Truckee, Calif., 10 miles north of Lake Tahoe, is steeped in ski-town charisma but without the glitz and bustle. Chain restaurants and clothing stores have been replaced by boutiques, cozy dive bars and charming restaurants, all against the backdrop of the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains. Many ski resorts in the area have already surpassed last year's snowfall numbers, so the outlook for spring skiing is upbeat. The tab: $999 (excluding taxes and fees) for two nights at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, and $147 for dinner for two at Trokay. Round-trip airfare from LAX to Truckee-Reno (Nev.) from $232
Luxurious amenities and chalet-style accommodations converge at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe (13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Court, Truckee;  562-3000, www.lat.ms/213v3gk). The Ritz, California's only AAA Five Diamond ski-in, ski-out mountain resort, is perched mid-mountain at the Northstar California Resort. Guestrooms have fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows, many of which offer views of Northstar or the surrounding hills. Among the amenities are a mountain concierge and ski valet, ski-in/ski-out access to Northstar and a slope-side spa with 17 treatment rooms. For those with more modest budgets, the eco-friendly Cedar House Sport Hotel (10918 Brockway Road, Truckee;  582-5655, www.cedarhousesporthotel.com) has rooms from $180 a night, pop-up dinners and an in-house adventure concierge program.
Trokay (10046 Donner Pass Road;  582-1040, www.restauranttrokay.com), situated amid brew pubs and pizza shops, brings sophistication to Truckee with its warm atmosphere, inviting wine bar and tasting menus with dishes you might not expect in a ski town. The owners and chefs — John (formerly of Restaurant Daniel in New York) and Nyna Weatherson (formerly of Murray's Cheese, also in New York) — serve complex, beautifully presented dishes. After enjoying a cheese plate with several scrumptious cheese offerings sourced from West Coast producers, I had the Santa Barbara mussels, a rich dish presented in a cream sauce. Trokay also has prix fixe and chef tasting menus at $85 and $145, respectively.
The Pioneer Monument, built to commemorate those who immigrated to California from the East in the mid-1800s, is located at Donner Memorial State Park (12593 Donner Pass Road;  582-7892, www.parks.ca.gov). One of the most beautiful views in the area is from Donner Memorial Bridge, also known as Rainbow Bridge, built nearly 100 years ago near Donner Summit. The Donner Lake Rim Trail (still a work in progress in some parts) has miles of trails circling the lake. Once the snow melts, Donner Lake becomes a great recreational lake for kayakers, paddleboarders and wakeboarders, with water sports equipment for rent at the Donner Lake Watersports and Marina.
The lesson learned
Truckee offers après-ski experiences you won't find in many ski areas dotting Lake Tahoe. On its main drag is the unabashedly divey Tourist Club bar (10110 Donner Pass Road,  587-7775) and the craft gastropub Mellow Fellow (10192 Donner Pass Road, Truckee;  214-8927, www.mellowfellowpub.com/truckee), with more than 40 beers on tap, most of which rotate regularly. Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co., off Truckee's main strip, is one of the area's longest-running breweries (10990 Industrial Way,  587-3409, www.tahoebrewing.com), with more than 15 of its beers on tap in the tasting room.