Winter around here is a special place. No matter what you choose to do, you will need to stay warm and plan ahead. If snow sports top your list in winter, the choices are many. But maybe snow isn’t your thing. There’s still a large list of things to do, and places to go. Read on to find some fun activities to do in the outdoors this winter in Sacramento and beyond.
Sierra at Tahoe
1111 Sierra at Tahoe Road
Twin Bridges, CA 95735
Sierra at Tahoe is an amazing place to ski, just a short drive up Highway 50 from Sacramento. The resort has added all kinds of features, including the amazing Solstice Plaza at the base. The steeps here are plentiful, as are the beginner trails. Lessons span the ability levels from newbies to experts needing just a little more. Telemark anyone? Learn right here. This is a great family-friendly place to ski and the staff is exceptional. Enjoy all of this, plus plenty of places to sit back and rest those barking thighs after a day on the slopes. Spend an extra day and stay at the nearby Strawberry Lodge, where you can get discounted lift tickets.
629 Sugar Bowl Road
Norden, CA 95724
Sugar Bowl is celebrating 75 glorious years of providing fantastic skiing to the winter snow sport crowd. The resort is located of I-80, an easy drive from Sacramento and surrounding areas. This year there will be a rolling menu of events for everyone, from newbies to the most advanced. After 75 years, Sugar Bowl knows what it’s doing, and it does it really well. Your day here will be filled with fun skiing and boarding adventures. The getaway will melt away your city concerns for a wonderful slice of time. There are lessons for all, plenty of good eats, a great staff and 75 years of excellence.
1960 Squaw Valley Road
Olympic Valley, CA 96146
Go just a little further, either on I-80 or Highway 50, and head to Squaw Valley. The site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the terrain here is legendary. For beginners, the trails are gentle, and the instructors are some of the best. For the double black diamond crowd, the steep slopes are more than enough to make your heart rate ratchet up a bit. The Village has more places to eat than most small towns. Lodging is plentiful, and staying here and skiing here can make for some long-lasting family memories. The tram ride to the top is part of the experience. Not only that, but Alpine Meadows is right next door and both are part of the same ski company. Tickets, anyone?
Related: Best Holiday Escapes Near Sacramento
Placerville Bike Shop
Placerville, CA 95667
Not everyone likes snow. If that’s you, consider taking your bike and going up Highway 50 to the Placerville Bike Shop. Stop in here and get expert advice about where the best winter rides are. You’ll be in the foothills, out of the fog and out of the crowds. The crew at the shop are all riders, of every kind of bike. They’ve been there a long time and ride the roads and trails year-round. There are paved class 1 trails that all riders will enjoy. Mountain bikers may be directed up the hill a bit to Pollock Pines where the dirt trails are great in winter, when there’s no snow on them, or down to Cronan Ranch. The shop can make your bike work better too. After your ride, head to Main Street and enjoy a delicious meal in this growing foodie paradise.
30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Ross, CA 94957
Winter is prime time to go whale watching. The gray whales are in migration mode. These magnificent creatures are making their way down the coast, and it is prime time to see them. Half Moon Bay, 25 miles miles south of the Golden Gate Bridge, is where you will board the whale watching boat. It’s also the place for you to book a night or two of lodging, just to enjoy the coast in winter. Whale watching will test the limits of the memory card in your camera. Around 15,000 of these whales make this annual swim down the coast to Baja California. Your boat will travel from 1 to 12 miles out into the Pacific, taking about 3 1/2 hours for this spectacular outing. It’s well worth it and is sure to add absolute wonderment to your memories and family lore.
Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 37 years. In 2010 he retired from teaching after 36 years . He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at Examiner.com.