Lake Tahoe, NV
Straddling the California-Nevada border, Lake Tahoe combines big mountain terrain and a deep snowpack with cool base villages, and a raging, casino-infused nightlife scene. "The skiing is absolutely insane — and then you add in all the stuff going on once the lifts close," says Todd Offenbacher, a local climbing and ski guide. "It has this unique blend of California cool mixed with a 24-hour Las Vegas style."
The epicenter of the scene is Heavenly Mountain Resort, which boasts 3,500 vertical feet and 4,800 acres of trails. During powder days, shadow the locals through Ski Way Glades and Maggie's Canyon or head straight to the gates that guard the chutes and cliff bands found in Mott and Kilbrew canyons. "If there's good snow down low near the lake," Offenbacher says, "make sure to check out the tree lines directly beneath the Heavenly Gondola. When they're going off, it's some of the best tree skiing anywhere."
The party vibe at Heavenly starts long before the lifts close. A modified Sno-Cat, tricked out with a DJ platform and state-of-the-art sound system, roams the resort all day pumping tunes. At day's end, the Cat parks at the mid-mountain Tamarack Lodge for a daily Unbuckle Après Party, with DJs spinning beats, half-price drinks, and a troupe of go-go dancers known as the Heavenly Angels. From there, ride the gondola down to the base village for a drink around the outdoor fire pits at Fire and Ice, a bar and restaurant popular with locals.
There are nine big casinos in Lake Tahoe — though you don't have to stay in one. If your group is up for a splurge, you can find a pretty spectacular cabin, with a hot tub and lake views, for between $300 and $600 a night. Also keep in mind that Tahoe has nine resorts within 30 miles of one another, each with a distinct vibe. Locals flock to Kirkwood, about 45 minutes south. "It's totally off the grid," Offenbacher says, and it's the place to be if it's been snowing. "It can have double or triple the snow depth compared to town," Offenbacher says, and all that snow will be lighter and drier. The terrain, meanwhile, is insane, with steep chutes and dramatic cliffs — and none of the crowds.
Best For: The buddy trip.