good way. In past years, even with storms, we have always managed to get to Tahoe up Route 50. As luck would have it, all roads to Tahoe were completely closed just when we were trying to get there.

We left the Bay Area on the Sunday after Christmas and had a nice lunch with our nieces and nephews in El Dorado Hills. From there, it was smooth sailing until Placerville, then it crawled to a halt maybe 10 miles up the road where the CHP was turning everyone around.

We know from experience that the roads opening and closing are unpredictable. But Mike wanted to make sure that the road was really closed. So, after driving for five hours, we went back to find a place to stay in Sacramento.

Two Nights in Sacramento

Because of our status with Marriott, we made a reservation at the Marriott in Rancho Cordova. When we got there at about 9 pm, the line to check-in was at least 60 people long and there were only two agents doing check-in. Obviously, everyone got turned back, but the line was at least an hour-long and I had no patience. So after about 20 minutes of steam coming out of my ears, we decided to go to a Hilton closer to Sacramento. I called the property to make sure that we weren’t walking into the same situation again. We arrived at the Hilton a little while later and got to our rooms in short order, they even had a nice gym.

At first, we only planned to stay one night, but by noon the next day, all of the roads to Tahoe were still closed due to downed trees and other debris, not just snow. So we booked a second night at the Hilton, it just didn’t pay to move at that point. I spent the day shopping with one of my sons while the other one worked out and enjoyed the hot tub with his dad.

Trying Out the Lime Scooter

My special treat for the day was trying out a Lime scooter. We had seen them all over Europe and the US of course and I really wanted to try one. Mike told me a while ago that I could try it in a flat, mostly empty parking lot. Guess what, when we returned from shopping there were three scooters just sitting in the parking lot waiting to go somewhere. So I downloaded the app and hopped on, but I couldn’t get it to go. My son got it going and took a spin around the parking lot, then it was my turn. It was so much fun. Full disclosure, I did call Mike and tell him what I was going to do before I got on the scooter. Unfortunately, because he was in the hot tub, he didn’t get to see my scooter triumph.

Finally Getting to Tahoe

The following day, with only Highway 50 open (80 was still closed) we left Sacramento, headed to Tahoe. Due to the usual chain control, plowing, and a jack-knifed big rig, it took us more than 10 hours to get to the Ridge Tahoe resort from Sacramento. It normally takes about 2 hours. But everyone seemed to take it in stride.

We have been using our timeshare near Heavenly Valley for the last 15 years. However, last year and the year before we weren’t able to stay in our own building because it was being renovated. I, for one, was looking forward to staying in our own unit but when we called to confirm on our first attempt to get to Tahoe, we were told they had us in another building. I was more than a little pissed off that we hadn’t been informed earlier that our building renovation still wasn’t done. While the building they put us in had a great view of the Carson Valley, there were more than a few shortcomings. Most importantly, none of the hot tubs were working. The excuse was a gas issue a few days before and they had no idea when it would be fixed.

On the plus side, the resort does have a shuttle and a funicular, both of which will take you to the slopes.  There is a bar, bistro, and restaurant on-property, as well as snowshoeing, a spa, workout room, indoor pool, tennis, and racquetball courts. All in all, numerous distractions for time away from the ski hill.

Skiing at Heavenly 2022

The skiing and the services at Heavenly were quite different this year from other years. Because of Covid, everyone is short-handed, so even though there was plenty of snow because of the storm, the lifts were slow to open. We were told that many runs that are usually groomed weren’t because they didn’t have enough groomer drivers. The same went for services at the resort, like front desk personnel, housekeeping, and maintenance. It was very difficult to get anyone to answer the phone.

Once we were able to get to Heavenly, the skiing was good. But because most of us were not in skiing shape, some of us only skied two days while others skied three days. As always, the lake views were spectacular. We also managed to go out to dinner two nights at places we had been before and the rest of the time we finished the leftovers from the dinner I cooked for Christmas.

Smooth Sailing to Park City

As we have done in previous years, our skiing adventure moved on to Park City, Utah. Many things are different this year, but fortunately, we can still ski in the US with precautions. Two years ago we wrote two articles about our time in Utah A Week of Park City Powder and Park City Sleep & Eats + Snowbasin. Last year we wrote Singing on the Slopes of Park City about skiing during Covid. Aside from not having any powder this year, these articles are still useful. We thought it would be interesting to compare skiing this year to skiing in other years.

Utah Skiing 2022

After, blowing my ACL last year in Colorado and spending this year getting stronger, I was able to ski in Utah this year. But now I ski with a brace on my right knee and a back brace that does seem to really help prevent the back pain. The other change in skiing this year is that we are taking more days off and not skiing as long as we used to.

Finally, as we have two ski weeks in Colorado then about three ski weeks in Europe, neither of us wants to hurt ourselves before we can enjoy those experiences.

Reservations for skiing and meals aren’t required this year at Vail properties. However, you do need a mask and to show a vaccination card if you want to enter any of the lodges. For us, this wasn’t a problem. In fact, the no reservation thing made life a lot less complicated. Just like Tahoe, the resorts can’t find enough people to work the groomers, lifts, and food concessions at the lodges. At Park City, there were great hills with beautiful fresh snow that wasn’t accessible because there were no operators for the lifts. It’s such a shame.

Covid Restrictions 2022

In general, there seemed to be fewer Covid restrictions this year at our Park City timeshare, Marriott Mountainside. No reservations were required for the gym or the hot tubs. However, the movie theater, kid activities, and apres-ski drinks and food were not running this year. Again, I think it was more due to the lack of personnel that has caused these shutdowns.

A Short Visit to Sundance

We have a friend who mentioned that he always skis at Sundance now. He said it was small and easy to get to from where he lives in the Heber Valley. So, on our day off from skiing, we decided to drive to Sundance and have a look. Sundance is between Provo and Heber Valley, not far off of the main road. The drive was beautiful and the resort is indeed small. There are two small parking lots, a small, very rustic-looking lodge, and one high-speed quad to get everyone up the mountain. The terrain higher up looked interesting, what we could see of it. There was also a large flock of turkeys hanging out, wandering around. I thought the most interesting part was the photos and history inside the lodge that described the theater workshops that happen every year.

I’m not sure I would make a special trip to go ski but it was an interesting afternoon visit.

Overall, aside from the unpredictable snow and road conditions, we enjoy our time in Tahoe and Utah. We hope to continue with these two ski weeks for as long as possible. We did however discuss changing up our New Year’s week holiday with the kids as their situations change. For now, we agreed to continue with our current plans for the next two years, then we will reevaluate.

What kinds of winter activities do you do with your family?

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  1. Nothing ruins a ski trip like closed roads or closed hot tubs!

    Did you give the Lime “more juice” after the video recording stopped?

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