Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe

There are few in the world who don’t dream of owning a winter getaway, the kind that evokes images of cozy log cabins and fireplaces amidst a backdrop of newly fallen snow and forests of majestic trees cradling piles of snowflakes. Few of us get to actually owning such a getaway but thanks to the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe, we can all experience that winter wonderland in the most exquisite of ways.

Set high in the Northstar mountain resort in Truckee, California, Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe transports us into a world far, far away. The winding driveway up to the lobby alone is just long enough to make us feel like we’re purposefully getting lost in the snow covered woods. Resembling a Swiss chalet, the hotel’s olive tones and contiguous wood paneling lend a cozy aura of restrained elegance.

Inside the main lobby, aptly named The Living Room, a mélange of stone, wood and jewel-toned plush seating arrangements tantalize guests to while the afternoon away reading quietly, chatting with friends or simply staring out at the falling snow. Fireplaces abound every which way you turn, from the romantic tete-a-tete nooks inside to the large firepit outdoors, where “Marshmallogy” happens every afternoon, the latter referring to gourmet s’mores made to order for guests.

Each guest room features plush bedding that is customary to every Ritz Carlton property, a respite from a day filled with winter or summer activities. In-room fireplaces turn on at the easy flick of a switch, warming up the elegantly appointed room while you step onto the wooden balcony to observe skiers sloshing down the snow covered hills and children roasting marshmallows at the firepit. Should you need a quiet moment to relax from all the resort’s activities, immerse in a hot bubble bath in the marble bathroom’s soaking tub- one where the water actually comes up to your neck instead of leaving your upper body freezing.

Ever imagine indulging in finger licking delicious BBQ in the middle of winter? The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe brilliantly thought there just might be a few of us who’d enjoy such a treat and they were spot on. The scent of smoky bbq drew me to the snowside pit where high energy chefs dished out one of the best slaws I’ve had in America alongside crisp taters and moist ribs. While lingering over my bbq lunch, I watched seasoned skiers speed downhill past novices like me flailing about on flat terrain.

To work off the diabolical bbq, I went a short trek away from the hotel to the Northstar-run snow activities. First up- tubing! If you’ve never done it before, put it on your bucket list. You sit on a huge tube at the top of a hill and get cast off by one of the staff. For the next minute you go wildly careening down the snow twirling, whirling, whooshing in a blast of a quick ride.

Whether you’re an experienced skier or a shaky, flailing beginner like me, there are gorgeous slopes ranging from “bunny” to the frighteningly steep. Northstar also offers a myriad of classes for all ages and levels for skiing and snowboarding. If skiing or snowboarding isn’t your fancy, there are also guided snowshoeing tours, dog-sledding, snow-mobiles and ice skating. As a guest of the Ritz Carlton, you get slope-side service (would you expect any less?) which often means a fun ride on their yeti.

Summertime brings a whole new set of activities including golf, hiking, kayaking, white water rafting, biking and fishing. Don’t bother trying to decide whether the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe is more beautiful during winter or summer- each season highlights the hotel’s unique attributes in gloriously different ways.

One of my favorite things to discover at any Ritz Carlton is their food outlets. Room service at the Lake Tahoe property excels beyond nearly all hotels in America, with high marks for extreme promptness, gracious staff and a damn good French Onion soup. To read my review of Manzanita (the property’s signature restaurant), click here.

If you’ve had your fill indulging in exquisite food and you’re a little sore from skiing or biking, jaunt over to the hotel’s beautiful and expansive spa. Treat yourself and your sweetie to a Couples’ Massage where huge bay windows in the treatment suite overlook the property’s magnificent trees. You’ll get pampered by some of the nation’s most experienced massage therapists before you can share a hot soak in a copper tub made for two.  From seasonal treats like the Après Ski Massage to traditional aromatherapy massages and deep cleansing facials, the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe Spa pampers guests in one of the most spectacular settings in the country.

If spa treatments aren’t your thing, take advantage of the spa’s outdoor heated pool or the steam and sauna facilities, all of which soothe away those aches and prepare you for another day of fun in the sun or snow.

With each passing Ritz Carlton property I visit, it strikes me more clearly that these “ladies and gentlemen” are on a mission to prove that they set the gold standard for service beyond a shadow of a doubt. While some may argue that there are properties that rival Ritz Carlton in luxury and beauty, I would counter that there is no service like coming home to a staff that lavishes you with genuine smiles, warm greetings and one that goes the extra ten miles to get you those cuff links you forgot to pack, to make your favorite dish that isn’t on the menu, that encourages the inner kid in all of us to shine through. 

No matter how luxurious a property is, when you’re on vacation you want to feel relaxed, not scrutinized by hotel staff trying to figure out whether you’re somebody famous or conversely, treated like just another number for their bottom line. Having been to about 24 Ritz Carlton properties, I am even more impressed with the graciousness of every staff member at the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe.

From the easy-going warm smiles of the housekeeping staff (who look like they are actually enjoying their jobs) to the senior staff greeting guests by name and rolling up their suit sleeves to help out the Living Room waiters, there is a sense of mutual respect among all of them, which translates to how they treat guests. There is no pretense, no numbers, just seamless teamwork and unparalleled hospitality.

Pet-friendly and children-friendly (the hotel has a daily “find the bear” hunt for kids whereby the winner gets a special toy), the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe gives ample attention to each member of your party, whether you’re a huge family coming in for a reunion, a couple reigniting romance or one who can’t part with your furry bff. For those of you like me (kids at heart masquerading as adults), if you spot the bear in The Living Room, just quietly ask one of the staff if you can get a toy. Trust me- you’ll be greeted with a wide grin and given your pick of adorable little toys. Just don’t jostle the little kids out of the way. After all, we are all ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz Carlton.

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