Magazine article Sunset

Shortcut to Nordic Skiing

Magazine article Sunset

Shortcut to Nordic Skiing

Article excerpt

Cross-country skiers are turning off the road to Tahoe to ski at Donner Summit

Come the weekend, long lines of cars topped with ski racks roll over Donner Summit in a bumper-to-bumper procession that often means another hour or more to Lake Tahoe's north shore. While downhill skiers may be justified in pushing on to the Tahoe Basin, a growing number of cross-country skiers from the Bay Area and Central Valley are turning off Interstate 80 near the summit to enjoy some of the most scenic nordic skiing in the region.

Aside from being as much as an hour closer to home, the area has sheltered valleys and woodlands beneath high peaks that tend to hold snow even in dry winters. The best beginner and recreational skiing in the summit area is on groomed trails, but there are several good trail systems on public lands you can try on your own.

SUMMIT SKIING

About an hour east of Sacramento, the first groomed skiing you come to is just off the Yuba Gap exit, at Eagle Mountain X-Country Ski Area (800/391-2254), which has 75 kilometers of groomed trails. The 15-kilometer climb to the top of Cisco Butte rewards you with a 360 [degrees] vista. Weekend day passes cost $15, $10 ages 7 through 12.

The Soda Springs exit is 13 miles farther east. This area is known for its nordic skiing, in no small part because it's the base for Royal Gorge (916/426-3871), which bills itself as North America's largest cross-country ski area. The resort's 328 kilometers of groomed track offer sweeping Sierra views from three different mountain-ringing trail systems. …

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