You might think that by driving 3000 miles we would have made an effort to get out of the bad weather, but today we are in the Sierra mountains surrounded by five feet of snow, as more snow silently sifts through the pine trees and down on our Van. 

But, good news, we are not staying in the van! Van-go (as we now refer to it) is parked in front of a cozy cabin a short drive from Truckee, California and the Palisades ski area (formerly Squaw Valley and the Olympic Village of 1960).  Palisades is one of the many ski areas that surround Lake Tahoe, a huge alpine lake on the border of Nevada and California.  Our cabin is a seventies style pseudo-chalet structure with harvest gold accents: sinks made of plastic with embedded  sparkles, fake dark wood paneling, bunk-beds and an excellent wood stove.  We can’t wreck it and we feel right at home!  It is in a compound of 5000-like houses called the Tahoe-Donner Home  Association.   Every weekend in the winter our son Stoddard and 14 of his 20-something friends share this place, but it is school vacation week in California and none of his young friends wants to deal with the crowds and the black-out dates on their Ikon ski-passes.  They are very kind to let us stay here, and it means we can see Stod, his girlfriend Kira, and Isabel our Boston-based school teacher daughter (who is visiting her brother for HER school vacation week) when they come up tomorrow.

We have had some fun skiing; warm, sunny-soft conditions on a big base, but no new snow last week since New Year’s. HOWEVER… it is snowing!! James can barely contain himself as he finishes his work on East coast time.. he wants to be in the powder, with the bonus of lowering the per-day cost of his Ikon pass. Skiing here is so much fun.. big wide vistas, huge runs, endless mountains and relatively warm, compared to New England, conditions.  Ok Stod, you may have a point about California.  

It also has been a good place to perch so I can get some work done. I am taking an intensive ZOOM color class from master colorist, David Hornung, the guy who wrote the book that I teach from, and I needed to be in a place where all my supplies will not blow away.  This is perfect.  James and I wake up at 5 AM together and get to work.

This weekend we drove half-way around Lake Tahoe.  We saw some of the villages that surround the lake, the beaches and other ski areas that surround this emerald expanse of water. The second deepest alpine lake in the US, Lake Tahoe is popular in the summer. I imagine it must be very pleasant in our shady, currently snowy dell, an escape from the steamy central valley and foggy San Francisco.  This is what Lora Josephine Knight thought in 1928 when she hired the architect Lennert Palme to build her a Scandinavian-style summer home in stunning Emerald Bay.  It is called Vikingsholm, an exquisite castle-like manse hand-hewn from local materials now on state land.  We walked down to it from a crowded parking lot above Emerald Bay last weekend with our crampons and felt like we were in Sweden. This is what the houses at Tahoe-Donner wished they looked like.

I have to wrap this up. Today is trash day at the cabin.  I have to dig through the snow to get the trash and recycling out to the Bear Box in front of the house.  Recycling goes in a blue trash bag I recognize from last week.  There seem to be none of them in the house.  When I called the nice lady at the Tahoe-Donner member services office she was very patient.  “No, we don’t have those blue bags, you can buy them at Safeway, or Ace Hardware”.  Ok, so that is a California trash thing I didn’t know about.  The Bear thing is also new.  The Bear Box is a welded box that sits at the end of the driveway in every house in the area.  It has a door with a square lock and key mechanism that I guess the bears have not mastered yet.  And yet… I’m still confused….everyone stuck their trash out in the street last week. What about the bears??!!  

Oh right, they are hibernating.

I think.

I will let you know next time.

Studio in the snow


Palisades Ski Area


Van-Go and the Bear Box


Lake Tahoe from Incline Village


Vikingsholm, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe