Years ago, when I first hopped off a chairlift to find myself atop a pristine white peak in the Sierra, I knew it was a far cry from the mole hills I skied as a kid growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. I was 6,000-plus feet above sea level, the sun was blazing, a gleaming blue alpine lake filled the horizon, and my ski tips pointed down a never-ending blanket of snow. Mid-April skiing? Could it get any better? Tahoe was for keeps. I was amped and inspired as I traversed down those brilliant spring slopes.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and that treasure of the Sierra, currently still enveloped in the joy of a record snow season, continues to enlighten me and countless others, including group attendees. From outdoor adventures to culturally rich pursuits, the destination is magnetic year-round.
North Lake Tahoe
Jason Neary, director of sales for the North Lake Tahoe CVB, said the serenity and scenery of Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, makes it a remarkable place for groups to bond and find inspiration.
“There’s an absolute power and draw to that lake and the surrounding mountains,” he said. “There’s nothing like it—the breathtaking beauty, the clean air. When groups get away from the office and the hustle and bustle and up on the mountain in nature, everyone is equal.”
Unique ways to take in the allure of the Sierra include full moon snowshoeing tours at Northstar with North Tahoe Adventures.
“It’s a great experience for groups, and you end up in the Village at Northstar having cocktails and s’mores around the fire,” he said.
Skiing and boarding are automatic choices for active attendees, and going backcountry with Homewood Snowcat Adventures takes it to another level. More than 750 acres of fresh powder and untouched terrain await above the ski area boundary at Homewood Mountain Resort.
During the summer, one new option is a wellness adventure with Move Mountains, which focuses on teambuilding, leadership and growth through outdoor pursuits.
Meanwhile, a staple warm-weather group activity is the Treetop Adventure Park at Granlibakken, where groups build trust and push boundaries while navigating an aerial course that is 15 to 50 feet high.
Tahoe activities with a CSR element further heighten the enrichment factor, according to Neary.
“Primarily we do these through some of our local DMCs, particularly RMC Destination Tahoe Meeting and Events and Destination Services Corporation,” he said. “The ones I really like a lot are build a sit ski, which is then donated to an adaptive ski school named Achieve Tahoe, and build a bike, where at the end you do a nice dedication ceremony to the Boys and Girls Club.”
One way North Lake Tahoe sets itself apart is by being able to throw an Olympic twist on its teambuilding options, Neary said, whether it’s who built the best sit ski, who climbed the highest or who skied the fastest.
A great way to soak in the heritage of the 1960 Winter Olympics that took place at Squaw Valley is at the resort’s High Camp, where the Olympic Museum was recently renovated.
“We can bring in Olympians for groups,” Neary said. “We did an event up there with David Wise, who won gold in the Olympics, and everybody got a gold medal and had their picture taken with him at the bottom when they boarded the tram. Plus, the museum is very cool, so we like to weave the Olympic legacy into programs as much as we can.”
South Lake Tahoe
Ask Mike Frye, event and media relations manager at the South Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, what makes his rapidly expanding destination so inspiring, and he can barely contain his enthusiasm: “This is where the hand of science grabs the hand of God and says ‘woohoo!’”
Everyone has something they’re famous for, and the Sierra has just about every activity that everyone else prides themselves on, Frye added.
“On windy days, people even surf on the lake,” he said. “There are endless opportunities for someone with creativity to use the natural environment and cultural draws in ways they’ll cherish forever.”
Heavenly Mountain Resort is one of the destination’s premier draws for groups, with a full lineup of year-round adventures, unique teambuilding programs and event space that takes in the majestic surroundings.
“Heavenly is a great place for groups, whether it’s learning and growing through teambuilding or just having fun being together and enjoying the outdoors,” said Adriann Kremer, wedding and group sales manager at the resort, adding that beyond winter group activities such as skiing, boarding and tubing, summer options are ever-evolving.
The resort’s Epic Discovery just launched last summer with miles of hiking trails along with a ropes course, ziplines and a climbing wall, and a Play and Learn program is another fun new offering for groups.
On the lake, SUP is a hot group activity nowadays through outfitters such as South Tahoe Stand-Up Paddle.
There are also several spacious beaches with gorgeous views where teambuilding can be arranged, including Nevada Beach and Round Hill Pines.
Meanwhile, groups gathering at Aston Lakeland Village Resort, Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge and Spa, and the Beach Retreat & Lodge at Tahoe can simply step out the door of their rooms to gather on the beach in front of the properties, Frye said.
Another group option on the beach, Edgewood Tahoe is inspiring both for the dramatic views of the lake and Mt. Tallac, and the historic architecture, he added.
On the cultural side, enriching experiences abound. Options include Tallac Historic Site, where groups can gather for theater performances during the summer or hold events in the grand old Valhalla building, and the outdoor summer concert series at Harveys, an epic musical experience, according to Frye, especially with the backdrop of the mountains and lake.
“I continue to see more and more groups taking advantage of concerts there, and the lineup gets better every year,” he said. “It’s quite unique to see musicians like Sting and Peter Gabriel, who played last season, in such a dramatic setting.”