Winter Wonderland: Serene Lakes, CA

Taylor Follett/Staff
Taylor Follett/Staff

When it comes up that I have a cabin, I usually say it’s in Tahoe. Those familiar with the area will ask where in Tahoe, and I’ll backtrack slightly and explain that it’s more like Donner Summit, near Sugarbowl. Sometimes people will ask for even more details, and I’ll narrow the little circle down further and further until it settles on a sleepy little community near Soda Springs Ski Resort, known as Serene Lakes.

Taylor Follett/Staff

Serene Lakes (from Donner Ski Trail)

It’s a fairly isolated little place — the nearest grocery store is actually a tiny general store about three miles away, and that’s the closest thing to civilization for 20 miles. We don’t, however, get the same tourism pouring in as Lake Tahoe, or even Donner, and we have a fairly friendly community with lakes that freeze over in the winter, unlike the larger ones.

Taylor Follett/Staff

Soda Springs General Store

This weekend, I brought my two best friends from UC Berkeley to see the massive amount of snow. Even I was surprised, though, when we were able to bypass the stairs off of my back deck and step directly over the railing onto the snowbank. We haven’t seen this much snow in Serene Lakes since 2011, so it was pretty exciting, to say the least. The snow was up to our knees — or in the case of my shorter friend, waist —and incredibly powdery.

Taylor Follett/Staff

The back deck

We started the weekend off by sledding down into a frozen river and getting completely covered in snow. This is a common sled run for us, definitely the easiest to make. A seasoned sledder such as myself is unfortunately aware that powdery snow is possibly the worst type of snow to sled on, so we ended up getting more snow in our pants than speed on the run itself. This naturally devolved into an attempt at a snowball fight, something else that’s nearly impossible with powdery snow.

Taylor Follett/Staff

Taylor Follett/Staff

The cabin itself is right on the edge of Tahoe National Forest, and the Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski trails are essentially in our backyard. The trails are great for a winter walk or the start for a particularly ambitious sled run. In this case, we had to chase my family’s dog down the trail to stop her from running off and following a cross country skier. Oops.

Our first excursion outside ended with the snow flying so hard that we couldn’t turn in one direction without getting pelted by snowflakes, so we rushed back to the shelter of the cabin for some fondue and hot cocoa.

Taylor Follett/Staff

Taylor Follett/Staff

Later, we decided to walk on the roads to the lake, clamber up a snowbank and wade through the snow until we were standing on the lake. For a newcomer, the lake may have been easy to miss. Any memory of water was completely covered by five or more feet of snow. The logical step in this situation was to push each other over and make snow angels, which is exactly what we preceded to do.

Of course, my friends needed to have the quintessential winter experience of digging someone out of snow, so I obliged. In other words, I got stuck in the snow on our way back from the lake and needed help getting back out. When one thinks, “I’m going to Tahoe this weekend,” they probably don’t picture frantically yanking a boot out of a very small hole while their friend lays next to them on a snowbank with a bare foot in the air, but that actually tends to happen more often than you would think. Or, at least, it does to me.

Taylor Follett/Staff

Lake Serena

Of course, the snow experience is incomplete without building a snowman. Never the type to go halfway, my friends built a snowman in the driveway while I repeatedly sledded down it. There are only so many snowmen you can build in your life.

Taylor Follett/Staff

Taylor Follett/Staff

While Tahoe is beautiful and huge, the peaceful snowfall and ginormous snowbanks of Serene Lakes provide more of a winter wonderland than King’s Beach, Incline or Heavenly can ever offer.

Taylor Follett/Staff

Taylor Follett/Staff

Contact Taylor Follett at [email protected].