Mirror Travel: Ta-Lly -Hoe!; Skiing Novice Jo Layton Tackles Lake Tahoe and Finds It Simply Heavenly

The Mirror (London, England), January 6, 2001 | Go to article overview

Mirror Travel: Ta-Lly -Hoe!; Skiing Novice Jo Layton Tackles Lake Tahoe and Finds It Simply Heavenly


Byline: Jo Layton

IT FELT like I was standing at the top of the world. I was 9,000ft above sea level, knee deep in fresh, powdery snow and surrounded by trees at the top of the Lake Tahoe Basin. On one side I was looking across the arid vastness of the Nevada Desert and on the other the lush beauty of California's Lake Tahoe. The views were breathtaking. On this particular morning I'd been given the choice of another day's learning to ski or the chance to drive a Ski-doo snowmobile up into the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

No contest, I thought - my legs were aching and my feet cried out for a rest from those boots, so the snowmobile won hands down. Little did I know how exhausting this would be, too.

Zephyr Cove Snowmobile Centre, the largest of its kind in the United States, is situated just four miles into Nevada from the stateline.

You can choose from single or double rider machines. I chose a single as I was told snowmobile touring requires more good judgment than raw strength. Apart from the usual ski wear you will also need strong boots and a crash helmet, but Zephyr Cove can provide you with everything.

The two-hour tours run daily and begin with a brief orientation of riding and safety basics to get you ready to go. Once these were covered we were off zig- zagging through dense forests, into mountain meadows and along ridge lines. We did make a couple of scheduled stops for the usual Kodak moments and also for a much appreciated hot chocolate. It was cold up there.

A standard two-hour ride costs $89 (pounds 60) for a single rider and $124 for double riders.

The main reason for my being in California was that I was a virgin skier who was going to be taught how to slalom downhill at the Heavenly Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe.

I'm not sure if they named the resort Heavenly because it really was heavenly or if it had something to do with the tops of the mountains disappearing into the heavens. Heavenly is a resort of extraordinary contrasts: from the top of the Sky Express chair lift you can turn left to ski in Nevada or turn right to the Californian side.

I was booked on a Learn To Ski 1-2-3 package with Heavenly's Perfect Turn. The programme includes three 13/4-hour ski clinics, rental equipment and a daily lift ticket. And they guaranteed I'd learn to ski or the next clinic was on them.

Never in my life have I felt so out of control of my legs until I put the boots and skis on my feet and tried to walk - no, let's call it slide - along the snow.

But here I was on day one being told by my American instructor Dan that the first rule of skiing is to look "cool"! Yeah right! I made the usual mistakes of not leaning forward or not bending my knees and worse still, not trusting the instructions and advice I was given. I spent the best part of my first day's lesson learning which was the easiest way to pick myself up from the snow after falling over. But amazingly after the three ski clinics I was taking my place in a queue at the Waterfall ski lift up to the intermediate slopes. Another amazing thing - everyone in the queue was so polite with a smile on their face. No shoving or pushing in the line.

Medium standard skiers will find they can ski virtually every run on the mountain at Heavenly. Most of the trails are long cruisers bordered by banks of pine trees, with the highlight being the stunning view of the lake. There are 4,800 skiable acres spanning two states (the most being on the California side).

Heavenly boasts 84 runs and 29 lifts with the new high-speed eight-passenger gondola which in just 11 minutes can whisk you from the middle of South Lake Tahoe to the heart of Heavenly. …

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