It is incredible that within a one to two hour drive of a full-feature city like Reno, Nevada, there are more than a dozen world-class ski resorts. Add the attraction of gambling casinos, fabulous restaurants and showrooms and you have a winter vacation destination at Lake Tahoe that is second-to-none.
If you are in Reno for a visit to a casino or on a business trip, it is a very simple to just rent a car or hop on a shuttle bus down to Lake Tahoe and enjoy a day of awesome skiing with absolutely breathtaking views of the lake from the snow covered slopes.
In the South Lake Tahoe area you will find a little piece of skiing heaven called, appropriately, Heavenly. This beautiful and massive ski resorts’ lower slopes can be seen from the Stateline/South Lake Tahoe highways and from most of the lake itself. Many people consider Heavenly to be one of the most spectacular ski areas on the planet.
Heavenly opened in 1955 with only one chair lift and a small hut on U.S. Forest Service land. Today it covers over 4,800 acres and is literally a massive operation. The resort was purchased in the spring of 2002 by Vail Resorts Inc. who has pumped over $36 million in on-mountain capital to improve and upgrade the site. Enhanced snowmaking on 70% of all mountain trails, expanded grooming, outstanding terrain parks, new signage and access to tree skiing are just a few of the improvements that have been made.
The ski season at Heavenly runs roughly from mid-November to late April. The vertical drop is 3,500 feet and the top elevation is 10,067 feet. The mountain spans California where the base elevation is at 6,540 feet and Nevada where the base elevation is at 7,200 feet. Annual snowfall is 360 inches on average but they had 480 inches during the 2004-2005 season.
The resort has 30 lifts, 15 in California and 15 in Nevada, highlighted by an eight-person gondola and an aerial tram. As far as skiing goes, the mountain offers something for everyone. 35% of trails are rated expert/advanced; 45%are intermediate; and 20% are beginner.
Heavenly has a veritable cornucopia of additional amenities and close access to all the lodging, shopping, dining, recreational, entertainment and fitness facilities that you could possibly imagine. It is truly a fantastic resort.
At the north end of the lake we find Squaw Valley USA, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. It was founded in 1949 amidst 8,000 acres of wilderness preserve in the California High Sierra. Today it boasts over 4,000 acres over six Sierra peaks.
Squaw Valley offers skiers a unique experience since there are literally thousands of acres of open bowl skiing as opposed to the trails that most people (especially Easterners) are accustomed to. Skiing in wide-open bowls in consistently deep snow allows skiers of all levels to kick their skill sets up a notch. There are 16 open bowls to choose from and over 100 runs that are serviced by 33 lifts. The terrain is rated at 25% beginner, 45% intermediate and 30% expert.
The area receives over 450 inches of snowfall annually and boasts one of the most advanced and sophisticated grooming operations around. Three terrain parks and two half pipes round out the operation to include something for everyone. The summit is 9,050 feet with a base of 6,200 feet, making the vertical an impressive 2,850 feet.
Squaw Valley, like Heavenly, offers close proximity to the Lake Tahoe area with all the added attractions and amenities. An absolutely world-class resort, you also have the additional perk of skiing down slopes once graced by Olympic athletes.
These are only two of the many world-class ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe region but they clearly give an indication of the fine facilities that are available. For winter sports enthusiasts who enjoy a nice meal, a relaxing spa and terrific shopping after a day spent on some of the most awesome runs anywhere in the world, Lake Tahoe is a must visit.
About the Author
Michael Russell is your Independent guide to Lake Tahoe
When it comes to snow sports, Italians tend to be a little more laid back with their skiing compared to their French, Swiss or Austrian cousins. In Italy, rather than queuing to catch the first lift to the summit, skiers are more likely to rise late, take a long lunch and finish early for an après ski Peroni beer, a glass of Cinzano or a shot of dark espresso. On a sunny day, you’re likely to find more sun seekers than snow seekers, and it’s not uncommon to see people stripped down to the briefs and bikinis, sitting on a slope-side sun deck soaking up the rays.
