Advice for living in Lake Tahoe for Ski Season 2006-07
September 25, 2006 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Living in Lake Tahoe(!) My sister-in-law has a chance to live out in Lake Tahoe for the ski season. She'll be working, either on a mountain or off, but she doesn't have a job lined up yet. My question (after a chat with her) is about where she might want to live. Been to Tahoe? Lived there? Help a recent college grad have a blast.

She has something a line on living in the following towns: Truckee, Incline Village, and Kings Beach, but she hasn't made any decisions / commitments to these places. If you were 22 and ready to live it up on an extended stay in Tahoe where would you live? She'll have car. She would be fine living in a resort / party town, as long as there's a grocery and "regular" stuff nearby.
posted by zpousman to Travel & Transportation around California (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wouldn't it make more sense to get the job first? Those are all in NLT (Truckee is by far the largest), so she's limiting herself right there - no Heavenly, etc. I'd figure that a short term winter rental with a bunch of other bums is findable fairly quickly once she finds a job. Even with a car, if she finds work on the south shore and she's living up north, there's plenty of nights I wouldn't want to deal with that drive.
posted by kcm at 7:26 PM on September 25, 2006

Best answer: I just moved from Tahoe, I lived there for 5 years. Although I lived in South Lake Tahoe (SLT) I am quite familiar with North Shore as well.

Truckee is where you want to be, in my opinion. Truckee is an awesome "mountain town" that has a really strong community feel and great atmosphere. It is a little bit back from the lake itself, this only matters in the summer when you want to go to the beach every day.

Incline Village would be my second choice, but prices are quite high and is more of a condo/luxury community from what I know. There is Sierra Nevada college here though, and a fair amount of younger people and slighty more stuff also make it a good place to live, you just gotta look around for the better deals on housing.

Kings Beach, I don't know too well but it's not that great from what I have seen.

First of all, now is the time! She should start checking out rental ads in the South Lake Tahoe Tribune / Sierra Sun Classifieds to get a feel for what is around. In October there will be a wide selection of housing available in any of the towns listed, however by December 90% of it will be taken. The communites in Tahoe are very seasonal (North Shore less so than South Shore I think) and so it should be no problem at all to fit in, etc.

The vast majority of jobs in Tahoe are seasonal, and start hiring in Late October/November and end Late Spring. All the resorts have hiring fairs where you can go and meet the different departments and check out your options, most will hire you on the spot if you seem like a person willing to work. As long as she gets to Tahoe before the season starts, she should have no problem picking up a job, on mountain or off. Get online and see when the hiring fairs are. Remember, if you are working 40 hrs a week in the lodge, how much time are you going to have to actually ride? NOT MUCH! There are many jobs on a ski resort, examine them closely.

My personal favorites are:

Park Crew - The Dream Job. You ride all day, you build jumps. Then you ride some more to 'test' the new jumps.

Guest Services - Huh? Actually its pretty cool if you get in with the right people, you can finagle riding around giving out polls and you rarely have to do any heavy lifting. Sometimes you get irate customers.

Off-Mountain Ski Rental Shop - You work the 4pm - 10pm shift. You get to ride all day. Rental Shops have "Gold Passes" that they share between employees, this means you get to ride at ANY mountain in tahoe, for free.

Parking. Classic stoner ski bum job. Nobody thinks of it, but you get max ride time with this job. You show up on time for the morning rush, then everyone is settled and you ride until lunch. At lunchtime half-day starts, and you usually work until 4pm or 5pm which is closing time. Fun when it's busy, boring when it isn't.

On-Mountain Restaurant. I hate food service, but if you can get in on a bartender or tip-giving food job, you can often get some good "ride breaks" in on off days and pull decent cash.


I would reccomend Alpine Meadows, very close to Truckee and both very much a 'cool, locals' resort. She will meet lots of awesome people here and have the ski season of her life. 2nd choice would be either Northstart @ Tahoe (snowboarders, park-heavy, very hip) and Squaw (the big name on the North Shore, more traditional, corporate, ski-friendly).

