by Wendy Irvine
The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain is your unparalleled chance for enjoying dreamy days and nights in the lap of luxury. All 72 hotels, reigning from destination spots throughout the globe, set the bar for catering to a guest’s furrowed brow. And now they’ve brought their opulence into the Lake Tahoe region. Hard to imagine how anything could possibly bring more splendor to a slice of Earth that is a virtual kaleidoscope of wonder: soaring mountains encircling a crystal-clear, world-famous lake all set under a canopy of weather made in heaven. But rather than trying to improve upon our beloved Tahoe, the folks at the Ritz clearly set their sights on harmoniously and elegantly blending seamlessly into their chosen spot: the mid-level primo real estate in the family-friendly Northstar-at-Tahoe resort. What an ideal union: a world-class hotel meets a renowned Tahoe ski resort.
Very near to the Northstar entrance you’ll follow a four-mile ribbon of encrusted mountain roads that leads to the woodsy luxury of the Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe. Somewhere in those four miles, you’ll feel as if you’re winding your way through the Swiss Alps or teetering somewhere near the summit in Yosemite. And that’s the whole idea: The creators of this particular Ritz-Carlton want you to feel that you’re trekked far from the noise and hassle of every day life. That you have, in fact, stumbled upon an exciting, outlying resort known to few others.
Here’s what’s in store: 170 beautifully appointed guestrooms and suites, dining options ranging from upscale to casual, a kids’ club, an enormous pool kept toasty year-round, a lap pool, Jacuzzis and a luxury spa. Pair all of this splendor with Northstar’s endless array of family activities including world-class winter sports, summer recreation, sparkling shopping, dining and an outdoor ice/roller rink in the Village and you have a vacation that is out of this world.
And there’s more. The Ritz has overlooked nothing in catering to a guest’s every need. Here you’ll find ski in/ski out access to the four lifts that take Northstar guests onto higher slopes, dedicated ski concierges who offer a generous hand at every turn, a limo-like ride on the Sherpa snow mobile (for those times when you don’t feel like walking), an exclusive Ritz-Carlton gondola always available to whisk you to the Northstar Village and easily accessible storage services for equipment.
To learn more about Ritz-Carlton, please visit Ritz-Carlton.
Our Editor Loves
- Ski-in, ski-out access
- Year-round gondola rides
- Year-round activities for all ages
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Called Deluxe Guestrooms, Lake Tahoe's basic room at the Ritz-Carlton provides 450 square feet with a king or two queen-sized beds, Juliet balconies, fireplaces (that give real heat), and sweeping valley or slopeside mountain views.
If you're looking for a little more space for the family, consider one of the 16 executive suites. Delivering 800 square feet, these suites are spacious with a king bed, a gas fireplace and a separate living room with a pullout couch and a second gas fireplace. Both rooms have their own flat-screen televisions.
The Ritz-Carlton Suite
And, if nothing but the best will do, consider the Ritz-Carlton Suite. Located on the fourth floor, this 1,900-square-foot baby serves up automatic entrance into the Club Lounge (five awesome daily meals), a butlers pantry, living room, dining room with sitting for six, lavish bedroom, a media room (DVD, flat screen television, iPod station), a Jacuzzi tub and a killer fourth floor mountainside view from the full balcony.
To preface, we are a Marriott/Ritz family and love our Titanium loyalty status. This was our first visit to the Ritz in Lake Tahoe. I can't say enough about how wonderful an experience this was. The staff were truly some of the best we've had the pleasure of meeting during our travels. The level of service is exactly what you would hope for/expect at the Ritz. The hotel is gorgeous, spa is absolutely wonderful, food is excellent - I have absolutely nothing but great things to say about this hotel and we can not wait to return. THANK YOU!
Our family decided to have breakfast at the Ritz Carlton near Nothstar Ski Resort and the town of Truckee. The hotel is nestled in the pine trees high up the mountain accessible on a beautiful mountain road. The view from the hotel is a breathtakingly panorama of the Sierra Nevadas right near the ski lifts of Northstar. Valet parking and into the beautiful hotel which is richly decorated. The restaurant is on the second floor and is beautiful with large windows looking out on a very large outdoor patio area with beautiful mountains in the background. Ask for a window table. The wait staff could not have been more friendly or attentive. The chef, John, visited out table and shared his thoughts on his favorites on the breakfast menu. We settled on pancakes, Dungeness crabs cakes, avocado toast with poached eggs after starting off with gin fizzes. Our daughter in law thought the pancakes with a side of ricotta sauce was the best pancakes she has ever had. They had a hint of carmelized lemon which was an absolute hit with everyone. The avocado toast with eggs, ripe tomatoes and arugula was outstanding. It came with a large bowl of perfectly ripe blackberries, strawberries, cantelope, blueberries, raspberries, and pineapple. The Dungeness crab Benedict was delicious. We loved the coffee, the smoked bacon and the pork sausages. Not to be forgotten, and the pride of the chef, were his Yukon Gold potatoes. Our breakfast was on a weekday so arrive before 11 am to order. On weekends, the Manzanita has a buffet which we have experienced twice. We recommend it highly also. It is not inexpensive, but for an unforgettable breakfast experience, it is worth every penny.
