Lovely weather for a sleigh ride together

Montana waits patiently. | Katherine E. Hill

Panoramic views abound at Sand Harbor Nevada State Park and it is one of the best places to drink in the beauty of Lake Tahoe. In the winter, the landscape changes with the cold weather, which adds to the allure, and the best way to experience this is to take a horse-drawn sleigh ride with Borges Sleigh and Carriage Rides.

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In 1967, Sam Borges and his sons started giving sleigh rides to their neighbors in South Lake Tahoe. In 1969, Borges created his company so he could share his love for the beauty of Tahoe. For the last 25 years, the company has been operated by Sam’s youngest son, Dwight, and wife Diana Maria.

Montana, led by Freddie Foster, drives a sleigh ride at Sand Harbor State Park. | Katherine E. Hill

I knew a sleigh ride would be something I and my son Anikin would enjoy. I made a reservation over the phone with Diana Borges, who explained that if the weather turned out to be bad, the tour could be canceled. Luckily, the day of our trip is sunny with little wind. It is warm for a winter day, but we are wearing warm layers in case the temperature changes or the wind picks up.

The sleigh stops at the beach and as Anikin climbs on boulders at the edge of the water, I take in the incredible view. … it is just us and the serenity of this breathtaking mountain setting.

We arrive at Sand Harbor, pay our park fee and find convenient parking next to the horse and carriage staging area. While I am signing us in at the office, Anikin and my sister Kat Hill meet our sleigh driver Freddie Foster and our horse Montana, a beautiful blonde Belgian draft horse. Foster teaches Anikin how to give Montana treats with his palm flat and open.

After introductions are over, we load up in the back seat of the sleigh. The sleigh has wheels and Foster explains that they need more snow to use the runners. The sleigh pulls away from the staging area; we head south along the boardwalk that parallels the shore. We stop at the south end of the park to take pictures and let Anikin play in the sand, which is clear of snow. Carefree and happy, he is delighted to dig around.

We climb back on, but this time Anikin takes Foster up on his offer to let him drive. With Freddie’s instruction, Anikin takes control of the reigns and drives our sleigh. While Anikin is in the driver’s seat, Foster explains that Montana gets distracted easily and sometimes needs a little encouragement, that he is not afraid of bears or coyotes, but he is terrified of gray squirrels.

Anikin Allen enjoys playing in the sand at Sand Harbor, even if it is winter. | Katherine E. Hill

Anikin’s driving lesson is over and Foster turns the sleigh around. We head south back past the staging area and continue to the north end of the park. The sleigh stops at the beach and as Anikin climbs on boulders at the edge of the water, I take in the incredible view. On warm summer days, the beaches here are packed with water lovers and sun seekers. But on this day, the beaches are deserted. It is a stark contrast to the busy energy of summer activity — it is just us and the serenity of this breathtaking mountain setting.

Marveling at the winter beauty of Lake Tahoe. | Katherine E. Hill

Borges Sleigh Rides at Sand Harbor are offered from November to March, whether there is snow or not. Rates are $50 for adults and $20 for children for a private, 45-minute tour or $25 for adults and $10 for children for a 20-minute tour. There is a $10 parking fee to Sand Harbor Nevada State Park. Borges Sleigh Rides also offer summer carriage rides and for special events, such as weddings or parties. | (775) 588-2953, sleighride.com