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The High Sierra is famous for its massive snowstorms dropping feet of snow overnight. In between these stormy cycles, the mountain range typically has long periods of sunny warm weather. Of course, you can ski to your heart’s content but what if you wanted to take a break? Or, what if the snow hasn’t showed up just yet? Well, here’s a few fun activities for those that are here in the late fall or winter that don’t ski.

For The Would-Be Olympians

Squaw Valley Olympic Museum High Camp
Image appears courtesy: Go Tahoe North

In Squaw Valley, skip the resort’s fabled steeps and instead ride the aerial tram to the top of the mountain’s newly revamped High Camp. Once up there, you have a few options to choose from. First, you can relax in the world’s most scenic hot tub. At 8,200 feet in elevation, you’ll soak up the views of Lake Tahoe and the rugged peaks surrounding the legendary resort. Or, you can take a trip back in time and learn about the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley. The recently renovated Olympic Museum, located at High Camp, showcases a unique collection of memorabilia, news articles and video presentations detailing the many magical moments that took place at Squaw Valley. Admission is free with your Aerial Tram ride.

For The Adrenaline Junkies

Less than an hour downhill from Mammoth Mountain lies the town of Bishop. We could list a thousand reasons why this small & attractive city rocks! It’s stunningly beautiful. The mountains are majestic. The high desert is surreal. The climate is wonderful, especially in winter. But most of all, you can rock climb all year-round.

Alabama Hills Lookout Bishop Visitor
Image appears courtesy: Bishop Visitor Center

The bouldering in Bishop is legendary. The volcanic rock in this area created channels, cracks and cave like underhangs that draw climbers sporting tank tops and t-shirts in winter (yes, it can be that warm) from all over the world to experience the Bishop Tuff for themselves. A little bit easier on the hands than the rock over at the nearby Buttermilks, the Happy and Sad Boulders offer more of a challenge for your muscles rather than your skin.

If you’re looking to rope up, and there’s no snow on the horizon, the 30+ Routes on the PSOM “Palisade School of Mountaineering Slab” Slabs at Pine Creek offer a granite runway for those looking to warm up on a sunny south face and get a little off the deck. Enjoy the view from this white granite with countless cracks, seams, and ledges. Most routes require a single 70m rope, some routes require two ropes for rappel.

Take A Hike For Amazing Sunset Views

Cave Rock Sunset
Image appears courtesy: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

Due to Lake Tahoe’s influence even on the snowiest periods, the east side of the lake’s snow can melt rather quickly. This means even after a day on the slopes at Heavenly Mountain, you can typically go for a short hike to Cave Rock. Tucked along the southeastern shore, this ancient dormant volcano provides arguably the best sunset views of Lake Tahoe. Offering a 180 degree view of the crystalline waters, the one mile round trip hike is perfect for those looking for a small but striking adventure. For more ideas like this, check out Tahoe South’s “Waiting For Snow” article.

No matter what the weather is, the High Sierra offers you a plethora of fun for everyone. This list provides perfect detours for those wanting to take a break from the slopes or if you’re waiting for the snow to fall.

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at

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