The Ritz-Carlton prides itself on offering elaborate kids' programs. The Ritz-Carlton at Lake Tahoe provides a half-day program (morning or afternoon) and a full-day program from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the summer and until 4 p.m. on the winter. Kids can go camping indoors with the available Indoor Campout Package where sleeping in a tent INSIDE your guestroom will surely brings lots of giggles.
Daytime activities are scheduled around a different topic each day. One day might be plants: discovering plants, cooking with plants, using plants in arts and crafts. Another day the subject might be wind: learning about weather, creating wind tools and learning about weather gauges. Lunch is included for full-day programs.
Children between the ages of 5 through 12 years are welcome. Children five and under are welcome to join the fun as long as they're with a guardian.
What an amusing sight to see my two 6 year old boys splashing in the pool, having a ball, while skiers whooshed down the pristine slopes behind them. Yes, kids will love that the Ritz pool is open year-round and kept wonderfully warm. Parents will love that the entire pool is just 3.5 feet deep. You'll also find a small, shallow toddlers' pool for the younger set. Two large hot tubs bubble away; one sitting beside a beautiful fire pit.
Teens, kids and the entire family can enjoy the traditional arcade games in the lower lobby. On Friday nights, it's Family Night at the Arcade. Game tokens are available for purchase.
Biking Mountain Bike Park
Someone took a look at the Northstar mountain in the summer months and thought, "If I can't ski it, let's skyrocket down it on bikes!" Biking down the Northstar mountain is for the spills-and-thrills seeker among us. If you're looking for a Sunday ride. Not so much. The lift ride up the mountain is peaceful and calm, while the ride down is steep and exciting (full protective gear is required) and injuries can occur so proceed with wisdom and caution.
The Mountain Bike Park delivers 100 miles of excitement with 50 trails and three chair lifts. When renting a bike, ask for a full suspension, down hill bike. (Your tush will thank you.) Consider going mid-week when the crowds are down. Probably not a great plan for kids 8 and under.
Golf & Tennis
The short and sweet crowd will find a lot to do at the 18-hole Northstar golf course or plethora of tennis activities for kids starting at age 4. Golf lessons (but no youth rental equipment) are available for kids as young as 7, and Northstar offers a family golf clinic, junior golf clinics (7 to 17 years) and junior golf school (7 to 12 years).
The little ones also have a tennis camp just for them called the 3-Day Little Quick Start Tennis Camp. For kids 7 and up, a five-day beginner, intermediate or advanced tennis camps are available. Camps include video analysis (five-day camp only), healthy snacks, refreshments and a tennis T-shirt. Northstar also provides fun events for kids like the Junior Firecracker Tennis Tournament for intermediate players (ages 7 to 16) happening right after the Independence Day. The Parent/Child Round Robin Tournament is on the calendar at least twice every summer. Private and group lessons and clinics are also available.
Cross Country Skiing and Snow Shoeing
Both cross country skiing and snowshoeing have hit the scene recently in a big way and folks are showing up in droves to trek the 25 miles of groomed Northstar trails. Happily you'll also find warming huts offering a mug or two of hot chocolate or hot tea and picnic tables dotting the way. Bag lunches are a necessity for enjoying a wonderful day. Rentals and lessons available.
Use of the rink is free for everyone and located in the heart of the Northstar Village and there are skate rentals available for a fee. The skating rink is a 9,000-square-foot beauty ringed by firepits and comfy sofas. What a wonderful spot to enjoy a hot chocolate or a hot toddy by the fire. Open Fridays through Sundays, noon to 8 p.m. (weather permitting, call to confirm).
