Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Good Skiing? Bet on It

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Good Skiing? Bet on It

Article excerpt

THE SCENERY and year-round outdoor and indoor activities earned this area Rand McNally's rating as America's "No. 1 place for outdoor fun."

Mark Twain once dubbed the scenery, "The fairest picture the whole earth affords."

And billboards that appeared recently around St. Louis show an ace/king card combination (blackjack) with two ski poles piercing the cards. The headline reads, "Make money on your next ski trip." The place? The Reno/Lake Tahoe area on the Northern Nevada/California border, on the scenic eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The area has been thrilling visitors with world-class skiing, casino games and year-round outdoor recreation for years. But even if you don't want to try your luck at the gaming tables after a day on the slopes, Lake Tahoe is a great place for bargains on ski/hotel packages, which often include low air fares as well. The major ski season starts in mid-November and concludes in May, but two resorts offered skiing through July 4 for a 241-day ski season. Two national travel surveys earlier this year placed Lake Tahoe at the top of the list for popularity and affordability. Travel agents dubbed Lake Tahoe the most often booked ski/snow destination, in a survey conducted by the American Society of Travel Agents. And in a separate survey, Aviation Daily, a leading aviation newsletter, listed the Reno/Tahoe International Airport as having some of the lowest air fares in the United States on the 10 airlines servicing the area. We certainly can attest to the low fares. We booked an America West package for early spring for $169 for round-trip air fare from Reno to St. Louis, plus three nights' accommodations at the Flamingo Hilton in Reno. That same fare was offered in an ad last month. A 45-minute drive from the Reno airport brings you to the first of the 15 alpine ski resorts and five cross-country ski resorts at Tahoe, which offers 27,000 acres of skiing. Tahoe's concentration of Alpine ski resorts, with 182 ski trails, is the largest in North America. And you can ski at many of the resorts with an interchangeable ski pass. The terrain around crystal-clear Lake Tahoe ranges from gentle bowls to scary chutes and some of the longest vertical drops in the country. Most resorts offer discounted beginners' packages, which include lift tickets, ski rental and skiing lessons. And Lake Tahoe resorts offer many types of skiing: downhill, cross-country and snowboarding. If you don't ski, you can choose from other winter activities: snowmobiles, sleigh rides, ice skating, sledding, dog sled tours, bungee jumping and hot-air balloon rides. Hotel rates are at their lowest in winter, considered by some to be the off-season for Lake Tahoe. Summer is considered the peak time, when the relatively cool temperatures make many outdoor sports attractive in the arid climate. The majority of the snow falls from December through February, with the Tahoe Basin getting an average 55 feet of snow. The snow is famous for its rare crystalline structure. The ski resort at Heavenly has the longest run - 5 1/2 miles - and the greatest vertical drop - 3,500 feet. Most of the ski resorts ring the 22-mile-long Lake Tahoe, which is 12 miles wide and 72 miles around. At its deepest point, the lake is 1,645 feet. The lake's water changes in color from green to azure blue in mid-summer to charcoal gray in winter storms. Even though the winter months feature the largest concentration of skiers, spring skiing has become quite popular in Tahoe. Locals label a type of slushy white stuff as corn snow, a perfect balance of refrozen granular sun-baked snow that forms soft crystals of smooth snow atop a frozen base. Corn snow may last an hour or two; when it resembles mashed potatoes, skiers move on. On the north shore of Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley USA, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics and a favorite of celebrities, competes with Alpine Meadows and Northstar-at-Tahoe for skiers. …

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