Lake Tahoe, The snowiest place on earth

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Other than a quick 36 hours together in LA for a work trip last year, Justin and I haven’t had a single “get away”! That’s mostly motivated by my deep hatred of leaving the boys, but after a busy year and with the boys getting a bit older, I was feeling like it was a good time to take a little trip.

The night before we left I was texting my friend Jenna about some anxiety and worry I was experiencing about leaving the boys. She reminded me about how valuable this time investment is in my husband, and that he needs my full attention (as I need his) without the kids sometimes. It was the perfect mindset to go into the trip. I missed the boys terribly, but the time together with zero schedule and zero to do lists was incredibly rewarding.

A motivator behind this trip too, other than quality alone time, was sort of an intentional goal setting trip. My friend Ashlee Proffitt told me that she and her husband do that at the end of each year and I loved that idea. I asked her for a rough outline, and she shared it with me, but I also encouraged her to write a blog post about it in more detail so if she does I’ll share that with you!

Essentially, Justin and I covered what worked in 2016 and what didn’t work. We talked about what events we have already planned in 2017, and what we want to add into the calendar. We talked about lifestyle goals, marriage goals, family goals, and personal goals. We spread it out over a handful of our meals, and also while we were in the car, so it didn’t feel like it was an intensive week together with homework. It was a perfect, guided and intentional conversation, that led to a lot of good discussion and planning. He’s a good man, and I’m very thankful!

So, we picked Lake Tahoe because we wanted a real winter escape, and that it was. Olympic Valley, where we were, had just gotten 12 feet of snow the week prior to us arriving. It was the most snow I’ve ever seen in my life. The trees were covered, and the sidewalks had to be carved out separately from the street. Every 20 seconds, as we were driving into the resort, we would say, “oh my gosh look at all this SNOW!” It was like the thickest blanket of heavy, sticky snow. Perfection, in my mind. I wouldn’t want to deal with that on a daily basis, but for a winter escape it was so much fun.

We stayed at the Squaw Creek Resort, mostly because I found a great Black Friday deal last November. It was very nice, but we agreed we wouldn’t stay there again. If we were to return, and we’ve talked about returning in the summer sometime, I think we would stay in more of a village place versus a separated resort. We craved an area to walk around in and window shop, and also a greater variety of restaurants.

Again, it was super nice, but a little bit too quiet for our taste.

Upon arrival we learned that Monday and Tuesday were the only clear days that week, so we immediately pursued a Helicopter tour in the valley. I mean, we dropped our bags, put on winter boots and ran down to the helicopter as fast as we could. Ricardo took us up and showed us the valley and the lake. It was stunning. Justin and I had never been in a helicopter before and it was very, very cool. It’s much smoother than I thought it would be!

The next day we went snowmobiling, which was the best part of the trip for both of us. It was a 2 hour tour, which was enough time to really get a feel and have some fun, without it being too long. The views from the top of the mountain were amazing, and I’m so glad we were able to go on a clear day and see everything!

The last full day started out with rain, so we went out to breakfast and had plans to drive down to the Heavenly Resort on the south side of the lake. After about a 45 minute drive, we discovered that the road was completely closed. They didn’t plow it past a certain point…and so it was closed! We turned the car around, and headed back to the resort. The time in the car was nice, though, and we got a lot of talking in before a migraine hit me.

Back at the resort, I went to get a massage which was so relaxing especially on a migraine day, and Justin relaxed in the room.

That afternoon we were aware of the snowfall heading our way, and were keeping a close eye on it. We headed back out to town to see a movie, but after getting 85% of the way there, we decided it wasn’t very wise and decided to drive back to the resort. The snow was coming fast, and there were checkpoints every few miles on the road of safety officers checking for chains on tires as they became a requirement due to the crazy weather. The roads were mostly wet, but the snow as getting stickier and heavier, and we weren’t sure what we’d be walking out to after having seen a movie.

So, we drove back to the resort and started planning options to make sure we wouldn’t get snowed in at Olympic Valley and miss our flight home the following day.

Back at the room, we decided after much deliberation to go ahead and leave town before the snow got worse. So, we packed as fast as we could, checked out a day early, and hit the road. Right before we left, a staff member at the resort mentioned that she had heard that the freeways had just closed.

Justin and I looked at each other, and decided to press on as safely and efficiently as we could to see if we could make it out!

I felt completely safe, as there was just a lot of slush and snow, but we knew the following morning would be much much worse with ice and vehicles that were spun out and stuck on the road.

We got to the freeway, and literally the exact point of where it opened up from being shut down was exactly where we needed to enter. Had we been one single exit to the west, we would have been stranded. We drove onto the freeway, and headed east to Reno. Snow turned to rain, and we breathed a deep sigh of relief that we got out in time! It certainly wouldn’t have been the end of the world to get stranded, but we did our best not to-and we succeeded!

