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The Worst Time of Year for Northern California’s Best Sailing Destination

It’s no surprise that we so often find sailors in the mountains. We have often said that while seemingly disparate, skiing and sailing go hand in hand. We’ve speculated that maybe it’s a love for the outdoors and the fickle muse that is Mother Nature. When we were talking with windsurfer Carol Valk last year, she said that sailing reminded her of skiing and “the pursuit for the perfect turn.”

Lake Tahoe is simply magnificent from all angles. That’s Heavenly Ski Resort in the distance, as seen from Sugar Pine Point State Park on the West Shore.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

On Super Bowl Sunday, a few weeks ago, we drove into Tahoe City as a light snow started to fall. We were thinking we’d score fresh tracks the next day, and we did, but the conditions were more ‘dust on crust’  than ‘deep, fluffy powder’. But it was a Monday, and much like sailing — where any bad day on the water is better than a good day in the office — we were just happy to be in the mountains.

Emerald Bay, on Tahoe’s West-ish Shore, as seen on February 5. That’s the M.S. Dixie II making a loop on a lovely winter day.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Our love — nay, obsession — for that perfect turn on the snow has led us to many an early-morning trip to Tahoe between December and April. But did you know, Latitude Nation, that Lake Tahoe is open for business in the summer as well? The sailing, they say, is supposed to be fantastic.

Alpine Caribbean blue? Why, yes. Lake Tahoe is a place of  contrasts and raw beauty.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Much like their sailing brethren, skiers often enjoy a cold libation after a satisfying day on the (frozen) water. So naturally, we ran into a bunch of sailors while visiting one of our favorite not-so-underground bars.

From left: Tom Brickley was talking about doing his ASA classes when we overheard him and introduced ourselves. (Tom said he was one of the first people to try windsurfing, but has since moved on to kiting and big-boat sailing); brothers Roger (middle) and Ken Howard sail on the gorgeous Alpha out of Sausalito, and are friends of Latitude publisher John Arndt.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, everyone: We want to sail on Tahoe this summer! While skiing at Heavenly or Homewood — two resorts that are right on the water — we find ourselves mind-sailing the many nooks and crannies of the second-largest alpine lake in the world (that’s 36.15 cubic miles). It has often been said that Latitude‘s founder wasn’t crazy about the finiteness of lake sailing. Well, even if you can’t sail to another country from Tahoe, you can sail to another state, and there seems to be plenty of room to get around.

Few spots in Tahoe inspire us to want to cruise as much as Emerald Bay. This kayaker enjoyed a few minutes of shoreside serenity.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

We’ve asked this question before, and we’ll ask it again: Any Lake Tahoe sailors out there? Or alpine sailors in general? How about sailors who ski or skiers who sail? Anyone want to plan a summer sail? We’d love to hear from you (again). Please, comment below, or drop us a line and some pictures.

(No caption necessary.)
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim


  1. Ben Shaw 4 years ago

    In 2015 my wife and I chartered a 25-foot-ish boat from a marina in North Lake Tahoe and had a lovely sail beam reaching south and then back north on the lake. I grew up lake sailing and remember well the gusty nature of lake winds. The gusts on Tahoe were quite strong. I was surprised at how easy it was to rent the boat, how few questions the young man who prepped the boat and eventually cast us off asked. I had to specifically ask him to give me pointers on sailing the lake, asking if there were any areas I should avoid. When it came time to return home I was a little disoriented. I don’t know the lake well and to my eye the shoreline all looked the same. Aside from phones, we had no navigation equipment aboard. Fortunately sailing a reciprocal course took us back to the marina…. must have been slack tide with little current 😉

  2. paul close 4 years ago

    We live at Tahoe and used to have an O’Day 25. One of my favorite memories is skiing Alpine on a sunny late spring morning with my son. From the top of Summit chair, we could see the little speck of our boat tied to its mooring ball on the beautiful blue lake. When the snow turned to slush, we headed over to the boat for an afternoon sail. From the middle we could see the top of Summit chair. Life was good that day! After selling the O’day we’ve spent the past decade cruising the west coast and Hawaii. Done with that now, so looking forward to another Tahoe boat soon!

  3. Jeff Collier 4 years ago

    I’m a 40 yr. So. Lake Tahoe resident and skier, sailing every spring summer and fall since 1991. Started out with a Coronado 25 that a gregarious bar owner buddy sold me named MillerTime. We had some crazy white knuckle rides when the whitecaps were up and we were novices learning by trial and error. It was the perfect starter boat for boat camping in Emerald bay and anchored off the rocks at D.L. Bliss State Park for a family with young kids. We had some great raft ups with friends for the big holiday weekends with as many as 12 boats. Moved up to Islander Bahama 26 and finally 17yrs. sailing the Islander32 Songwriter (unfortunately sold 2yrs. ago) and much missed. Had some great sails with that boat. It had an almost hypnotic ride in the flat water when it was blowing in the high teens. From the south shore there were some great reaches toward the north shore but you had to know when to turn around in order the reach back before the wind died in the evening. Loved that boat. There were a handful of days when we skied in the morning and got a boat ride in the afternoon. Hey it’s all water. Looking now for the right boat for SoCal and Sea of Cortez sailing.
    Jeff Collier
    Currently boatless but looking

  4. h arthur 4 years ago

    Just to get out and sail even on a lake is great. We keep a lightning at the north shore. As Ben said there is at least one Marina on the west side near the north shore that rents sailboats. 25 feet is all you need to have a great sail for a day or even a 1/2 day. The views are stunning. Not sure about sailboat rentals on the south shore.

  5. Bill Willcox 4 years ago

    In 1975 we circumnavigated Lake Tahoe in a Catalina 22. We launched in South Lake Tahoe, anchored along the North lake shore, and finished up the next day. The wind was flukey, but the water near the shore was amazingly clear. The anchor was clearly visible in 25 feet of water. We also anchored in Emerald Bay over night. Depending on the lake level launching and recovering even a swing keel boat can be exiting as the ramp we used dropped off into mud. Hopefully that situation has improved since then.

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