I wouldnt reccomend deciding on anything until she gets there and drives around and checks out the towns for herself, talks to some people at the local bar, etc. Look out for The Imposter, a zine coming out this winter from the creators of former "The Lowdown" editors which will give a very good feel of what is going on around town, where to hang out, music, etc geared towards North Shore.

On Preview: DO NOT live in South Shore and commute to North Shore! Do NOT work @ Heavenly! The roads in the winter between north and south are often impassable, South Lake is much more 'ghetto', heavenly is a huge corporate behemoth (vail resorts) that is NOT fun to work for. IF you want to live in SLT, it is more of a city (there is more stuff) but it doesn't have that mountain town feel. If she goes to SLT, I would reccomend Sierra @ Tahoe or any of the restaurants in town if she wants to make real money. Kirwood is 45 minutes south of SLT, and has arguably the best mountain around and the best conditions, there isn't much out there but she might want to look at that also, it's got a great vibe and many hardcore ski-bums live and die by Kirkwood.

Ive gone on long enough, if you/she has more specific questions I would be happy to answer them. Email in myu profile.
posted by sophist at 7:58 PM on September 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

South lake Tahoe has a bit more of a metro center. With casinos smack dab on the stateline. I don't remember casionos in NLT, or not as many??
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:00 PM on September 25, 2006

You can only have casinos in Nevada, therefore only Incline Village on the North Shore has casinos, because all the other towns are in CA. The state line runs right through SLT, therefor you can have casino's (and smoking and all night alcohol in half of the city).

SLT is more of a city, but that doesn't make it better. There is more of everything (housing, jobs, stores, bars) but less community imo.
posted by sophist at 8:19 PM on September 25, 2006

Best answer: Seconding the find the job first comments, as there's a lot to Tahoe, and being near your gig is important when there's a couple feet of snow on the ground. Most mountains do all of their hiring by having job fairs once or twice in the Fall (most likely in the next month) -- but many also are accepting applications now.

Also, you say she'll have a car, but does she have 4wd? It's practically a requirement if you have to be anywhere early in the morning on a regular basis.

Of the three you listed, Truckee is probably the most suitable for a 22-year-old full timer (and it's an all-around awesome fun place to live). It's convenient to Squaw, Alpine Meadows, Northstar for work, and has a more than suitable array of grocery stories and other "regular" stuff. It's got a thriving culture of people who live there year-round, and a huge number of "Ski Leases" -- properties that are rented out for the entire ski season. Of those mountains, Squaw is easily the best terrain/snow-wise -- although the upscale (read: demanding, irritating) clientele can get very tiresome, especially on the weekends. But if part of the point of her living in Tahoe is the world-class skiing, Squaw is second to none. There's a good reason it's been featured in so many movies. Alpine has some similar terrain, but not as much of it, and you have to hike to more of it (some say this is an advantage -- I don't.)

Northstar is probably the best employer to work for -- unless you can't stand kids, who make up a significant portion of their skiiers/riders. Northstar may also still provide subsidized housing to its employees... remember the classic ski-school movies of the 80s where all the instructors lived in a dorm?

Kings Beach is a little less full-timer oriented, a little less convenient to slopes, and the typical rentals there are more likely to be day-to-day or week-to-week. Consequently, it has more bars/restarurants/hang out places, if that's important. Though there are grocery stores and all the other amenities that you'd need. See also: Tahoe City, which is even more suited to the bar/party lifestyle, but tends to be a little more expensive (it's where most people who fly in to ski Squaw stay, unless they stay on-mountain).

Incline Village is a haven for high wage earners who want to have a second address in Nevada for tax purposes, and like Truckee, it's got a sizable year-round community. It is quite nice, but I don't think I'd really want to be 22 there. It is, however, right next to Diamond Peak, and near Mt. Rose, and the sheer number of residences that are only used during the summer makes 6-month rentals somewhat easier to find. There are also several nearby casinos and other places that serve the year-round community which may offer work possiblities.

