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MOUNTAIN GET DOWN: On the glimmering southern shore of Lake Tahoe, a ski-bum paradise grows up.

THERE ARE FEW BETTER PLACES to dive into winter with style than south Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border. In the past, it was branded as a bit of a party zone, but the outdoor playground has matured a lot lately. These days, you certainly don't have to ski (much less gamble) to enjoy one of the Golden and Silver States' iconic getaways. Basic lodging is giving way to graceful yet cozy hotels, craft breweries are adding low-key gathering spots, and the food--even at the casinos on the Nevada side--is seriously good. The best part? There's no need to battle heavy traffic and icy mountain roads, as rack-equipped uberSki vehicles now whisk visitors back and forth between the lifts and hotels. The lake itself may be the one thing that hasn't changed. Its deep blue waters never freeze over completely and reflect the stunning mountain scenery all season long.

STAY

The hotels feel like dream homes

Soaring lakefront windows, exposed wood beams, cathedral ceilings, a gas fireplace in every room: The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe (from $375; edgewoodtahoe.com) is pretty breathtaking and blends seamlessly with the Sierra Nevada landscape. Parents, take note: There's even an on-site kids' camp focused around art and environmental activities. A few minutes away, the Coachman Hotel (from $149; coachmantahoe.com) subtly encourages guests to mingle. The lobby looks like a tricked-out living room with low couches, a tree stump table, and a reception desk that doubles as a bar. Plus, the outdoor firepits host nightly s'mores roasts. Then there's Zalanta Resort at the Village (from $749; skiheavenly.com) at the base of the Heavenly gondola, a complex of light-filled condos that opened this past summer. It's ideal for groups, with a big hot tub in the courtyard for long evening soaks.

SIP

Warm up with a cold one (or two or three)

Something has been tempting people away from the lift lines lately: the newly christened South Tahoe Beer Trail (tahoechamber.org), which tallies six (and counting) breweries along a 5-mile stretch of road. South Lake Brewing Company (southlakebeer.com) is one of the freshest--in April, it opened a spacious indoor beer garden with topographical murals and icebreaker games like cornhole and pingpong. Lake Tahoe AleWorX (laketahoealeworx.com) leads with a bit more adrenaline. There's live music every night and 25 craft beers on... wait for it... self-serve taps. For serious beer geeks, there's Sidellis (sidellis.com), a small homespun spot where flights running the gamut from IPAs to barrel-aged sours come on wooden trays shaped like the lake itself.

EAT

Even the food is elevated

Two restaurants match date-worthy settings with thoughtful dishes that eclipse the usual burgers and overstuffed burritos.

THE LAKE HOUSE

thelakehousetahoe.com

OPENED

October 2016

THE SCENE

A supper club with leather banquettes, steel chandeliers, and art deco-ish tiles.

SAVORY BITES

An iceberg wedge salad with candied walnuts and pan-seared lamb chops with mint pesto.

SWEET FINISH

Flourless chocolate cake topped with handmade double-chocolate gelato.

BISTRO EDGEWOOD

edgewoodtahoe.com

OPENED

June 2017

THE SCENE

Sleek yet approachable, with an open kitchen and a wood-burning pizza oven.

SAVORY BITES

Cheddar chive biscuits and a pizza topped with elk sausage, boar salami, and wild mushrooms.

SWEET FINISH

One of the silky, ever-changing pots de creme--maybe chocolate, orange, or maple.

PLAY

Newbies wanted, experts welcome

Everyone from snow fanatics to the powder-averse can find their ideal run in the hills. Beginners cruise the sculpted runs and gentle banks at Sierra-at-Tahoe's (from $99; sierraattahoe.com) Smart Terrain learning area. At Kirkwood Mountain Resort (from $87; kirkwood.com), the Expedition:Kirkwood program takes more experienced skiers on backcountry adventures like a three-day avalanche course. And at Heavenly Mountain Resort (from $ 114; skiheavenly.com), the Scenic Gondola Ride ascends to one of the best views in Tahoe, no skis required.

EXPLORE

The border is a solid bet

You'll know you're nearing Nevada when you see the casino lights on either side of Lake Tahoe Boulevard. Take advantage of the gambling houses' spas, restaurants, and music stages--and give one of the roulette wheels a spin if you're feeling lucky.

4 P.M. Just before you cross over into the Silver State, stop to lace up at Heavenly Village Ice Rink (theshopsatheavenly.com). Surrounded by chalet-esque buildings, it keeps the icicle lights on well after the sun sets.

5:30 P.M. A short walk from the rink, the south shore slots are versed in more than Blazing 7s. At The Oyster Bar, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe's New Orleans-inspired seafood joint (hardrockcasinolaketahoe.com), they deal out freshly shucked bivalves by the dozen, as well as dishes like gumbo and pan-roasted crab.

6 P.M. Move on to the main course at the Hard Rock's Alpine Union Kitchen and Bar (hardrockcasinolaketahoe.com), where crackling outdoor firepits set the mood in a cabinlike space, and the pub fare ranges from Thai chicken lettuce wraps to Sierra Nevada-battered fish and chips.

7:30 P.M. Our favorite casino-resort secret? MontBleu's Japanese-style Onsen Spa (montbleuresort.com), which stays open until 10 p.m. Rejuvenate with an ashiatsu massage, a visit to the eucalyptus steam room, or a whirlpool bath in a relaxing cave-inspired setting.

9 P.M. Now, for the last laugh. Just down the street at Harveys, The Improv (improvtahoe.com) feels like an intimate New York City comedy club complete with a stark wall of painted-on bricks behind the stage. After the show, get the jokes out of your system on the brief stroll back to California.

By Jenna Scatena
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Title Annotation:GUIDEBOOK
Author:Scatena, Jenna
Publication:Sunset
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Feb 1, 2018
Words:923
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