When I bought a one-way ticket to California last winter, I was certain that I would never again need a down jacket. I stuffed that 20-pound garment into the back of the closet with a smirk and packed a suitcase full of spring clothes. Barely one season-less year later, I shamelessly admit that I actually miss the dreaded winter. I miss clean, cold air and that cozy feeling you get when you rush into a heated house, wrap yourself in 3 layers of wool and cashmere, and snuggle up with a mug of tea in front of the fire and a Nancy Meyers movie.
Although California will never be New England in terms of season cliches and sentiments, one cannot deny the lower temperatures and real snow at Lake Tahoe. It is not even Thanksgiving, but it seems as if the mountains heard my homesick-for-winter bemoaning this past weekend when they graced us with a snow storm that left us holed up at the Ritz Carlton.
We tried to take a drive to explore the area, and so what if the skies were turning white and a little snow was flaking outside of our windows? We found ourselves in a parking lot of traffic, and many small cars were pulling off to the side to put frightful chains on their tires. We are two girls from the Northeast. We are not afraid of a little snow; what do we need chains for? Apparently, as the “chain patrol man” told us, with the same smirk that I had when I stuffed that winter jacket in my closet, no chains means no driving. We were trapped in a Stephen King novel turned Stanley Kubrick movie set on a highway in a blizzard. We rolled our eyes and headed back towards the hotel. “Hereee’s Johnny!”
There we were, in three layers of yoga clothes and lightweight Nike sneakers that never did us any wrong in the bay area, quite stuck in our 2-wheel drive that should never leave the dry pavement of coastal California. We wanted snow and we got it. Rob, a most gentleman-like, even-keeled, and able savior from the hotel came to pick us up in the property’s 4-wheel drive chariot, and we said ciao to our car for the time being.
Lake Tahoe in the winter is most definitely for the winter sport enthusiast; the kind who is inclined to weatherproof outfits and boots that snap into long sticks. My friend and I are not skiers nor snowboarders nor cross-country snow trekkers. We are seekers of ‘cozy.’ We envisioned a view of the fir trees covered in snow while we cuddled up by the fire with tea and a book. While the hotel is rather large, perhaps a little larger than is comfortably ‘cozy,’ we took full advantage of the steam and sauna rooms at the spa. Big surprise that my favorite was the small relaxation room where guests wait to be called into their treatment appointment. Here is where I found the fire and the tea, and I opted for a bit of ‘curling up’ instead of a few laps in the outdoor pool beautifully situated against the slopes. I fully expected each massage treatment room to have floor to ceiling windows overlooking the white snow, but alas, my treatment room was windowless. I also found, in balance with the size of the hotel, the amount of treatment rooms to be less than ‘cozy.’ Upon being greeted by my young masseuse, I was invited to ‘take a walk’ through the maze of treatment rooms. A large hotel can surely find a way to evoke a feeling of intimacy regardless of its actual size.
Perhaps attributable to the size is the feeling that the staff are not in constant, subtle communication as they most often are at five star properties. Upon arrival on day one, a loud and fidgety man helped unload our luggage onto a trolley before asking us if our room was ready. Well, seeing that we had not even set foot inside, how should we know? After a few awkward moments of fumbling and bumbling, unsure what to do with our luggage, he learned that it was not ready. We walked inside to be greeted by another gentleman who inquired if our room was ready. The fumbling man replied rather forebearingly: “No, it’s dirty.” My friend and I exchanged cringes. There are things you just don’t say. “It’s dirty?” I am still cringing.
Luckily my friend and I are rather easy to please if spa days and s’mores are available. Such was our itinerary. We roasted our marshmallows and licked chocolatey fingertips for the first time in decades, drank warm, local apple cider, and watched two $20 dollar movies in our thick robes. In order to avoid the greasy hamburgers and fries that aforementioned sport enthusiasts relish after a day on the slopes, we took a trip into town with our savior, Rob, for green juices and a simple deli salad in Kings Beach.
On our last morning, we woke up to a winter wonderland. White snow blanketed the firs, I suddenly appreciated the lumpy oatmeal in the sport enthusiast/parent-of-skiing-children acceptable breakfast cafe, and I would have been quite content to spend a third day frequenting the steam room and curling up in bed with another $20 on-demand movie. If only Nancy Meyers’ hadn’t dropped the ball with ‘The Intern.’ It was a nearly perfect ‘Winter on Demand’ weekend.