The Santa Monica of Lake Tahoe |

The Santa Monica of Lake Tahoe

Amanda Fehd
Doug Horton, bartender at the Zephyr Cove Resort Bar, tells tales of having a dream job at Lake Tahoe in Zephyr Cove on Thursday.

When someone asks Doug Horton for sex on Zephyr beach, he mixes up a concoction of vodka, melon liquor, Chambord and cranberry juice that’s as red as a Lake Tahoe sunburn.

Horton has been tending bar at Zephyr Cove Resort since 1988.

“The customers wear bikinis, the weather’s great, and we watch the sun set over Lake Tahoe every day. It’s tough,” Horton said with a laugh.

Host to MTV’s Beach House in 2004, the Nevada beach four miles north from Stateline on Highway 50 is known for its scantily clad young crowds, its volleyball nets, and its open alcohol policy. It’s the Santa Monica of Tahoe.

A cocktail waitress cruises the beach in a short jean skirt, a T-shirt and tennis shoes, her tray packed with Rum Rummers and Mai Tais. Forty yards from a crystal clear swim area, muscular, shirtless guys volley with bikini-clad gals.

“It’s kind of a hard-body beach, always has been,” Horton said.

People come to drink, tan and stare at Lake Tahoe all at once, but beachgoers usually remain well-behaved, according to Horton. The beach is popular with residents and tourists, families with toddlers, teens with hormones, and all in between.

Tim Coleman, 19, sophomore at University of Nevada, Reno, said Tahoe’s weather is hard to beat. He’s gone snowboarding at Heavenly Mountain Resort in the morning and by afternoon was on the beach “chilling and getting a tan.”

The draw for him? The scenery, both on and off the beach.

Bikini-clad Courtney Blann, 18, lay on a towel with her tummy to the sun Thursday. Born and raised in South Lake Tahoe, she has been coming to the spot all her life. It’s a great place to meet people and play volleyball, she said.

“It’s always packed, there’s always people my age, and there’s always something going on,” Blann said.

Zephyr Cove is just a small chunk of the public land that makes up almost 90 percent of the Lake Tahoe Basin. The U.S. Forest Service leases the area to concessionaire Aramark, which runs a restaurant, cabins, boat and jet ski rental, and provides tours on Lake Tahoe on the paddlewheeler M.S. Dixie. But for many, the resort offers the rare chance to sit on a beach and not be harassed for enjoying a cool drink.

“We both have stressful jobs,” said restaurant manager Sue Harms. “We came up here to get away from reality.”

She came to Tahoe with her husband Brad looking for refuge from the heat of Red Bluff, where the mercury hovers around 115 degrees nowadays.

“I’m just here to relax on the beach with a drink and enjoy the weather,” she said while sipping a Pina Colada on breezy 75-degree Thursday afternoon.

Waves lapped at the sand in front of her. Kids squealed on float toys in the water. Behind her, rows of bodies soaked up the sun’s rays.

It’s a tough life in Tahoe.

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