If you ever want to see a bunch of adults transform into silly five year olds (without a margarita in sight), you can't miss the excitement of tubing. Back in the day, tubing burned massive calories thanks to trudging back uphill after each ride down, but at Northstar, have a seat on your tube, grab onto a rope tow and get pulled up the hill. Yes, it's for the most spoiled among us. Quite honestly, it was one of the best times I've ever had: not only flying down the mountain on a tube linked with my kids' tubes, but also as a spectator. I thoroughly enjoyed watching my husband and sons bathed in total joy as they were pulled up the mountain and then came barreling down. This experience is an absolute must for all those at least 42 inches tall.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Northstar has sparkled for decades as the top resort for family skiing in the Tahoe region with 3,170 skiable acres, 97 runs and 19 lifts (including two gondolas). Whether you have a five year old just starting out or a 17 year old chomping at the bit for the diamond runs, every family member can find good times and challenge at Northstar.
An array of lift ticket options include: a very cool Parent's Predicament Ticket that allows parents to share an adult lift ticket for a day. While one skis or snowboards, the other remains with the child until they're ready to trade duties.
For the budget-conscious great deals abound including the Quad Pack Lift Ticket (ski four days any time within the season at a reduced price), the general Season Pass and the Double Whammy Season Pass (budget entrance into both Northstar and its sister resort: Sierra-at-Tahoe).
The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge
The Club Lounge completely eliminates that exasperated parent moment when we all wonder, "the kids are starving. Now what do we do?" At the Ritz? Relax, that's what. This snazzy option is offered at all of the Ritz-Carlton's and it's a dream come true for parents. To begin, you get a key that affords you entrance into an elegant (but kid-friendly) dining room tucked away exclusively on the fifth floor replete with sofas, fireplaces, glass vases filled with palm-sized cookies, tables for four and a deux, and of course, a jaw-dropping view of the Martis Valley.
And the cuisine? Par excellence. Five light, but filling meals are offered throughout the day: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, hors d'oeuvres and cocktails (but you can easily call it "dinner") and dessert and after dinner drinks. Each meal is displayed buffet-style with teeny quiches, pastries, fresh fruit, muffins and cheeses at breakfast. Oysters on the half shell, breads, pasta, and fine meats at dinner. Bottles of wine and champagne on ice and mixed drinks for the asking.
Anything for the kids? Great question. At lunch, the staff (anticipating my childrens' picky needs), provided silver platters of PB&J on white bread with those nasty crusts snipped off and tossed far from my treasures' tender mouths. My pickiest boy was waited on like a prince. He wanted peanut butter and graham crackers? Hold the tantrum -- within moments the staff returned with a swirl of peanut butter, a stack of crackers, and his favorite, a peeled banana. The dessert was the most exciting meal of the day with chocolate fondue, miniature pies, creme brulee and small cheesecakes. Fine wines and coffee, of course. (My husband's eyes were lit with pleasure.)
The Club Lounge price is charged for a family of four per day. Smart mama: Request a guestroom on the fifth floor and just a quick step or two will get the entire family loveliness that is the Club Lounge.
The Living Room
You know how you make it to a certain age and there's "nothing new under the sun?" Well, the Ritz's "Living Room" was a great surprise. The Ritz chain, known for insisting on intimate lobbies, seamlessly blends a gracious check-in counter with an octagonal, centerpiece looking a lot like an Alpine tree trunk soaring skyward. The dramatic, woodsy center is wreathed in fireplaces, sofas, cushy chairs and elegant coffee tables. You wouldn't find a typical dining table in most living rooms and you won't find one here. And did I mention the majestic three story windows that overlook the Ritz's "back patio?"
In the Living Room wait staff circulate taking drink and food orders and guests dine casually from an elegant, but macho menu that includes wild boar and white bean chili nachos, Parmesan-truffle steak fries and lobster porcini risotto. The ambiance takes "ski cool" to the max. I half-hoped for a 1960's Sean Connery to round the corner wearing a sexy ski sweater (but no, I guess even the Ritz can't provide every perk).
A casual restaurant that blends haute cuisine with hearty fare resulting in seasonal California dishes that hit the spot after a long day on the slopes or at the lake. The rooms are brimming with natural light, fireplaces and patio seating offering a sparkling view of the mountain. Menu items include duck meatballs, Dungeness crab sliders, red wine-braised short ribs, fine meats, salads and decadent desserts. You'll be delighted to see 1,400 bottles in the wine room (the Ritz is a mere four hours from the famed Napa Valley) and a sommelier is on hand to assist with suggestions. Mac-n-cheese and pizza are both on the menu for children who can pull it together for a nice meal. The Manzanita is recommended for families with kids who behave after one (or, at most, two) "looks" from you, not for families with little monkeys. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Backyard Bar & BBQ
Dine outdoors, year-round, at this casual patio spot. Traditional BBQ favorites include ribs and pulled pork sandwiches completed with a house-made selection of BBQ sauces. Pizza, burgers and local craft beers make for a great pit stop while skiing or swimming.