Driving into Reno, we were just going to book a cheap hotel until Justin, sweet husband of mine, remembered seeing this grand casino and hotel off the side of the road when had left Reno on Monday to head toward Tahoe. And he taught me that Casino hotels are super super cheap because they want you to spend all your money in the casino! So, we decided to #yolo this trip finale and stay at the Atlantis Casino and Resort in downtown Reno. I read some reviews online before, which were very positive, and we booked a cheap room en route.

Upon arrival, I couldn’t stop laughing about the absurdity of how our romantic winter getaway had morphed. From quiet, snowy Lake Tahoe we were ending in a smokey casino with huge flames and 70’s style fluorescent lights on the building. It was a sight to behold.

We dropped off our bags in the room, and went down to the casino, because when in Rome. . . 

We got $20 out of the ATM and settled in at the penny slot machines. I gambled all 10 of my dollars away, and Justin ended up making about $2.43 cents on his $10 bet. It was hilarious, and we had so much fun looking like complete morons in the casino.

That night I couldn’t sleep well, for a few reasons. The pillow was about as thin as 3 sheets of computer paper, and the walls of our room were extremely thin as well and we heard some adult activity going on next door if you know what I’m saying. Justin was asleep, and I was laying there listening to the events next door, rolling my eyes and still laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Finally, 4 HOURS LATER I fell sleep for about 2 hours until it was time to wake up.

Travel day home was long and hard, but I was so very excited to see my boys! This was the longest I’ve ever been away from the kids, and I missed them terribly. I got photo and video updates from my parents every day but I felt like they aged 5 years while we were gone!

Justin and I spoke excitedly about bringing the boys back to Lake Tahoe in the summertime for a vacation one day. It’s so beautiful there, and there are so many things to do!

You can also read about our summer beach trip and Justin’s trip to Mt. Rainier!

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Comments (43)

  1. Posted January 24, 2017

    such a beautiful destination ! i live in Canada and now we are enjoying the snow too 🙂
    I have the worst anxiety when it comes to leaving my kid , but having quality time with partner is absolutely needed !

    http://www.clairetalksbeauty.com/

  2. Denise Z says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    You picked the snowiest time we’ve had in years to come visit! LOL! (Can’t believe you ventured out and drove in some of those conditions!)We’ve traveled a lot and Tahoe is one of our very favorites…sometimes we tend to forget what a magical place it is, and right in our own backyard. I’ll never forget the first time my husband took me there…that first view of the lake still takes my breath away. Fun to see it through your eyes!

  3. Denise Z says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    And DEFINITELY come back and visit in the summer…it’s a whole different Tahoe then!

    • Kate says
      Posted January 24, 2017

      I bet!

  4. Allison Vizzo says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Sounds like a great time!

    Did you end up taking a book??

    • Kate says
      Posted January 24, 2017

      Yes I brought A Man Called Ove and did not like it one bit.

  5. Kerrie says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Is it just me…or the last time you mentioned a migraine, we all found out Luke was on the way about 2 weeks later????

    On a serious note – I love the idea of setting aside time to plan with your spouse. This is so encouraging, and I think I am going to offer it up as a suggestion to my sweetie. The kitchen table is nice, but a beach would be sooo much better!

    • Kate says
      Posted January 24, 2017

      ha! Not expecting 🙂 I get migraines in all different seasons of my life, unfortunately!

      • Kerrie says
        Posted January 24, 2017

        Oh boo….migraines were a major side effect of pregnancy for me and the only time I considered them slightly tolerable. At any other point of my life, they are just rude.

        If you are a tea drinker, for whatever reason black tea helps when I feel one coming on. It won’t totally take it away, but it seems to lessen the severity. I think it is probably just the caffeine, but it helps more than coffee or medication with caffeine, so maybe it is something more.

  6. Colleen says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Our marriage is a second for both my husband and I. The one thing that stands out from our pre-marriage class with our minister is how your family is very much like building a house. You and your husband are the foundation of your family. It is important to keep a strong foundation to hold the “house/family” up. Thus important to make time for each other just as your friend stated.

  7. Lisa says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    What an adventure! Lake Tahoe looks so beautiful! I’m not much of a winter girl myself (it’s mostly just the cold that I don’t like), but it looks amazing. I love planned trips too, but I also love the spontaneity that almost always happens; it makes for a really fun time.

    This also reminds me that my husband and I haven’t been away together since May 2014, so I think it’s time to start planning! Hopefully my parents will agree to take our boys 🙂

  8. lilly says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    ha ha! what an adventure! next time, don’t forget to bring some ear plugs, you never know when you might need them 😀 glad to hear you accomplishments with drops of excitements in between

  9. Posted January 24, 2017

    I would love to have some snow! Baltimore has been unseasonably warm this year and I’m kind of hating it. I normally hate snow, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a little storm just once this year.

    http://aneducationindomestication.com

    • jennifer says
      Posted January 24, 2017

      I’m in Baltimore too. This time last year we had that huge storm, right? We NEED snow!

      • Posted January 24, 2017

        We did! I really want just one blizzard. That would make me happy!

        • Laura says
          Posted January 25, 2017

          I’m in Carroll County – and am so thankful for not having any snow yet this year! Bring on summer.

  10. Nicole S says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Sounds like such a fun adventure together. Summertime at Lake Tahoe is amazing! We went a few years ago and did some easy hikes, beach days, bike ride, and floated the river all with our 1 year old. I definitely recommend it! We booked a cabin type house through vrbo which was walking distance to the beach, had a pool and tennis/basketball court and playground.

  11. Diana says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    My husband and I went to North Lake Tahoe last May and absolutely loved it! He would love to go back in the winter for the skiing. Glad you had a good time!

  12. Lisa says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    We lived there for about 5 year before me and my husband were married and I think the summer is the best time. Lake Tahoe is so so beautiful in the summer. Also so many summer activities! Glad you enjoyed your trip!!

  13. Jen F says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Marriott’s Timber Lodge in South Lake Tahoe is a great place for families. They have activities for kids. They are in Heavenly Village where there are shops and restaurants and the lake is right down the street! They also have miniature golf during the summer. Summertime in Tahoe is the best!

  14. Ashley says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    If you go back in the Summer, the absolute best place to go is Camp Richardson–they have cabins on the lake and it is a truly magical place for you and the kids to hang for the summer. The cabins book early, but it’s definitely worth a try. My husband’s family has been going there since the 60’s and it is the best part of the summer. Some cabins are much better than others, but really it doesn’t matter so much since you are there to enjoy the lake and the scenery! It’s a close drive to down and there are lots of things to do around “camp”

  15. Posted January 24, 2017

    I’m so happy you two got to get away from your precious sons. I have a 16-month old and one on the way and I often wonder, will we ever get to vacay alone as a couple again? I’m sure when they’re a bit older like your boys it’s a bit “easier” to leave them with family.

    Your trip sounds amazing and very snowy! It was even adventurous til the very last night of sleep (or non-sleep) with your LOUD neighbors and all. What a scene from a movie, right?

  16. Andrea says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    So beautiful with all the snow!! I’ve only been to Tahoe is the fall but loved hiking around.

    I recommend the Timber Lodge Marriott, that’s where we stayed. It’s right in the heart of Heavenly Resort with cute restaurants/shoppes in walking distance.

    And bring ear plugs, always bring ear plugs!! 😜

  17. Laura says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    I’d love to hear more about the outline Ashley gave you! Do you know if she plans to write about it?

  18. Tracy Rieg says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    When you said that you were heading to Tahoe for vacation, I was wondering how that would turn out. I live about 40 minutes west of Tahoe. Last week we experienced the heaviest snow fall we have experience in quite some time. Hwy 80 was shut down for a week….that just doesn’t happen very often. Snow in the west is so different from snow in the east. It’s heavy and wet. Tahoe is absolutely beautiful. I love it in the summer. There is so much to see and do. Bike rides, hikes, swimming, camping, boating…..the list is endless. We have a 4th of July trip planned there…yep in our own backyard!
    Please give our area another chance. Stay in South Shore. You will definitely get that experience you were looking for. Window shopping, yummy food, lots of activities for family but most of all the scenery is to die for. You will never see a lake more blue and beautiful and mountains so majestic.

  19. Kim says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Sounds like an amazing trip! I’d love to visit there!

    Kim

    http://trendkeeper.me .. LAZY?!

  20. Lynn says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Do not hesitate to vacation with your hubby. Our son is a teenager and we NEVER left him and I so regret it! You can never get the time back.

  21. Amy says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Hi Kate!
    Love you and your blog! With your new update to your website, I saw a change in the emails I get for the blog. Specifically, the photos in your emails are coming through GI-normously!

    One thing I really love about your blog (that I cannot seem to get through other subscriptions) is I can read the blog in its entirety in my email. While the picture change has prompted me to come to your website, I thought I would pass on the change just in case that was not the intention with the upgrade.

