Walk into High Altitude Fitness in Incline Village and you are immediately struck by how un-gym-like it feels. The cozy lobby, where members sit in leather armchairs with their laptops by a roaring fireplace (the lobby has free Wi-Fi), makes you question if you have wandered into a hotel or café by accident. That is, until you gaze out the lobby’s large internal windows, which overlook a two-story climbing wall with 3,800-vertical feet of climbing routes.

In 2006, High Altitude Fitness transformed the old Incline Athletic Club into one of Tahoe’s premier gyms, with the North Shore’s largest selection of free weights and weighted machines, as well as a wide selection of group fitness classes. But it is the climbing wall — the largest of its kind around the lake — that sets this fitness club apart from its competition and has turned High Altitude into a hub for Tahoe climbers.


It shows that the owner of High Altitude Fitness, Jason Burd, has a passion for climbing. Burd grew up climbing in Colorado and later moved to Tahoe.

“It was always his dream to provide an all-season space for people to come and climb,” said General Manager Heather Brown.

Burd’s dream has been accomplished. The climbing gym, which replaced three racket-ball courts in 2008, has more than 80 routes ranging in rating from 5.7 to 5.12, each one signified by colored holds. An auto-belay system allows climbers to attempt a 32-foot wall without a partner. (Climbers must be certified to belay, which they can do at the gym.) There is also a boulder wall and lead wall. During peak seasons, the gym changes the routes every six weeks, and often has pro climbers, like Jason Kehl in September, set routes and hold clinics. There are other signs that this is not your typical gym. On walls throughout the 13,000 square foot facility are campus boards, which climbers can use to practice holds and gain finger strength, and the gym’s store rents climbing shoes, harnesses, and chalk bags.

“It’s where we want it to go — to be an outlet where climbers get together, meet one another, plan trips, and offer guiding,” Brown said. “This is their area to stay fit and in climbing shape.”

After working up a sweat, climbers can enjoy beer, wine, a latte, or a smoothie like the Boulder Berry or Citrus Summit in the lobby.

“Climbers can be here three to four hours and then grab a PBR for $2,” Brown said.

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