Skiing Is Heavenly and More on Peaks around Lake Tahoe

By Stapen, Candyce H. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 27, 1996 | Go to article overview

Skiing Is Heavenly and More on Peaks around Lake Tahoe


Stapen, Candyce H., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Even such a cynic as Mark Twain couldn't help but be awed by Lake Tahoe. He praised this scenic alpine lake dividing California and Nevada with "I thought it must be the fairest picture the whole earth affords."

You and your kids will be amazed as well by the lake and the skiing. If gambling is a big, apres-ski draw, then base yourself on the South Shore as the casinos here are more numerous and glitzy than those on the North Shore. Two great family picks on the South Shore are Heavenly Ski Resort, Stateline, Nev., 800/2-HEAVEN and Sierra-at-Tahoe, Twin Bridges, Calif., 800/AT-TAHOE.

Heavenly, a 4,800-acre ski area spread across nine mountains, is big, straddling the state line with terrain in California and in Nevada. Heavenly is known for its gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe, tree skiing and abundant intermediate terrain. The resort also offers a well-designed children's ski and snowboard program. For first-time riders ages 8 and older, Heavenly offers Snowboard Adventure, a two-hour group lesson whose fees include board and boot rental plus a limited lift ticket. Those who are ages 4 to 12 who want to learn riding or skiing can sign up with Snow Explorers for a two-hour or a full-day session.

While Heavenly offers memorable views of Lake Tahoe, the area around the lake isn't scenic. The non-gambling California base leads into a sprawling pastiche of mini-strip malls and helter-skelter housing. Stateline, Nev., sports several blocks of big casinos such as Harrah's, Harveys and Caesars.

Some families forgo introducing their kids to the gambling culture and others like the handiness of headline entertainment as an unusual apres-ski plus. Many of the shows are kid-friendly. Frequent performers include Rosie O'Donnell, the Beach Boys, Reba McEntire and David Copperfield, who brings his own brand of magic.

A Heavenly welcome package, available at selected times, includes four nights' lodging, a daily breakfast buffet, three days of skiing, and a Heavenly logo headband for everyone. Fees are from $239 per adult, double occupancy. Children's rates are additional.

Located on 2,000 acres 12 miles west of South Lake Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe is far from small, but its low-key atmosphere and good snowboarding programs appeal to families. This area is a good pick if your clan includes beginners and/or young ones easily intimidated by bustling ski bases heavy with hot doggers. Catering more toward day than destination skiers, Sierra does not have its own lodging or any nightlife. For families staying in South Lake Tahoe for several days, Sierra-at-Tahoe is definitely worth a day-trip.

Sierra encourages riders, especially new ones, with its good riding program, a combination of an ample snowboard-only hill for first-timers, informative background information, plus good equipment and instructors.

For this season Sierra revamped its teaching strategy for First Tracks, its first-timers program for adults and for kids. New riders and skiers progress at their own pace through teaching stations. At each station you meet a different instructor who guides you through a basic skill. You take as long as you want learning to master stopping or other skills and not feel embarrassed because the rest of your group is impatient to move on.

The Wild Mountain Children's Center offers full- and half-day ski and riding lessons for ages 4 to 12. At the Dyno-Tykes Day Care, ages 2 to 5 enjoy snow play and indoor crafts from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For those 4- to 5-year-olds who want to sample skiing or riding, but not commit to a half or full day, they may add a lesson package to their day-care program. With 3-Ski, 3-year-olds in Dyno-Tykes may opt for a one-hour lesson packaged with their day care.

Lake Tahoe's North Shore has two great picks for families: Northstar-at-Tahoe, Truckee, Calif., 800/GO-NORTH; and Squaw Valley USA, Olympic Valley, Calif. …

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