Luxury ski lodging: Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe review

We’ve skied Northstar many times, each time opting for different accommodations. We’ve stayed in home rentals, in a condo at the Village at Northstar, and in a Northstar townhouse. Every time we visit, however, we look at the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe, perched at mid-mountain like an elegant fortress, with longing.

Ski In Ski Out

 

Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe review:

We’ve enjoyed meals at the Ritz Carlton (anyone can stop in mid-ski day for lunch at Backyard BBQ or Manzanita), but last spring, we stayed overnight for the first time. During our two-night stay, we attempted to do it all: we checked out all the amenities, ate on-site, had a treatment in the spa, swam in the pools, and, of course, skied.

What you can expect from a Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe stay:

In a word: ambiance. When you stay at the Ritz, you will be transported to a beautiful world of roaring fireplaces, elegant woodwork, charming fire pits with comfy couches and s’mores, views of towering pines and ski slopes…you’ll be fully in the mountain retreat atmosphere.

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You can also expect convenience and luxury. When you arrive, the valet will whisk all your things away immediately, transporting them all to your room without your lifting a finger. Ditto for your skis, boots, and gear. When you’re ready to ski, the ski concierge desk will have your boots ready, and the team outside at the ‘ski beach’ will have your skis awaiting you. When you return from your ski day, you’ll be greeted and your gear will be taken from you immediately. If you need lessons for the kids, their instructors will pick them up right at the Ritz, and you can enroll them in Ritz Kids as well (if you need full day care).

Everywhere you go, you’ll be treated with the best in guest service. My family and I couldn’t sit down at the pool or walk through the Living Room (lobby area) without someone asking after us, inquiring about our day, or offering their help. Once you check-in, there’s no need for your car…you can take the Highlands gondola directly from the Ritz to the Village at Northstar, and there are several dining options and gear stores right on property.

A few of our favorite winter amenities:

  • The ski concierge service: this was such a treat. Not having to lug skis or boots anywhere felt amazing. The Ritz is directly at mid-mountain by the Big Easy chair, so it’s completely ski-in, ski-out. Read our review of Northstar California.
  • Marsh-ology: Every day at 4:30 pm, a Ritz Carlton chef comes out on the deck by the fire pits overlooking the ski slopes and assists kids (and adults) in the art of the perfect s’more. House-made marshmallows are handed out with roasting sticks, and kids create their own treats.

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  • Spa: As you can imagine, the spa is fantastic. If you book a treatment, be sure to go early to enjoy the steam room or sauna; there’s an entire wet spa room, which also has an indoor hot tub. Afterward, sit by the private outdoor pool (for spa guests only) in nice weather. In the relaxation room, you’ll find refreshing fruit-infused water, tea, and nuts and dried fruits.

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  • Swimming pool: One outdoor pool and two hot tubs are located right next to the snow. The atmosphere is wonderful. There are also saunas near the exercise facility, and a separate pool for spa guests. There’s poolside service out on the deck.
  • Arcade: Our tween loved the arcade. Frankly, I was surprised to even find an arcade at the Ritz Carlton (doesn’t seem too ritzy to me) but he ended up spending significant time there. And it grew on me when I saw that they offer free popcorn and have an area with comfy chairs for movie-watching.

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What will not be included in your room rate:

If you stay at luxury hotels, you know the drill: sometimes, a higher room rate means less comes included. This is true at the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe, too. Valet parking is required, and will cost $39/night. There’s simply no other place to park on this part of the mountain, and the upside is that no one has to look at a big sprawling parking lot.

Valet parking is not unusual at a luxury hotel, but there’s also a resort fee of $30/night, which is a little harder to swallow. This covers in-room WiFi, which is also commonly missing in luxury hotels, but still. It’s frustrating. Why don’t we all live in a world of free hotel WiFi yet?

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Our room was very comfortable and nicely appointed, but I do wish it included a mini-fridge in addition (or instead?) of an honor bar. I think all families want a mini-fridge at any hotel.

Dining at Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe:

So since you don’t have a mini fridge for storing food, what and where will you eat? You won’t be left wanting. Cafe Blue serves quick-service breakfast items and some lunch things, and the Backyard BBQ serves a causal (though expensive) lunch and apres ski. Our game plan: we ate one meal at Manzanita (more on that below), and divided the rest of our meals between the light fare  at The Living Room, which has craft cocktails, appetizers, soups and salads, and a few specialties, and the village (just a gondola ride away).

Manzanita is Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe’s signature dining experience, and well worth booking for at least one meal. Families can eat out on the deck at lunch, or in the beautiful dining room at lunch or dinner. We had impeccable service from our server Natasha last spring, which really made our meal. Our tween loved her lessons in napkin folding, and we loved the attention she gave our table. Not only were we well-taken care of, but the appetizers especially were amazing. Try the Brussel sprouts if they’re still on the (ever-changing) menu. As noted above, there are also multiple dining options just a gondola ride away at the Village at Northstar. We love the pizza and the sushi options there.

dining-at-manzanita

Because I take issue with paying a lot for breakfast when all my kids want is cereal, we still brought cereal bars and oatmeal to make in our room, even without a fridge. I realize this practice doesn’t jive with the luxury hotel experience, but families should always do what works for them. Quick, easy breakfasts in our room is our thing. There’s a coffee maker and coffee service, so it was easy to prepare.

Room rates:

Rates are up there at the Ritz Carlton, of course, and whether the cost will be worth it to your family will depend on how important the experience of a stay is to you…remember, it’s all about the ambiance. Keep in mind that rates will be lower in the shoulder seasons: try a late spring stay like we had, when you can still ski but also enjoy some sunshine, or try a fall visit. During our stay, rates went as low as $249 to an average around $500/night. It’s worth noting that families can upgrade to Club Level, which grants them access to five food presentations per day. If you plan to eat many meals on-site, this upgrade may pay for itself.

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Directions:

The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe is located at Northstar California ski resort on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. Follow directional signs from the Northstar entrance, or input this address to a GPS system: 13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Court, Truckee CA.

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Disclosure: We spent two nights at Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe as guests of the resort, for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

Photo credit: Amy Whitley and Ritz Carlton

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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