Tahoe Meadows, which lies directly across the highway from the popular sledding hill, is a popular place to begin a number of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing routes. As such, the meadows are typically crowded throughout the winter. But many skiers and snowshoers limit their treks to the area near the highway or soon head into the trees for the climb to Chickadee Ridge, and those who continue heading through the meadow will find themselves in quiet and picturesque backcountry that feels much further than a mile away from the highway and parking area.
During the dry months, Ophir Creek is the drainage from the numerous springs and pools of Tahoe Meadows. During the winter the creek flows mostly beneath a solid base of snow, where the location of the creek is often only discernible by the contouring slopes of snow amongst the trees and bramble.
The gradual drop leads eventually to a sweeping view over the eastern edge of Washoe Lake, just before the trail becomes very steep, from which point on it should be reserved for advanced skiers and snowshoers.
There is no official trail when snow covers the meadows. Instead, there may be dozens of different tracks leading in all directions. Though the direction to Ophir Creek is clear: Just head south through the meadows and stick to the flat area, which soon funnels between Slide Mountain to the east and Peak 9225 to the west. The tracks tend to quickly disappear until only a few remain along the creek.
A trip to the first views of Washoe Lake makes about a 2.5-mile round trip trek, although skiers can alter their path to make it shorter or combine it with a trip into the forest or up to Chickadee Ridge or Peak 9225 to make it longer.
Though the meadow gives way to meandering small rolling hills, the general trend along the creek is downhill, so keep in mind that the return will have a slight elevation gain.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.