Former Residents of Snowland seek Snow in California
January 5, 2015 10:57 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I would like to do a 4 or 5 day trip up to the (Northern California) mountains in the next couple months for some relaxing and playing in snow which neither of us have seen a few years. Access to skiing not needed or desired. We're looking for recommendations of towns or even of specific AirBNB/VRBO listings that we can use to have some Winter this year.

Specific features we desire:

- We're coming from the East Bay area, but we like driving on a trip so it doesn't need to be super close. Max is probably about an 8 hour drive, though 4-5 hours would probably be the sweet spot. We are somewhat experienced snow drivers from the past, but we do want it relatively easily accessible and we don't have 4WD or anything, so it can't be through difficult unplowed mountain passes or the like. We also don't have chains but are willing to buy them should it be necessary.

- Access to snow that we can play around in. Obviously this is weather permitting, but let's go with the assumption that we manage to get a normal amount of snowfall over the next couple months. We do not plan on skiing/snowboarding or doing anything that would require access to other people, we just both miss living in a place where you can frolic in the snow (though we don't miss the daily snowy commute).

- A house/cottage/cabin. It can be little, but we'd prefer at least a kitchenette if not a full kitchen. Definitely not a room in a hotel/lodge.

- Secluded/private. Somewhere you can't see any neighbors (even if that's just because of good fences and trees - it doesn't need to be miles from the nearest neighbor).

- A fireplace.

- A hot tub (or a nice jetted indoor tub that fits two...)

- A gorgeous view of something (lake, mountains, forest, whatever) would be a fantastic cherry on top, but definitely not required.

Does anyone have a good idea of where we should start looking? I'd prefer to book something through AirBNB or VRBO, or even a private home rental outfit (e.g. we've booked through a few times, though that's not the area we're looking at this time). If there's a specific listing you'd recommend feel free to MeMail if you don't want to post it up, but really we don't even know where to start looking, so any hints on towns/areas to get started would be great.
posted by brainmouse to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If it snows, you'll probably see it on 50 (take 80 until you have to decide to go to Reno or Tahoe.) 50 does require chains or 4WD, but I'd recommend renting a 4WD vehicle for the trip. It's a LOT easier than chains and better for the roads.

Truckee is a really great area, right before Tahoe, and in fact some of the ski runs are in the area. Book now, once there's snow (and there isn't now) the place will book faster than you can shake a stick at. Forget about the weeks around President's day. That is when every lawyer in California goes skiing. I'm not kidding.

Here are some VRBO listings, note that some offer shuttles to Northstar.

That said, you could go further and fare worse than Northstar. It's a ski resort, with a village so it's self-contained. They have Time-Share condos that you can rent, so you can have the kitchen, separate bedrooms etc. There's sledding, skating and a fantastic bunny hill with a gondola lift. (I'm a wuss skier, I'm all about the gondola and the bunny slope.)

I've been trying to get to Tahoe with Husbunny for awhile now. One of these days.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:11 AM on January 5, 2015

Response by poster: Hmm, I guess I was hoping there were some cheaper/more commonly available areas father from ski hills since we're not at all interested in skiing or skating or anything, just playing in the yard, but is it really Tahoe/ski country or nothing?
posted by brainmouse at 11:28 AM on January 5, 2015

I'm sure there are plenty of other options, but I also came in to suggest Northstar. I've only been there for skiing, but RB's description is accurate. The village at Squaw Valley might work as well.
posted by LionIndex at 11:31 AM on January 5, 2015

Off the beaten track I'd suggest the Trinity Alps or Mt Shasta, not the Sierras. There is a mom and pop resort in Shasta. There are tons and tons of little "resorts" up in the Trinities, past Weaverville that have cabins and privacy and are gorgeous. Some googling should find you the ones that cater to the xc-ski crowd and are open all winter.
posted by fshgrl at 11:48 AM on January 5, 2015

To clarify, Shasta has a small downhill ski resort but the Trinity Alps resorts are just vacation spots: cabins, lakes, maybe some xc ski trails.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 AM on January 5, 2015

You could also look along 89 and 49 north of Truckee (head east on I-80 until you see the signs - you will need chains to get that far, probably). There's not a lot up there - it does border on the Tahoe national forest, but there is little skiing to be had. It's remote and, in the winter, pretty snowy.

However, your goals are a bit in tension: someplace tricked out with a hot tub and a great view is quite unlikely to also be so secluded that "you can't see the nearest neighbor." I've found California winter getaways to be overwhelmingly concentrated in townhouse condos or small suburban-style subdivisions (even if they are actually far from any cities). There are things that are more remote but they are either more rustic, or far more expensive. What are you willing to compromise on?
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:25 PM on January 5, 2015

Response by poster: Private (again, can be accomplished by fences or whatever, it doesn't need to literally be in the middle of nowhere) and rustic is great -- hot tub is not necessary, just would be nice, and obviously view isn't either. A townhouse/condo type thing is definitely a no go; a tiny cabin in the woods with only a wood stove for heat would be far, far preferable. I'm not super price sensitive but I don't want it to be nuts either (I did a quick search of Northstar and saw some places at $1000+/night and that's.... not gonna happen).
posted by brainmouse at 12:41 PM on January 5, 2015

None of these are tiny, but they're near Lassen Park, so you should have snow. No ski resorts in the area (that I'm aware of).
posted by bricoleur at 1:48 PM on January 5, 2015

Have you considered Bear Valley, CA? It's a great, very family friendly and mostly quiet place. We've been going there every year (as renters) for almost a decade. The drive is fairly short and easy (3h from the South Bay) so it's closer than Tahoe, but strangely more remote.

There's tons of nearby "snow play" as well as cross-country skiing, sledding, and a nearby downhill ski area. It's populated enough to have a small market and pizza restaurant, but not so big as to have anything more than that. Access is by "snowmobile in/out only" which is provided for free when you rent. If you're staying "high up on the mountain" that means a 15-20 minute walk to get anywhere, which is actually sort of nice. But, you can always stay closer to the lodge and be just a few minutes away from the store and such.

You can find lots more info on and make sure you search for "homes" not "condos" as some of those are quite run-down. We stayed in "Vacation Home 216" this year, and it was our second (or maybe third) time in that cabin.
posted by slacy at 1:49 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would also look around Lake Almanor, which is by Lassen.
posted by freezer cake at 4:24 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also check out Markleeville, which is near-ish Lake Tahoe, but is very cabin-ish.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:26 PM on January 5, 2015

I don't have any direct experiences of these places, but this is what I did to dig up a few possibilities: Go to VRBO, and search for "Gold Country & High Sierra", filter for number of people and number of rooms, and then use the map to click on places near the mountains. This is the first one I clicked on- has nearly everything but the hot tub. This one also looks brilliant, but no tub.

Adding "hot tub" in the filters turns up vast amounts of ski-in/ski-out condos, but here's one place with a tub in Markleeville.

You should be able to do the same search in Tahoe, using the map to avoid obvious ski places; however the map for the Tahoe area is a piece of crap and doesn't work for searches like the other map, for some reason. Going to "map view" will give a live map, but resets all filters. I don't know why the interactive map for the other sections isn't there for Tahoe, but VRBO's useability has always been lacking in weird ways. Anyway, hopefully that's helpful.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:09 PM on January 5, 2015

Weed. Yurt. Awesome.
posted by wherever, whatever at 1:51 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

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