After ringing in the new year, we packed our bags again and this time, drove up north to spend a few days in snowy Lake Tahoe with my cousins from Puerto Rico!
Since Puerto Rico is hot and humid pretty much all year round, my cousins were super excited to head up to the mountains with us for what would be their coldest winter in memory!
The drive up to Lake Tahoe was rough, even more challenging than last time when we got stuck. We got hit with so much rain this winter that the amount of snow up in Lake Tahoe was nearly record high. On this short 3 day trip, we experienced some of the scariest conditions that we’ve ever been in, but praise God, we all managed to survive with nothing more than a few scratches and bruises….
We left San Francisco in the wee hours of the morning, and it took us a good 6 hours to get to Lake Tahoe. We headed straight to Boreal ski resort for their tubing, but it felt like a total blizzard when we got out of the car. Only my teenage cousins were crazy enough to brave those conditions. Everyone else stayed in the cafeteria to wait for them. I wanted to help them take photos so I tried to brave the blizzard too but my fingers nearly froze after being out of my gloves for just 30 seconds. It was crazy cold.
After 1.5 hours of tubing, my cousins were ready to call it quits too as they were literally freezing their buns off. We made a quick stop at the grocery store and then arrived to our warm and comfy Airbnb in the late afternoon. Determined to not leave the warmth of our fireplace and heater for the evening, we stayed in to cook and dine at our Airbnb. It was an excellent decision as the blizzard never let up, even when we were ready to hit the sack that night!
After a restful night, we woke up the next day to this magical scene right in our back porch which led out to the woods…
A steady snowfall was in place, and the beautiful blanket of snow was truly mesmerizing. The kids were quick to put on their snow boots right away, and ran outside to make snow angels, snowmen, and ofcourse, to start a snowball fight! As for me, I couldn’t grab my camera fast enough to document the magical scene in front of me!
After a fun morning in our backyard, we drove to Northstar to get our gear on for a day on the slopes! Even though it was my cousins’ first time on the slopes, we decided it’d be faster for Alan and I to teach them rather than for them to go through a whole day of class. They also wanted to stick together with us, so we all started off on the bunny slopes before lunch. Everyone learned pretty quickly, and after our lunch break, we felt comfortable enough to elevate up to the green slopes.
My cousins, as well as Bridgette, got the hang of the green slopes pretty well and by mid-afternoon, they were able to ski the entire route without falling at all. Young kids really learn very quickly, especially when you let them learn by trial and error!
We were lucky that the weather pulled through for most of the day. There was light snowfall throughout, but for the most part, wind was low and the temperature was not unbearably cold. The snowfall started to pick up right around closing time. With just 15 minutes left, Alan suggested we take a different lift up to a different slope, since the kids seemed to have mastered the green slope. I wasn’t so sure, but Alan reassured me the slope he had in mind was simply a longer (not steeper) version of the green slope that we had spent all afternoon on. Since my cousins and Bridgette were all pretty keen on this last adventure, I gave in, and together, we made out way to the next lift for our final ascent to the slopes.
Half way into the lift ride, I began to regret our decision. As we ascended higher and higher, the visibility grew worse and worse. Ofcourse, the temperature also began to drop at an alarming rate too. My cousins started to feel anxious as well and kept asking when the lift will arrive. I had no idea as it seemed like the lift just kept going, and going….and going.
After what felt like eternity, our lift finally arrived. I honestly don’t recall what the elevation was at that point but it must have been really high because it was absolutely freezing. I asked the lift operator to point us in the direction of the green slope. He looked at me annoyingly and said “there are no green slopes up here! You need to read the signs before you get on a lift!”
I struggled between having a full blown panic attack or killing Alan immediately. I did neither. Instead, I forced myself to remain calm since my cousins were growing more terrified by the minute and Bridgette was beginning to cry from the realization that we were in a pretty screwed up situation. Knowing that we were losing light at a very fast pace, and that our visibility would only grow worse by the minute, I told Alan we needed to split up. He was to stay with Bridgette to help her get down, and I would stay with my cousins. I gave a quick pep talk to my cousins, teaching them to do large zig zags down the mountain, and then they were off.
Steven, who was on a snowboard, sped off faster than I could tell him to wait up, which worried me greatly. My attention shifted to the 2 girls, as they tried hard to zig zag but couldn’t stop themselves from picking up speed too quickly. Every time they picked up speed I screamed for them to just do a fall landing so they wouldn’t run into any trees (visibility was seriously AWFUL) and luckily, they were able to do just that. However, at our pace, I feared that darkness would fall upon us before we were halfway down. I started praying intensely for God to show me what to do.
About 15 minutes into it, we saw a staff member from the resort coming up in a snow mobile doing his final rounds before closing down the place. I frantically waved him down and begged him to take the girls to the bottom in the snowmobile. Thank God he agreed, though he could only take one at a time, so he took Serena first and I waited with Katherine until he returned for her. I told him that my husband and daughter were still further up and asked if he would try to locate and help them as well. He agreed to drive back up after dropping Katherine off. By then, darkness had pretty much fallen on us and I could barely see 2 inches in front of me. Still, I felt comforted to know the girls were safely at the bottom and that help would be on the way for Alan and Bridgette. I continued praying as I skied down, and finally felt the fear lifted inside me. Once I arrived at the bottom, I was relief to see Steven, Serena, and Katherine waiting for me. Steven told us he basically rolled down since it was impossible for him to stay up on his board in those conditions. I was so, so thankful he made it!
It took almost another 15-20 minutes until the staff confirmed they found Alan and Bridgette. I had never felt so happy as I did when I saw the snowmobile reappearing, with Bridgette strapped down on a sled behind it. We were all reunited, and unhurt!! What a miracle!!!! Praise God!!!!
After that crazy ordeal, we spent the rest of our trip pretty much cooped up (comfortably and cozily) inside our cabin. We played board games, cooked, watched movies, and admired the beauty of the snowfall from the warmth of our living room.
The day we departed, it cleared up, and we were able to take more gorgeous photos right outside our cabin.
This trip will definitely be a core memory for all of us. I’m so thankful God kept us safe despite the circumstances, and now, Steven and Serena will have a great story to tell when they go off to college later this year! 🙂