South Lake Tahoe
At an elevation of over 6,000 feet, South Lake Tahoe is an alpine center built around enjoying the Sierra’s sapphire lake. Upon seeing the lake for the first time, generations have gone speechless with awe-inspiring splendor. As only Mark Twain could do, he beautifully captured these timeless sentiments - “a noble sheet of blue water … walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks … it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.” With only a few words, Twain touched on the two reasons for Tahoe’s eternal appeal: towering mountains and water.
Tahoe is known for its distinctive deep blueish hue, which scientists attribute to a rare lack of algae. The mantra “Keep Tahoe Blue” has adorned bumper stickers since 1957 - indeed, Tahoe has been getting bluer. Water skiing, kayaking, boating, and of course fishing are perfect ways to become one with the water, but with a summer water temperature of 65.7 degrees, South Lake Tahoe is especially known for its refreshing and sun-drenched Pope and El Dorado beaches.
From the lakeshore, mountains occupy a powerfully panoramic view. Regardless of the season, South Lake Tahoe and its slopes are a paradise purposely built for lake views. The town of South Lake Tahoe originally formed around Nevada’s gaming industry. Only a decade after the first casino opened in 1944, the Heavenly Valley Resort welcomed its first skiers. Receiving an annual 360-inches of powder, the Tahoe region became the capital of high-mountain skiing in the U.S. after hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics. At Heavenly, skiers enjoy the best of two worlds as the only bi-state slopes in the U.S. In summer, South Lake is alive on equally scenic hiking trails. From town, moderate hikes to Angora Lakes, Cold Creek, and Fallen Leaf Lake offer backcountry beauty. For a more challenging climb, tackle the 10,000 foot climb to the top of Mount Tallac. This 10.2-mile (round-trip) hike rises nearly 3,500 feet and is not for beginners. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with an immaculate and incomparable view of the lake and surrounding Sierras.
Lake Tahoe is just as California as Big Sur and high surfs. It is a natural destination for the Amgen Tour of California. In 2019, the race makes an early visit to the high mountains with a Stage 2 finish that is sure to split the field for the overall classification. For the race and riders alike, however, Tahoe has proven to be elusive - just as trying for the legs as it is the logistics. Yet it is cycling’s nature to seek the elusive and Tahoe is the Amgen TOC’s pinnacle peak. The inaugural years of the Amgen TOC sidestepped Lake Tahoe due to February weather. Even when the race moved to May, Tahoe proved that it could not be tamed, and lingering snowfall prevented its first stage. Since then, rare visits have made this a highly anticipated portion of any Amgen Tour of California. The 2016 edition finished Stage 5 in South Lake Tahoe with Toms Skujins leading an impressive field while Egan Bernal solidified his dominance in the 2018 race. The Amgen Tour of California Women’s Race empowered with SRAM has made South Lake Tahoe a more permanent fixture, giving these impressive riders a chance to demonstrate their abilities on the state’s biggest stage. One thing is for sure, South Lake Tahoe’s roads are not just for professionals. This is a fantastic place to venture out and discover why USA Today name Tahoe “America’s Best Lake” in 2012. After all, there is a reason this place is called Heavenly.