Incline Village

“The Hyatt Regency is definitely the ‘heart’ of Incline Village,” says realtor Chris Plastiras, who has lived and worked in the area for over 30 years. Then he hypes his hyperbole: “And Incline Village is the ‘darling’ of Lake Tahoe.”

Sales pitch? Or honest observation? Let’s look closer.

Picture Lake Tahoe as a large and deep blue potato on a map; at its top, its very northernmost indentation, that’s where you’ll find Incline Village. Geographically, Incline is just across the California border; it’s an unincorporated community of Nevada’s Washoe County. The name Incline comes from an 1850s nearly vertical logging tram that led a mile up Diamond Peak (now a close-by ski slope). By 1884, Incline was a voting precinct with a fourth-class post office. Then a period of hibernation set in. No one knows for sure when “Village” was added: “it was just a natural appendage,” muses one local history buff.

In the 1920s and ’30s a few river-rock and wood-sided summer homes were built along Lakeshore Drive, but for the most part Incline Village escaped the frenetic billboard-driven commercial development that marked Lake Tahoe’s 1940s and ’50s. Then, in the late 1960s, with sound planning and reasonable architectural restrictions in place, resort construction began. (The Hyatt complex originally opened in the mid-1960s as the King’s Castle; Hyatt took over in 1976.)

At present, the town’s population ranges from at most 10,000 year-round residents to possibly five times that number during “the season.” And like all of Lake Tahoe, Incline Village has two seasons. Skiing rules from Thanksgiving Day to as late as Cinco de Mayo; summer hews to the traditional Memorial through Labor Day stretch.

Is this near-year-round schedule what makes the 422-room Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino the “heart” of the place? “That’s nice to hear and (it) does seem that way,” says Brad Mettler, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe’s director of sales. “Residents are always welcome to use our spa and casino; our six restaurants—like the Lone Eagle Grille and Ciao Mein Trattoria—are among the most popular in Incline Village; the Rotary Club meets in our banquet room and, I might add, those rooms are often the scene of local wedding receptions and birthday gatherings.” Though he didn’t mention it, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe is also by far the area’s largest employer.

As for residents’ recreation, Incline Village locals enjoy reduced lift rates at Diamond Peak, a family-friendly full-service ski resort 10 minutes beyond downtown. If golf is their hobby, Incline has two options: the par-72 Championship Course, which won the 2007 National Golf Course of the Year Award, and the par-58 Mountain Course, considered the locals’ favorite. For other forms of play, the Incline Village Recreation Center, owned by local homeowners, generally has it covered, with a fitness facility and tennis center as well as hiking, biking, yoga and ballroom dancing programs. It even has a drop-in childcare facility called Kid Zone.

If the active/athletic life doesn’t float your boat, downtown Incline Village awaits, with the clever boutiques, shops, and cafes of Raley’s Market Shopping Center and charming Christmas Tree Village. For dining, the top three favorites outside the hotel appear to be, in no particular order, T’s Mesquite Rotisserie, Austin’s and Le Bistro.

As for real estate, the area’s least expensive property recently sold was “a 1,000-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath home, in need of TLC, on a quarter of an acre lot that went for $640,000,” says Plastiras, owner of Lakeshore Realty. “The area’s median price for a single-family detached home is $1,187,000.” From there, “for a nicer, newer, larger home with a view of the lake on, say, a half-acre, the price quickly gets into the $3 and $4 million range.

“But it’s worth it,” he adds. “You’re living in a mountain resort environment, and they don’t come any better than Incline Village. Yet the Reno-Tahoe International Airport is just 45 minutes away.”