5 reasons to stay at Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe

the fifth floor Club Lounge 

Just back from a three-night site inspection trip to the new Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe, I was truly wowed by this two-year old resort. Upscale travelers wanting to experience a luxurious winter ski vacation (or active summer mountain vacation) should strongly consider staying at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe. Here are five top reasons why:

1. Easy to reach. Lake Tahoe is just a three hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area. Don't live in the Bay Area? Reno International Airport, a mere 45-minute drive away, is a non-stop flight away from 17 US cities including Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.

2. Northstar is a family-friendly ski destination. My own kids learned to ski and snowboard here. With 18 lifts and 89 ski trails, you will not encounter the long lines common to Vail and similar resorts. With its location in the Sierra Mountains of Northern California, you'll enjoy mild winters and shirt-sleeve spring skiing. Special bonus: from the top of the mountain, skiers enjoy stunning views of Lake Tahoe.

3. True ski-in, ski-out. As a guest at Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, simply call down to the Ski Concierge, inform them what time you want to hit the slopes, and your boots will be waiting for you, warm and dry. Just step out the back door, put on your skis, and ski down to the mid-mountain lifts. Because the Ritz is located mid-mountain, you'll never queue up for lift tickets or gondola rides at the bottom of the mountain. And at the end of the day, ski right up to the Ritz's back door. While the Ski Concierge collects your skis, poles, and boots, you're free to head to the resort's heated pool, jacuzzi, or spa.

4. Active summer fun. Escape the intolerable summer heat and humidity and head into the mountains to enjoy active family fun — mountain biking, hiking, fishing, golf, or boating. Lake Tahoe is a wonderful summer destination with recreation, good food, and shopping.

5. Rustic yet polished elegance. The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe achieves polished elegance while maintaining a sense of place. No rough-hewn wood paneling or dark ceramic tile bathrooms at this resort. The floor-to-ceiling windows of my spacious Corner Deluxe room let in full views of the mountains and ski runs. Rooms are decorated with very attractive original art (as is the entire hotel). My marble bathroom had dual vanities, a deep soaking tub, step-in shower, and separate WC; a three-inch wide strip of flagstone wainscoting provided a western mountain accent without sacrificing luxury. Every room has a gas fireplace set, a large flatscreen tv, and all King-bedded rooms have stand-out balconies.

Want even more space? We were shown a 1 BR Suite (which can connect to a Queen-Queen room to form a 2 BR Suite), again beautifully designed with 1 3/4 baths. The room layout provides visual separation between the master bedroom and the living area, and the living room's pull-out sofa can accommodate two (while a rollaway bed can sleep a third child).

And if you want even more, we were shown a stunning 3 BR Residence - a literal home-away-from-home with a full gourmet kitchen, three bedrooms and three full baths.

Intimate yet spacious, the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe has just 170 guest rooms and suites. The Club Lounge on the fifth floor (pictured above) looks out over the Sierras. The resort's signature restaurant Manzanita features the cuisine of Traci Des Jardins. The spa is large and beautiful with 16 treatment rooms, and fitness classes and free internet are included in the daily resort fee. As an added value-added bonus, STARS guests receive free daily breakfast for two.

Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe (search here on Google)

copyright (c) 2011 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

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