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Why a Covid-Cautious Family Spent the Holiday in Tahoe

We are far from the type to defy state recommendations against non-essential travel. Yet when we were offered the use of a large condo in Tahoe City for the holidays, we jumped at the chance, and stuck with the plan even when the Covid situation in California went from almost manageable to emergency level and a new stay-at-home order kicked in.

The reason behind this decision was simple. With our house in the middle of a construction project, we had nowhere to celebrate the holidays until a friend offered us use of a Tahoe City condo. If we stayed home, we’d be crowded into one room with no space for a Christmas tree, much less an oven to cook a Christmas dinner. In the condo, we were able to shelter in place comfortably.

We decided that relocating for two-to-three weeks wouldn’t be so much a “vacation” as a temporary change in residence, and we committed to sheltering in place in our temporary home. Before leaving, we isolated aggressively for three weeks, getting all groceries delivered and not seeing friends even in masked, outdoor settings. We all got screened for Covid during the week before we departed and received negative results. Once we arrived in Tahoe City, we avoided contact with anyone outside our household, placing pickup grocery orders and wearing masks even while out walking the dogs in the snowy woods.

I do understand that some people we respect would judge us harshly for this decision. I probably would have judged us harshly too if it hadn’t been us making the trip. I avoided posting on social media about our holiday sojourn, both to avoid encouraging others to follow our bad example and because I was just too cowardly to face up to criticism. At the same time, I do feel confident that we did everything we could to ensure that our presence didn’t have a negative impact on the Tahoe community, so I feel OK about having come here.


The only public places we visited were a few local stores to purchase last minute holiday gifts — I called ahead and purchased by phone when possible — and two ski resorts. In what seems like a paradoxical policy, the ski resorts vowed to remain open, and Gov. Gavin Newsom specifically mentioned skiing as one of the ways Californians are encouraged to enjoy the outdoors during the new lockdown.

Despite headlines and friends’ social media posts indicating that anyone who drove to Tahoe to ski was a villain, the North Lake Tahoe association stated: “General California state guidance indicates that travel of 2-3 hours to engage in outdoor recreation is well within the state guidelines.

We read about all the precautions ski resorts were taking — no indoor dining, limiting attendance — and decided to visit the Squaw and Northstar resorts for two days each.

In my next post, I’ll share what we found when we arrived at each resort, and how well Squaw and Northstar carried out the Covid precautions they had committed to.