Family playground, with bargains to boot
- Details: Tahoe Donner, one of the nation’s largest homeowner associations with 6,500 properties and 25,000 members, offers downhill and cross-country skiing open to the general public. The downhill area is a relaxed, family friendly environment with top-notch instruction and three carpet lifts; the Nordic skiing facilities include 51 trails stretching more than 100 kilometers.
- New for 2012-13: Finding parking on a busy weekend at the downhill ski resort will be easier with the addition of 65 spaces, which also improve access to the mountain. For a better experience on the slopes, the resort will be running its new Pisten Bully 400 groomer this season. There’s also a new all-day ski school program.
- Best lift deals: The downhill ski area will have a customer appreciation day on Dec. 16 with $5 lift tickets. On Throwback Thursdays, old school discounts rule with $15 lift tickets for children and $21 for adults (valid during non-holiday periods). The cross-country ski center has a Project MANA Can Drive on Dec. 9. Bring cans of food to donate and get a free trail pass for that day.
- Snowmaking: None.
- After dark: Night skiing at the cross-country ski center on Jan. 9 and 23, Feb. 6 and 20, with special night races.
- Hidden gem: Skip’s Plunge, in the downhill ski area. “It offers great hidden powder skiing,” said Brinn Talbot, resort spokeswoman.
- Spotted last season: Glenn Jobe, a former Olympian in the biathlon.
- Address, phone, website: 11509 Northwoods Blvd., Truckee, CA; 530-587-9444, www.tahoedonner.com
- Social connections: Twitter, Facebook
- Where to stay: There are homes and condos available for rent at Tahoe Donner with great views, nearby food options and easy access to winter fun. Truckee also has many lodging options, including lodges, cabins, and new and historic hotels. Information: http://downtowntruckee.com
- Eats at the resort: The Lodge Restaurant & Pub (530-587-9455, www.tahoedonner.com/the-lodge) has a classic bistro-style menu with French and Pacific Rim influences using ingredients that include organic meats and locally grown produce. Pizza on the Hill (530-582-9669), behind Northwoods Clubhouse, is a family friendly place that also serves pasta dishes, salads and quesadillas. Cheese, pepperoni and veggie pizzas for take-out are half-price on Sundays from 5-6 p.m.
- Eats nearby: Truckee, about a 10-minute drive from Tahoe Donner, has a variety of restaurants and eateries including the Squeeze In Café (www.squeezein.com) and the Dragonfly (530-587-0557, www.dragonflycuisine.com). Information: http://downtowntruckee.com
- Après-snow hotspot: Overlooking downtown Truckee and with a spectacular view of the mountains is Cottonwood Restaurant & Bar (530-587-5711, www.cottonwoodrestaurant.com), which occupies a rustic structure built from old railroad ties that once served as the warming hut for the long-gone Hilltop ski area. Today, there’s live acoustic music on Thursday and Friday nights, and a menu created by the restaurant’s New York-trained executive chef, David Smith. Happy hour is daily until 6 p.m.
— Jerry Rice