Italy is normally overshadowed as a ski destination by the better known ski resorts in France, Switzerland and Austria, but the Italians have a superb selection of their own resorts and are perhaps happy to keep their skiing secrets to themselves.
However, as hosts of the 2006 winter Olympics which took place in and around Torino (Turin), Italy has proven itself worthy of competing as a ski destination in the international arena and for many clued-in Brits, Italy’s laid back attitude to life, love of fine food and wine, good value for money and beautiful mountains are an ongoing draw.
Italy has over 100 resorts scattered throughout the northern part of the country, in the Italian Alps, and the jagged Dolomites. With plenty of cheap flights to Milan, the city is one of the gateways to Italian ski resorts, with a number of superb options less than three hours’ drive from the airport.
Bardonecchia, the French border town which hosted snowboarding events for the 2006 Olympics, is a truly authentic Italian experience with tree lined streets and rustic chalets. Cervinia, has a long ski season running from December to May, and is also linked to Zermatt in Switzerland, meaning you can pop over the border for lunch, should you feel the need for a chunk of Swiss chocolate!
One of the more recent favourites with British skiers is the duty free ski town of Livingo. Known for its lively nightlife, (not surprisingly fueled by the availability of duty free alcohol), wide open and expansive pistes and one of the best terrain parks in Italy, the resort tends to attract a young crowd looking for a great value destination with superb skiing and snowboarding.
As Britain’s skiers become increasingly well traveled, Italy, along with other countries slightly less well known for their skiing, are likely to become even more popular for those looking to experience the laid back lifestyle, incredible scenery and warm Italian reception.
Andrew Regan is an online, freelance author from Scotland. He is a keen rugby player and enjoys traveling.
There is no better rush than skiing down a mountain on fresh snow. For all you winter sports enthusiasts, we have compiled a list of the popular ski resorts in the USA to fulfil your craving for speed:
One of the better known Ski resorts in Colorado, Breckinridge totals 2,358 acres and has 155 trails. Its longest trail, Four O’clock, reaches a length of 3.5 miles and the resort spans over more than 10 peaks. Of the 155 trails this resort hosts, 36-percent are expert slopes, the largest percentage of slope difficulty, and 13-percent of the slopes have the easiest designation.
Located in the midst of the Rocky Mountains, Aspen, Colorado, is the Aspen Mountain Ski Resort. Aspen Mountain sits on 673 acres and is one of the smallest skiing resorts around. It utilizes Aspen Mountain and Bell Mountain which has an elevation of 11,212 feet.
This ski resort is the largest resort in the eastern part of the United States. Utilizing Vermont’s second highest mountain, Killington Peak, this resort sports 200 trails and 33 ski lifts spanned over seven mountains. It is estimated that nearly 17,000 people will visit Killington Ski Resort on a good day.
Park City, Utah
This tourist destination is home to three different ski resorts, Park City Mountain Resort, the Canyons Resort and Deer Valley Resort. Park City Mountain Resort covers 3,300 acres and has 104 trails. Canyons Resort is the largest of the three, with runs on 9 mountains, 155 trails and covers 3700 acres. Deer Valley Resort recently underwent a nine million dollars renovation to add 200 acres and nine new slopes
Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California Lake Tahoe
Located on the Nevada-California boarder is home to Heavenly Mountain Resort. It features 95 slopes over 4,800 acres. At an elevation of 10,067, this resort is host to Lake Tahoe’s highest peak. It is the largest ski resort in California, with a total of 33-percent of its land developed.
Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
The Pocono Mountains is home to more than ten different ski resorts. The largest one, Camelback Ski Area, has 33 slopes and covers 139 acres. At an elevation of 2,133 feet, its steepest slope is 800 feet. The Jack Frost Big Resort is located close to the ski area of Camelback. This ski area is two resorts combined into one with nearly 30 different ski slopes.