Just a few things to add...
Sierra is 35-40 minutes from Heavenly gondola (someone mentioned 15-20). It is a really fun mountain for powder and groomer/park days, and it seems pretty easy to find lift ticket deals.
Kirkwood is awesome, but only on powder days or if it has snowed recently. Keep in mind that Tahoe gets huge storms then 1-2 weeks of sunshine. Mountains like Heavenly and Northstar take way better care of their groomers and parks than Kirkwood. On any given day Kirkwood can be a block of ice while Heavenly feels like a dream. So base your decisions on weather and conditions.
Lastly, I live in South Lake and it's paradise to me. The population of South Lake is 10 times the 2nd biggest town (Tahoe City), so naturally there will be a few more noticeable dirtbags. Also the casinos are much larger, and where there are casinos, there will be a few weirdlies (as my father in law calls them). But the majority of people here are amazing and inspiring and outdoor enthusiasts just like me and you. The lack of modernization is a result of environmental laws against development (to protect the lake), and that's a good thing. Perspective is a funny thing. It's Lake Tahoe... it's the most beautiful place in the country in my opinion. If you travel here and fixate on anything negative, that has more to do with you and less to do with Tahoe.
Any nice dining/non casino food? I'm not real big on eating in Casinos seeing as how I grew up around them. So help a brother out haha.