Ski and spa by the shore

For those familiar with the brand, “Ritz-Carlton” is synonymous with luxury. Hence, the newly opened Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe — located mid-mountain at Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort on the north shore of Lake Tahoe — is everything you’d expect: top-notch service, high-end amenities — and unbelievable access to the mountain.

Opened on Dec. 9, the resort features 170 guest rooms, a 16-room luxury spa, year-round heated family pool, a heated adults-only lap pool, a Traci De Jardins restaurant, and ski-in-ski-out access to Northstar.

Checking in

First, the Ritz-Carlton Highlands is located mid-mountain, which means it is not accessed via the Northstar village. Access is about a mile from the main Northstar entrance on Highlands View Road; here, you drive about three miles up a tree-lined boulevard directly to the hotel, where a valet will unload your vehicle and park your car.

For those traveling with equipment (skis, snowboards, etc.), the hotel can arrange for the equipment to be held at the Mountain Concierge, which is located on the lobby level of the hotel.Best part of this ski-in-ski-out access: the hotel is adjacent to a run called the “Big Easy,” Northstar’s bunny slope for beginners.

If you don’t ski or ride, the hotel also has a dedicated gondola, which transports guests to and from the village, where visitors can dine, shop, ice skate and enjoy village life . The gondola ride to the village — which is complimentary — is about five to seven minutes long and runs all day and into the night.

Check-in is in the main lobby, a cavernous, contemporary lounge dubbed “the living room.” The lobby, the hotel’s main meeting space, features several fireplaces, sitting areas with soft, clubby chairs and sofas, a six-story stone chimney — and lounge service, which includes full-bar service, a light-meal menu, and the opportunity to order appetizers from Manzanita, De Jardin’s stunning new restaurant.

The lobby is mountain lodge, but not rustic. Windows surround the entire area — boasting panoramic views of the Tahoe National Forest.

Rooms at this 100-percent nonsmoking hotel are generous in size; guest rooms start at 455 square feet; suites run about
800 square feet. All of the Ritz-Carlton’s standard luxuries are included, such as gazillion-thread-count sheets, a gas fireplace in every room, floor-to-ceiling windows, 37-inch, flat-screen HDTVs, contemporary marble bathrooms with oversized deep-soaking tubs and separate showers, Keurig in-room coffee, tea and hot chocolate, and Wi-Fi throughout the building.

Ski-and-spa destination
For those planning to ski or ride, the hotel is conveniently located by the mountain — it will take you about two minutes to walk from the toasty warm building to the slopes. Visitors can purchase lift tickets at True North — run by Northstar but located within the hotel — rent gear, and store it — all within a couple of hundred feet from the first run.

On my visit about a week after opening, ski conditions were perfect; Northstar — and most of Tahoe — has had exceptional snow conditions due to early December snowfall.


If you go

Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe, 13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Court, Truckee; (530) 562-3000;

Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort and the Village at Northstar; info:

The Ritz-Carlton Highlands is approximately a four-hour drive from San Francisco; visitors can also fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport, where they can catch the North Lake Tahoe Express, a 45-minute shuttle to the hotel.

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