Lake Tahoe was glassy, the sky hazy blue and no one seemed to be in a hurry when we got to Homewood last Thursday morning.
John Cougar Mellencamp crooned from a speaker tied to a pine tree in a parking lot not much bigger than a 7-Eleven’s and hardly more than a stone’s throw from the lake.
“She calls me babaaay, she calls everybody baaay-a-bee…..”
Skiers and boarders, most of them locals, got out of their cars, stretched and smiled up at the mountain as if anticipating a rendezvous with an old friend.
The place reminded me of the old days, skiing back in the homeland at those small, but familiar resorts hidden away along Utah’s Wasatch Front.
There was none of the jet-set crowd that frequents the Tahoe Basin’s bigger ski resorts, and no fashion statements at Homewood.
The lifts aren’t your newfangled, high-speed express types, but it doesn’t really matter – there’s no crowds, no hurry, and plenty of mountain to go around for everyone.
An oversized yurt and a handful of picnic tables and barstools overlooking the lake serve as mid-mountain lodge on the resort’s north side.
But for the views, we may as well have been lounging on the veranda of a Five-star resort overlooking the Caribbean.
Looking down from half way up the mountain, the lake was empty as far as we could see except for a single fishing boat off Sugar Pine Point.
Buoys bobbed around docks with no boats and the sandy shores we remembered from summer were snowy white.
But Lake Tahoe is beautiful any time of the year, and we had a hard time taking our eyes off it. Sightseers rode the lifts up and down just for the views.
Mimicking the sky, the lake turned purple, then silvery gray as the clouds got thicker toward afternoon.
Locals Randy Barenson from Tahoe City and Casey Sherman from Tahoma kicked back on barstools facing the lake and took in the splendid panorama.
Homewood is the Tahoe Basin’s best kept secret and everyone should stay away, concurred the two, who said they didn’t want the word getting out.
Homewood is… well, very comfortable and homey, said Anna Thole from San Francisco.
Aside from the views, the skiing was great at Homewood, but don’t tell anyone – we’ll try to keep it a secret.
Of the Northern Sierra ski resorts I’ve skied this year, Homewood was the smallest with just a handful of lifts and tows. But the mountain opens up on top and definitely has its steeps and thrills and some nice, long cruising runs.
Late in the morning while skiing the mountain’s south side, we ended up somewhere in Hobbit Land where the snow was icy and fast in the shadows and butter in the sun.
Beautifully groomed backside rides like Lake Louise, Miner’s Delight, Gilbert’s Gulch and lower Jupiter served up some of the best corduroy cruising I’ve seen all year.
Gilbert’s Gulch, a great cruising run cut tight through the trees off Rainbow Ridge, was still smooth and nearly untouched at 1 in the afternoon.
Along the ski area’s upper north boundary, Lake Louise went from blue to black – more difficult to even more difficult – where the bottom of the run fell out, making for a heck of a ride to the bottom.
Most every run we took we had to ourselves, and each lift offered a different view of Lake Tahoe.
Later in the afternoon, the ceiling dropped out of the sky and the clouds settled over the lake like a big lid not quite shut, leaving a blue ring around the Tahoe rim. But the sun still managed to hang in there and glow through the clouds, making for another great day of skiing in the Northern Sierra.
Next week, I’ll be skiing Diamond Peak at Incline Village, a ski resort located on Lake Tahoe’s north shore.
This is a continuing series on skiing in the Northern Sierra by staff writer and former competitive skier Kevin Wiser. The weekly features appears Thursdays in The Union.
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