Whatand#8217;s new in North Lake Tahoe this winter | SierraSun.com

Whatand#8217;s new in North Lake Tahoe this winter

Pettit Gilwee
Special to the Sun

TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; Wax your skis, buy your pass and plan on upgrading your gear at area ski swaps as winter is around the corner. North Lake Tahoe welcomed more than 50 feet of snow at its higher elevations last year, and is anticipating another phenomenal ski season with many ski resorts planning to open in November and December.

One of the most anticipated winter events is North Lake Tahoeand#8217;s 11th Annual Learn to Ski and Board Weekend, Dec. 11-12, when beginners can get up and turning for bargain prices. For just $25, novices get ski rentals, lesson and a lift ticket at a handful of downhill resorts located throughout the North Lake Tahoe region. Another not-to-be-missed event is the 30th Annual SnowFest!, March 4-13, 2011, a 10-day winter carnival that attracts thousands for its Opening Night Ceremonies, Laser Show, Torchlight Parade and Fireworks, Polar Bear Swim and The Great Ski Race.

North Lake Tahoe ski resorts are eagerly awaiting the snow and have implemented millions of dollars in upgrades to enhance the skier and boarder experience.

Mt. Rose and#8212; Ski Tahoe installed top-to-bottom snowmaking on the Silver Dollar Trail at the Slide Bowl allowing for early season access to the new Winters Creek Lodge. The resort is also unveiling a new Chute Gate appropriately named Miller Time. New savings include 3rd Day Free ($138 for three consecutive lift tickets) and $39 lift tickets on Bonus Mondays.

Alpine Meadows announces several resort improvements, including the Magnestick, a magnet that is adhered to the back of childrensand#8217; ski school vests that literally sticks them to the magnet on the resortand#8217;s chair lifts. Alpine is the first resort in the U.S. to use the Magnestick, which unsticks as children disembark from the chair at the liftand#8217;s end. Also new is the Flake GPS, a tracking device worn by youths in ski school, a redesigned childrenand#8217;s center complete with automated registration kiosks and interactive educational stations and an outdoor play area with a new magic carpet surface lift. Those breaking for lunch will enjoy Alpineand#8217;s redesigned outdoor seating area at its base lodge, which offers a 75,000-foot sundeck, slope-side seating and a new fire pit.

Diamond Peak, based in Incline Village, Nev. opens its new Skier Service Building this winter, a two-story building with the bottom level hosting ski patrol, child ski center, ticket windows, and ski and snowboard school with operational departments upstairs.

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Northstar-at-Tahoe enjoyed a record-breaking season on the mountain last winter. New this year, guests will have more room to move through the rental process and select gear with a newly expanded demo equipment shop in the Village at Northstar. Children can get creative off slopes as All Fired Up! pottery-making studio makes its debut at the village along with The Marketplace for groceries, deli, wine and beer, joining 35 village shops and restaurants. Building on the success of its summer stargazing tours, this winter Northstar Resort will for the first time partner with star guide and poet Tony Berendsen, president of the Nevada Science Coalition, for stargazing snowshoe tours complete with telescopic viewing. And, donand#8217;t miss the resortand#8217;s Snow Bar, accessible by ski, board or your own two feet, serving Sierra Nevada beer at the summit.

Guests ride free to Squaw Valley USA via the resorts new shuttle buses that depart from Reno, South Lake Tahoe, Truckee and the North and West Shores of Lake Tahoe. Squaw will also continue to offer its popular free mountain tours with Chief Mountain Host and Olympic Gold Medalist Jonny Mosley. New this year, the resort added and#8220;Ski with Julia Days,and#8221; when skiers and boarders can ski for free with Olympic Gold Medalist and hometown hero Julia Mancuso. Squaw has also transformed the Ford Belmont Park into a Kidsand#8217; Fun Zone with snow forts and tot-sized jumps.

On the West Shore, Homewood Mountain Resort now offers private skiing through its South Lodge Rental Program, giving guests exclusive use of the mountainand#8217;s 3,000-square foot South Lodge and the Quail triple chair lift, which accesses more than 1,200 acres. This private experience is the first of its kind in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Back for its second year of operation, the Backcountry Adventure Center at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, operated by Alpine Skills International and located in the Village Chalet building, offers professionally guided back and sidecountry tours, educational programs about the science and safety of snow, a full fleet of backcountry rental and retail gear and current snowpack safety conditions from the Sierra Avalanche Center.

One of the most exciting new ventures in North Lake Tahoe is Pacific Crest Heli-Guides, which is offering helicopter skiing in Lake Tahoe in partnership with HeliTahoe. This is the first-time ever that a helicopter skiing operation has launched in the Sierra Nevada. The company will host a maximum of 16 guests per day with a cost structure based upon flight time rather than the traditional vertical feet, giving skiers the opportunity to customize their experience. Full day trips start at $899 per person.

Lake Tahoe remains the most popular ski destination in the U.S. for air-and-hotel package bookings for travel, and took the top spot on the 2010 Orbitz Insider Index for the third consecutive year.

One of the best ways to take advantage of North Lake Tahoeand#8217;s winter deals and savings is by clicking. The North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureaus have created a clearinghouse of special offers on their official website at http://www.GoTahoeNorth.com. Just hit the Cool Deals tab and start saving on lodging, dining and activities.

About North Lake Tahoe

North Lake Tahoe is a 45-minute drive from the Reno Tahoe International Airport, two hours from Sacramento International Airport and just over three hours from San Francisco International Airport. For lodging reservations, recreation and event details, call North Lake Tahoe at 1-877-949-3296 or visit http://www.GoTahoeNorth.com.

Visitor information centers are located at 380 N. Lake Blvd. in Tahoe City, Calif. and 969 Tahoe Blvd. in Incline Village, Nev. The North Lake Tahoe Visitors Bureaus, Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau and the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, work together to promote North Lake Tahoe as a premier, year-round destination.

and#8212; Submitted to aedgett@sierrasun.com