This casual cafe offers delicious pressed juices, smoothies and coffee beverages. But Paninis and pastries are also available to fill bellies before hitting the slopes.
Sip on signature cocktails while taking in a view of the Sierras. Light fare is also available.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The daily resort fee of $30 per room covers guestroom wired or wireless high-speed Internet access, local telephone calls, toll-free telephone access, daily newspaper, shuttle or Highlands Gondola services within Northstar Resort, spa amenities (yes!), the fitness center, adult pool, daily group exercise and in-room coffee.
Nice perk: Check out is at noon, but if you want to savor a longer day at the lake or on the slopes, you're welcome to shower and change in the Highlands Spa and head home comfortable and happy.
The Concierge will provide childcare names and contact information to guests upon request.
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers a full-service Business Center available for copies, faxes or use of computers. Internet access is also included in the $30 per day resort fee. The Business Center is open 24/7. You'll also find a Technology Butler who explains and helps with the available technology, a Conference Concierge available for meetings and special events, and on-site audio-visual services to meet a guest's audiovisual needs
Equipped with state-of-the art cardio and weight machines. Disposable head phones on hand to watch television or listen to music on the cardio machines. Towels and ice water are also available for guests. Kids between the ages of 12 to 15 years may use the fitness center facilities only when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe is located 15 minutes from Lake Tahoe, 45 minutes from the Reno, Nevada airport, two hours from Sacramento and four hours from San Francisco. The North Lake Tahoe Express provides daily airport shuttle service to and from North Lake Tahoe and the Reno-Tahoe Airport. Reservations are required. The South Lake Tahoe Express is another clean, reliable shuttle that provides service to and from the Reno-Tahoe Airport to South Lake Tahoe. Reservations are required.
Valet Parking is $39 per night. Self parking is not available. You'll find a long list of taxis on MagicYellow.com. Private car and SUV service to and from the airport can be arranged through Reno Tahoe Limousine Service.
The Art of Smart Timing
The quiet months (i.e. best deals to be found) at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe are September through November. May is also a quiet time to visit before the rush of Memorial Day.
Peak season: December through March when the skiing gets good. Mid-week is an outstanding time to visit if you want to ditch the crowd.
Winter ski season generally runs from December into March depending upon the snowfall. Holidays and school breaks are, of course, crowded times to visit the Ritz. Weeks directly following holidays are usually quiet.
July is a cool time to visit in the summer to see the fireworks on 4th of July spraying directly over the lake or catch the beloved Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor running usually mid-July through mid-August.
And, last, the beauty of fall in Tahoe. Visit in September when you can often squeeze in beach days without the crowds. October is awesome thanks to those glorious trees that put on quite the show in extravagant yellow and crimson.
For Mom and Dad
The Northstar-at-Tahoe golf course is an 18-hole, par-72 (men and women) course that will both challenge golfers' skills and give them an abundance of natural beauty to enjoy. Providing a rugged, wooded landscape with wavy bunkers and putting greens, this active golf course is a joy to play.
This course offers four tee locations and carries a rating of 72.4 from the Northern California Golf Association. The Mountain nine demands precise, tight play through tree-lined fairways and across small greens. Also offered is a golf pro shop and clinics and lessons for all skill levels.
Highlands Spa and Fitness Center
The Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe spa boasts a 17,000-square-foot spa and fitness center with 16 treatment rooms, a sauna, a great steam room (one for the women, another for the men), a multi-head shower system (insist on directions; I couldn't figure it out), a large, comfortable whirlpool and separate men and women lounge rooms complete with a fireplace, iced water and light snacks.
For the mom on the loose check out the Drift to Sleep treatment with 120 minutes of massage that'll reduce you to melted butter. (This could be the world's best gift idea for a mom.)
But if you're looking to bring back a little of what the kids escaped with years ago, definitely take a trip on the Couples Journey. I peeked into the beautifully appointed treatment room for couples and was just a little jealous to see a gleaming copper tub big enough for two, side-by-side treatment beds and a fireplace all overlooking a beautiful alpine view. If he's not the spa type tempt him with what awaits: a gentle scrub and a deeply relaxing aromatherapy scalp with full-body massage. All enjoyed together. (He'll become the spa type.)
One of the perks of being a Ritz-Carlton guest is that you can use the spa amenities without purchasing a treatment. Lounge in the steam and sauna rooms, prune-out in the whirlpool and soak in all of the relaxing, mellow vibe you can handle.
The two swimming areas include a secluded lap pool and a relaxing slope side pool paired with a whirlpool and childrens' play pool (all kept nice and toasty in the winter). The fitness center provides disposable headphones, televisions and music on all of the state-of-the art cardio machines.