Tahoe is the winter paradise that haunts many an office worker in the Bay Area. The exhilaration of flying down the hill, the thrill of successfully landing a jump or velvet turns through waist deep trigger both adrenaline and endorphins for the mountain obsessed. The big downside is almost as memorable journey between home and hill.

  • For a couple, flying costs roughly $24/hour saved versus driving, or $131/weekend
  • Sometimes focusing on the fun can be better than actually doing the math

Most people make the drive, spending almost a quarter of the weekend en route to alpine adventure. Living in San Francisco, a typical drive to Squaw Valley takes around nine and a half hours round-trip, and costs about $50 for gas+tolls. The going price to park a car in San Francisco is $300/month, so let’s attribute an extra $100 for parking to get $150 round trip.   Whether a car is full, or empty, the cost is about the same.

Southwest recently announced flights between Oakland and Reno; purchased far in advance tickets cost around $60 each way per person. Parking is abundant and nearly free in Reno, and is so expensive in San Francisco, it makes sense to move a car to Reno for the winter. As an Uber Pool costs around $40 round-trip to Oakland airport from San Francisco, the out of pocket cost to fly is $200 round trip.

Now—just by dollars it probably makes sense to drive. But in a world where time means money, perspectives change; Travel time flying averages six and a half hours round-trip. Driving? It averages more like nine and a half hours. The question this begs is whether it makes sense to spend an extra $50 to save three hours of time. $50/three hours equals about minimum wage per hour.

Everyone has their own math. Snow sports are expensive, especially if done for just a weekend. Work schedule, car risk, and where to stay matter, too. Driving is clearly more stressful, especially for those of us with PreCheck or Global Entry. Either way for dedicated athletes time on the mountain is a great value!

To do your own math, click on the image below and use the Odge-enhanced spreadsheet with your own numbers.

Current Drive Time (in hours) to Tahoe from:

Googleplex5.56
AT&T Park4.66
Reno Airport1.22