South Lake Tahoe (and the neighboring town of Stateline) is somewhat cheaper rental-wise, and full of non-ski related employers, but Kirkwood is really the only first-class ski resort down there, and it's a pain in the ass to get to. (Heavenly is huge, but it sucks to work for them, and ultimately only has a handful of runs that will interest a daily-skiing expert, and the way the lifts are laid out is a disaster -- unless you like running laps on Killabrew and Gunbarrel). Stateline, NV is where the majority of Tahoe casinos are -- and the tourist industry draws skiiers and non-skiiers alike. It is not a mountain town, as much as it is a gambling town.

Be aware that lots of people who live in San Francisco snatch up the majority of the Truckee ski leases in September and October... arriving in Truckee once the snow starts and expecting to find housing may be a bummer. This is less of a problem in the other towns, as Truckee is the most convenient to I-80 coming from the West.
posted by toxic at 8:24 PM on September 25, 2006

Response by poster: Though I marked a few best answers already, please keep 'em coming. I would love to know more. I didn't think about a long commute in *feet* of snow... Hrm.
posted by zpousman at 5:09 AM on September 26, 2006

I didn't think about a long commute in *feet* of snow

Yes, snow in Tahoe can be measured in feet, especially in El Nino years like this one. Caltrans and city government are extremely efficient at plowing the primary roads amazingly frequently, but over the course of a winter, it's a safe bet that at least once you will have to deal with a foot or more of snow on the road that's between you and wherever you want to be, especially if you're travelling at odd hours.

It's not as bad as it sounds, actually.
posted by toxic at 5:28 AM on September 26, 2006

Best answer: Wow. Sophist and toxic nailed it already. Nice job.

Thirding living in Truckee - rad town. When I did the living-in-Tahoe thing (best winter of my life) I worked in Guest Services at Squaw. I can't say enough about what a rad job this was, and I have to differ with Sophist on one thing - there's potential to get more riding time in when you're on Guest Services, if you know how to work it.

The deal is this: get in close with the GS manager and don't get stuck on the outposts (ie. clipping tickets by yourself on the lift over by the hotel, for example). Anywhere else on the mountain (clipping tix at the main lifts, working the ski check or the tram unload at the top of the mountain, or doing guest direction at the top of the gondola), there are going to be multiple guest services reps staffed there with you. When I was working there, we had a system - you either rode in the morning or in the afternoon, and your buddy covered you while you were riding (and vice versa). You had a radio so if the boss came looking you just said he ran to grab xyz and then radioed him to get his ass back pronto. Which almost never happened.

Plus, just riding an afternoon here or there wasn't all the riding you did. If you got to know the right guys, on a good snow day you could get an hour or two in before work. Plus anything after 4pm is usually fair game, as long as you're not scheduled then. I spent a good many nights racing the tram back down the mountain just working on my GS technique. You can usually get enough riding in during your days on that you don't always feel the need to ride on your whole days off.

Also, try and get ski check a lot, especially on the busy weekends / holidays. Its most crowded then, so the lift lines are long and the runs crowded anyway, and its great to collect a few extra bucks in tips - upwards of $150 on the busiest weekends can be a lot of drinking money for the following week.

That said, working the park would be pretty cool too, if that's your thing.

Also, when I did this, I was in a small Honda Civic. Not the safest thing on some days, but they keep the roads pretty well plowed, at least from I-80 over towards the resorts, so most times its do-able, and if its not, your boss will usually understand. Plus, if she rooms with some co-workers, one will usually have a truck of some sort that a ride can be hitched on during the worst days. But if she can get her hands on a 4x4, she'll be safer all around and can be that buddy to rely on during the worst (well, really best, if you think about it) days. Plus more beer money from ride-loaders.

Email's in profile - feel free to ask me any specific questions if I can be of more help.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:31 AM on September 26, 2006

I used the GS abbreviation twice. The first time it meant Guest Services (manager), the second time it meant Giant Slalom (technique)...fwiw.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:33 AM on September 26, 2006

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