Hotel Review: The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Hotel Review: The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

With intuitive service, an unbeatable location and top amenities, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe can make a snow fan out of anyone By: Mindy Poder
    The Living Room is a popular spot for apres-ski snacks and drinks. //
    © 2017 The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe</p><p>Feature image (above): The...

The Living Room is a popular spot for apres-ski snacks and drinks. // © 2017 The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Feature image (above): The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe opened in 2009. // © 2017 The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

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The Details

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Though I love hiking mountains in the spring and summer, the snow has always made me feel like Ariel of "The Little Mermaid" — pre-legs. Watching skiers from afar, I've dreamt of being a part of their world.

My first attempt at skiing as an adult ended with me stuck in a ditch, requiring assistance to get out. That traumatic episode failed to make a skier out of me.

Fast-forward four years, and my partner — a longtime snowboarder — finally convinced me that we needed to take a snow trip.

As a compromise, we agreed to learn how to ski together and chose a spot where I'd have a fighting chance. The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe in northeastern California is a place where people know your name, snow falls generously from the heavens, and creature comforts reign supreme.

Indeed, one could be content bouncing from one dining establishment to another, indulging in a massage or soaking in one of the heated outdoor pools. But the sight of the slopes — visible from my guestroom window - filled me with yearning and hope. On the day of our lesson, a Monday, I noticed there was barely a soul with which to collide — surely a good omen. Our guide, Jake Jakubowski, pointed out the stairs that clients usually descend to reach the slopes. I could barely see them as I climbed the groomed snow, a sign of the year's epic snowfall and record season, which won't end until July 4 this year.

On a patch of slightly steep snow, Jakubowski balanced my inexperience with my partner's natural athleticism. It didn't take long for us to go from carving bow ties on one ski to testing out green runs.

Facilitating our accelerated learning were the hotel's subtle advantages, made clearer to me after follow-up days at a rental in adjacent Northstar Village. Unlike all other Northstar properties, The Ritz is located mid-mountain. In order to get to the slopes, those in the village must take a gondola to the property, which requires a walk, then schlep to the runs.

Guests staying at The Ritz, on the other hand, glide directly from the hotel's True North rental shop or adjacent Mountain Concierge boot storage to the slopes. Plus, clients can leave their equipment with staffers positioned at the end of the trail, where they'll find their gear waiting the next day.

In other words, the hotel has designed a system that conserves a beginner's most precious and fast-burning resource: energy.

Nonetheless, learning a new sport can make one ravenous and sore, two symptoms the hotel treats with gusto. At signature restaurant Manzanita, my partner and I enjoyed live music and a hearty meal, including cauliflower soup topped with shaved truffle and a premier cru wine. And for apres-ski, we never missed daily s'mores around the fire pit.

As for aches and pains, the spacious fitness center and spa — equipped with a sauna, a steam room and a whirlpool — are unparalleled havens. Like our guide Jakowski, my massage therapist, Dawn, was actively engaged and offered helpful advice.

But perhaps most crucial to our R&R was our cozy Deluxe Guest Room, one of 170 guestrooms, including 16 suites and The Ritz-Carlton Suite. No crusty cabin design here — spacious rooms feature marble, wood and lovely details such as closet handles in the shape of tree branches. Plus, they come stocked with a minibar and complimentary espresso.

On our last morning, I called the front desk for four mini water bottles and received eight, plus a humidifier — what I really needed to battle the dry weather.

The attendant's over-delivering reminded me of when Jakubowski told me that staff is taught to provide "an experience of a lifetime." I was skeptical then. But by the end of our day, I had gotten off three chairlifts without falling. Best of all, I liked skiing enough to go again, unguided — after a massage, of course.

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