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Weekender: Truckee's Coming of Age

This charming old mountain town has gotten some major upgrades.

Snowkiting below Donner Pass

Snowkiting below Donner Pass

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Snowkiting below Donner Pass

Winter citrus dessert at Trokay

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Snowkiting below Donner Pass

Local shop Bespoke sells some quirky wares, many of them from local California artists

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Let’s talk about Truckee. Not the glamorously kitschy Base Camp Hotel in South Shore Tahoe. Not the soon-to-be completely redeveloped West Shore. Truckee. The historically crusty and slightly-redneck pioneer town has cleaned itself up in recent years—even starting to show up the rest of the Lake Tahoe region.

This weekend, instead of following the herds to the obvious go-to spots in Tahoe, veer from the ordinary and explore Truckee’s new off-the-beaten path adventures.

Tired of Tahoe’s crowded slopes? Try snowkiting in an alpine meadow tucked below Donner Pass. Snowkiting is one of the world’s fastest growing sports—snowboarding with a giant kite (think kiteboarding on land). It can be done down hills or across flat snow-packed meadows, and if the wind is blowing enough, you can even board up slopes. Sierra Snowkite offers lessons and free-rides on their 250 acre terrain park, and this season they’ve launched three-day camps in the backcountry. Conditions need to be near perfect for outings to happen, so be sure to check with them ahead of time.  

Mellow Fellow is the new go-to apres snowkite spot. An impressive list of rare beers flow from the tap and homemade local sausages keep patrons well-fed. Week nights are livened up with a trivia night (Mondays), late-night happy hour (Tuesdays, from 10pm-midnight), and open mic night (Wednesdays). The weekends need no excuses. 

Trokay is the kind of trendy refined restaurant that you’d expect in Manhattan. And yet it’s here, in Truckee. The new exposed wood digs are sleek and airy, a refreshing change from the small weathered buildings that line the rest of the main drag. Inspired techniques like transforming veal jus into paper-thin chips that look like filmstrips, and a simple plate of beets with emulsified almonds or treviso with tangerine “lace” and sunchokes make for adventurous but approachable dining. Hold out for the winter citrus dessert. 

Peddling goods, mostly from California artists, Bespoke is Truckee’s boutique shop that feels like an incarnation of Etsy. Ceramic kitchenware, literary California botany books, stationary, flasks, house wares, and cozy winter attire line the shelves.

The uber affordable and charmingly creaky Truckee Hotel has recently come back to life with remodeled rooms, right in downtown. The former stagecoach stop, which was built in 1873 and has been a hotel since 1976, almost feels like a haunted house, if not for the touches of new color and vibrant mod décor. Downstairs Moody’s Bistro hosts movie nights and live music regularly and has a cozy outdoor firepit. Rates start at $79.

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