    I work with IT systems and understand how great and hard updates can be especially the kinks after you “go live”. So glad you like the update and I look forward to more Small Things in 2017.
    Amy

  22. Sarah says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    I grew up on the West Shore of Tahoe and love the summers more than winters. I moved away to avoid the craziness of the snow, even though it can be incredible gorgeous! I highly recommend bringing your whole fam back in the summer! There are amazing rentals all over the place through Airbnb/Homeaway/etc., since so many houses are secondary homes. The beaches are amazing and there’s so many outdoorsy things to do if that’s what you’re into. Or there’s lots of lazy things too! A lot of the ski resorts are open during the summers, but will zip lining or hiking/biking on the trails instead of skiing. Anyway, glad to hear you had a great time despite the crazy weather!

  23. Niki says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Tip from a local if you stay in Reno again – stay at the Nugget or Peppermill. Still casinos, still cheap, but MUCH better rooms. Super quiet and comfortable. So glad you were able to enjoy our area! And you really lucked out coming in between the storms and getting to explore the area 🙂

    • Chris says
      Posted January 24, 2017

      And the food at the peppermill is so good! We live about 2 hours west and will drive there once in a while. I love those cheesy mashed potatoes.

      Kate, you definitely need to see Tahoe in the summer. It’s a whole different world, and within a 90 minute drive you have some great wineries as well. It can be a really fun family and adult destination. But- summer! You hit our worst storm in what a decade or more? 🙂

  24. Evelyn says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Sounds so fun (most of it). Love the idea of a planning trip!
    A good relationship between you too is an awesome gift you give to your kids and your future self!

  25. Posted January 24, 2017

    We live close to Tahoe and went to Squaw Valley for our honeymoon! But we stayed in the village not the resort. It was AWESOME.

  26. Pamela says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    We live just 2 hours south west of Tahoe. We spend 5-8 days there every summer in a cabin in south lake. It’s AH-mazing!! Such a relaxing vacation. Your boys would love it!

  27. Adriele says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    I loved this! Ian and I have yet to take a trip together since our son was born and Alexander is now 2.5!!! 😳😳😳 I know, I know. So, after your post, he and I are now going to start a relationship check up at the end of every year AND be more deliberate with taking time for “us.” Brilliant idea!

    Also, in regard to the “adult activities” next to your room, I always, always, ALWAYS take small foam ear plugs for that very reason. Loud people in general (slamming doors, running down hallways, screaming babies on planes) can ruin an otherwise peaceful experience, so I’ve always carried a pair in my purse. (I send some with Ian on every trip he takes for work as well.) It’s weird at first, but man, it’s a lifesaver when considering the alternative. 🙂

    I’m glad you had a great trip!

    -Adriele
    http://www.StyleAssisted.com

  28. Julie says
    Posted January 24, 2017

    Great story and pics! Also, a white noise app works amazingly well when trying to get a good night’s sleep at a hotel. 🙂

  29. Mel says
    Posted January 25, 2017

    Stunning!!! Looks so romantic!!!!

    Mel | http://www.thegossipdarling.com

  30. Kim S. says
    Posted January 25, 2017

    I live 20 minutes away from Lake Tahoe! We are so blessed to live so close to this beautiful place!! I am glad you had a great vacation!

  31. Dena says
    Posted January 25, 2017

    We went to Tahoe for our honeymoon in September – so beautiful!! Google “Star Harbor #17” and check out that place with a killer view! It’s in Tahoe City which is in the NW area of Tahoe so it was quiet and beautiful but easy to get to the busier places if you wanted. HIGHLY recommended for the price/location/view. And it has 3 bdrms so plenty of room for the boys, too! 🙂 Funny story – we drove 35 minutes south while in Tahoe to an abruptly closed road, too. No warning signs, nothing. Just “turn around and go back”. So our planned 35 minute trip turned into a 2 hour trip because we had to go all the way around the lake to get where we were trying to go (like 3 minutes past where the road closure was…LOL).

  32. Melissa says
    Posted January 26, 2017

    I grew up in the SF Bay Area so our summer vacations were always to Lake Tahoe and I have the most wonderful memories of it. It is such a great place for kids and I hope to take my kids there too one day.

    Love the idea of this type of trip with your husband…glad you had a great time!

  33. Lisa Hays says
    Posted January 30, 2017

    So glad you could get away with reliable childcare. That’s really the key to a successful trip and if it was grandparents those boys didn’t need you all week! The time with your husband is so important and is so easy to get pushed to the back burner. Good for you both!

  34. Gina says
    Posted February 5, 2017

    Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite places! Haven’t been in years but hope to visit again soon. Have only been there during the summer….the water is freezing but so clear!

  35. Lauren says
    Posted February 13, 2017

    My husband and I stayed at that same resort for our honeymoon last January. It was beautiful, quiet, and just exactly what we wanted from that time together as newlyweds. We wished we had signed up for the dog sledding tour, though! We really enjoyed going up the mountain to High Camp from the Olympics that were there, even though we weren’t skiing. Our drive back to Reno was also very snowy and slow-going, but I saw a bald eagle, so #worthit.