We get it—skiing should be fun. According to the National Ski Areas Association, 83 percent of people who try skiing for the first time are unlikely to do it again. If that sounds like you, but you want to enjoy the snow, there are still plenty of winter activities in Truckee that will have everyone jealous of your wintry escape. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Shop Local in Historic Downtown Truckee
Perusing up and down Truckee’s Historic Downtown and rediscovering favorites such as Atelier, Dressed and Riverside Studios is probably already a part of your Truckee mainstay. What you may not frequent, however, are the gems tucked away in other parts of the town – and they’re worth checking out. Brickelltown’s California 89 has super-comfy lifestyle clothing for men, women and kiddos (bonus: in the summertime, they show movies in the back!). Don’t miss Knack, Truckee’s newest art gallery featuring combined talents of local makers Lorien Powers and Nancy Holliday. Then, stroll over to the other side of the train tracks to discover the latest at Tahoe University (located in the historic Star Hotel): 5,000 square feet of gorgeous one-of-a-kind lifestyle and home goods including stylish furniture. We know you love to shop local—and there’s plenty of opportunity in Truckee’s thriving local art and boutique scene.
Shop Local on Donner Pass Road (Near Safeway)
So you need to make a trip to Safeway, but what you really want and need is a home décor lover’s tour of Mountain Hardware and Sports (not your grandpa’s hardware store) for a beautiful curated collection of mountain gifts, kitchen and home items. Stroll over from the Safeway parking lot. Across the street, New Moon Natural Foods is where you’ll find the freshest, crispiest veggies locally grown, in addition to all of the herbs, vitamins and supplements you left at home. You can also grab beer, wine and whiskey at Zander’s Spirits, a locally owned store right next to the StartHaus.
Snowshoe Hikes For the First-Timer
If you enjoy hiking in the summertime, think of snowshoeing as the winter version of that. It’s an approachable activity while also a fantastic cardio workout. Some easy trails for first-timers are located near Donner Memorial State Park (cut over to the path closest to Donner Lake for stunning views). Nearby, checkout out the NEW state-of-the-art Donner Memorial State Park Museum & Visitor Center for captivating history on the Donner Party. I also really love the Truckee River Legacy Trail (well maintained by Town and adjacent to the Truckee River). If you’re up for a scenic workout with “summit” accomplishment in mind, Hawk’s Peak (accessible via Alder Creek Adventure Center) is a 3-mile roundtrip adventure. Afterwards, feast on fresh organic kale salad in this NEW gorgeous lodge with fire pits outside. Don’t have snowshoes? Rent them at Tahoe Dave’s or consider buying your own pair at Tahoe Sports Hub. Wear the same thing you’d wear skiing along with waterproof snow boots, and don’t forget ski poles.
Try Snow Biking
Snow biking—or fat biking—is a must if you haven’t tried it before. Yes, riding a bike on the snow is as fun as it sounds. Rent a fat bike from CyclePaths (newly relocated next to Full Belly Deli in the Pioneer Center) or Paco’s. Ask about guided tours. There are many popular single-track trails perfect for snow biking in the Truckee region. To start, check out the Legacy Trail or Tahoe Donner’s Cross Country Center or just (carefully) cruise around town and avoid traffic! Wear warm, lightweight and breathable clothing, and always rock a helmet.
What To Pack
When planning a winter vacation to the Sierra Nevada, there are two important elements to keep in mind: elevation and weather. Sitting at 5,817 feet, Truckee isn’t as high as some other mountainous resort towns in the nation, but you will definitely feel it if you’re coming from sea level. Bring packs of Emergen-C for extra vitamins plus a water bottle to fill up regularly – in fact, some ski resorts like Squaw Valley no longer sell single use plastic water bottles. For clothing, check the weather ahead of time (skip your smartphone’s weather app and check noaa.gov for the most accurate conditions). Regardless of the forecast, you’ll want to pack layers and at least one sturdy winter coat – but if you do hit sunshine during your visit you may be surprisingly warm. The key: moisture-wicking layers. Snow boots like Sorels (find at Mountain Hardware & Sports) are essential for slick sidewalks. Don’t forget gloves and beanies!
Take a Scenic Drive & Instagram Your Winter Vacation
Looking for a way to show off your wintry escape without committing to the slopes just yet? Icicles are aplenty this time of year, and there are impressive specimens all over town right now. Take a drive up Old Highway 40 to Donner Summit (bonus points if you wake up for sunrise!) and down to Soda Springs—aside from the gorgeous views, you’ll find Instagrammable cabins aplenty. On your way back, stop at one of the many public piers on Donner Lake for numerous awe-inducing vantage points. Don’t forget to tag @VisitTruckee #basecampforabiglife in your posts so we can follow along too!
Laura Lawson Visconti is a photographer, author and social media strategist based in Truckee, California. Laura works on digital marketing initiatives with clients such as Visit Montana, Northstar California Resorts, Ford and Alaska Airlines. Her journey with social media began in 2011 when she was named one of the first Suggested Users on Instagram; today her social reach is over 150,000. Laura enjoys exploring the mountains around her home with her husband, former professional snowboarder Nick Visconti.