Here’s Why You Can’t Beat Reno Tahoe in Winter
Whether you're after deep powder, dusty singletrack, lively après, or all of the above, the Biggest Little City in the World delivers
Reno is one of those towns that refuses to be put in a box. Want to ski or snowboard, hike or mountain bike, watch live music or play some blackjack? In Reno Tahoe, you can do it all—often in a single day. It’s on the doorstep of the highest concentration of ski resorts in North America and boasts a lively downtown brimming with craft breweries and fresh eateries, and it’s all easily accessed from basically anywhere via an international airport. Here’s how to win winter in Tahoe, Reno-style.
World-Class Skiing, Small-Town Vibes
Every winter, elite skiers from around the world flock to one of the more than ten ski resorts that are within a short drive of the Reno airport to train on the region’s renowned terrain. But that global status hasn’t diluted the local hills’ small-mountain-town feel. Exhibit A: Diamond Peak, the family-friendly resort just 45 minutes from downtown Reno, is a local favorite for its stunning views of the lake, affordable lift tickets, and uncrowded runs. Over at Mount Rose Ski Tahoe, home to the highest base elevation of any resort in Tahoe and just 30 minutes from Reno, consistently great snow conditions start early in the season and stretch well into spring.
Bonus: January is Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month, where the downhill and cross-country resorts within 100 miles of Reno typically offer discounts on lessons, lift tickets, and rentals, as well as programs designed for everyone from complete beginners to experts. So whether you’re a brand-new skier or snowboarder, or just looking to take your skills to the next level, there’s no better time to plan a trip to Reno.
Tons of Other Snowy Pursuits
The skiing around Reno could keep you busy for a lifetime, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring the area’s snowy landscape. Destiny Phan, manufacturing engineer at local outdoor gear company Cascade Designs, recommends renting snowshoes and ambling along Chickadee Ridge on the Tahoe Rim Trail. Looking to cover more ground quickly? Phan says the ride up Mount Watson with Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours is not to be missed. “The views of the lake are incredible, and the tour ends with a ‘free-for-all’ on a frozen pond where you can let loose on your snowmobile,” she says. Back in Reno, Phan loves the outdoor ice-skating scene at the Grand Sierra Resort.
Epic Send Opportunities
While it may be too cold to climb the granite peaks of the Sierra, stay at the Whitney Peak Hotel for access to Basecamp, the hotel’s on-site climbing gym, and the Guinness-certified world’s tallest artificial climbing wall. Choose from over a dozen routes built into the side of the hotel—everything from slab to epic overhangs—including an infamous two-pitch, 164-foot monster that is sure to leave you not only pumped but also dizzy with its bird’s-eye view over the city and the snowcapped mountains beyond. If staying closer to the ground is more your style, Basecamp’s 7,000-square-foot indoor bouldering park will keep even the most eager climbers busy. Looking to get on some real rock? Areas like Somerset Boulders and River Rock, both located just west of Reno along I-80, are climbable for most of the winter.
Get on the Water (Seriously)
The year-round Truckee River Whitewater Park, in the heart of downtown Reno, gives kayakers 11 drop-pools and other features to keep the adrenaline pumping. Yes, it’s cold in the winter, but weather permitting, you can suit up with a guide from Sierra Adventures and enjoy the expertly built whitewater park with none of the crowds. If you’d rather hit the big lake on a calm, sunny day, stop by Clearly Tahoe to rent a see-through kayak (yes, these boats are fully transparent, affording unencumbered views into Lake Tahoe’s incredibly clear depths) and explore nearby secluded coves.
One of the best ways to explore the snow-free natural terrain immediately surrounding Reno is on two wheels. The mountain-bike app Trailforks lists 158 trails for this region, covering 230 miles, and Peavine Mountain, just northwest of town, is a top zone, offering trails from flowy cross-country to technical downhills. If you’re looking for a fun climb with plenty of obstacles to navigate, the Halo Trail–Crispy Bacon loop will test your no-dab skills. Of course, the trails around Reno are great for hiking and running, too. Check out the popular Hunter Creek Trail for a frozen waterfall payout or head to Hidden Valley Regional Park for a chance to see herds of wild horses.
A Lively Après Scene
Reno is quickly becoming a craft beer destination, with more than 15 breweries in the immediate Reno area alone. Head to the oldest brewery still operating in Nevada—Great Basin Brewing Co., in Victorian Square in downtown Sparks—to try the “Icky.” An original recipe, this delicious American-style IPA derives its name from the state fossil—the ichthyosaur. And it wouldn’t be Nevada without plenty of shows and live music to choose from. If you’re looking for grand stages and big acts, check the event calendars at Reno Events Center, the Grand Theatre, and the Nugget Event Center. But don’t overlook Reno’s more intimate venues, like The Loving Cup, which delivers a cozier small-show feel. For movie buffs, the Tahoe Film Fest brings international films to various theaters in the region in early December each year.
Reno Tahoe isn’t your basic vacation destination. It’s a collision of contrasts, where majestic mountains converge on the high desert. Where the largest alpine lake and the Biggest Little City in the World meet. Discover Lake Tahoe and Reno.