What can you do in a week away from Tahoe? | SierraSun.com

What can you do in a week away from Tahoe?

There is something silly, perhaps even stupid, about leaving one ski town for another – in February. But there I was last Sunday, sandwiched with Tribune co-worker Jonah Kessel and our female companions in a Toyota RAV4, driving over Spooner Summit and headed for the Rocky Mountains.

As we neared Round Hill, Jonah asked, “Why are we leaving Tahoe to go skiing?

We have so much snow here.” It was a valid question, albeit it a negative one since we were two miles into what would become a 2,400-mile journey. “Because it’s fun to see what you can do in a week,” was the only reasonable answer I could come up with.

Fourteen hours later, with heavy eyes despite numerous energy drinks flowing through our veins, we pulled into the parking lot of our hotel in Ouray, Colo. Forty-five miles from Telluride, Ouray is nestled in the San Juan Mountains, a rugged group of 14,000-foot peaks in southwestern Colorado.

Ouray has its own charm, sort of what Telluride was before it became Telluride. And while it may seem silly to drive from Lake Tahoe to Colorado, it’s even more silly to commute almost an hour to ski because the only hotel room under $200 is 45 miles away. Such is life when you’re attempting to snowboard in a ski town where Tom Cruise owns a house.

However, it’s even worse four hours north in Vail, where the only public parking available is in a parking garage that costs $20 per day. There is no Harrah’s parking lot. There isn’t even a Raley’s parking lot where you can park for free, assuming you avoid the parking nazis.

You either pay $20 per day at the parking garage, bus into town with the workers from outlying areas, or stay in Vail at a $200/night hotel, which likely has a $25 per day valet parking fee. But if someone in your group works at Heavenly, which is owned by Vail Resorts, Inc., and gets a $65 room at a hotel owned by Rock Creek Resorts, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, then the sting of paid parking isn’t too bad.

We had someone like that in our group and welcomed the room discount, but the four us didn’t take long in coming to this conclusion: Anybody who thinks greedy developers and city officials are turning South Shore into Vail hasn’t been there recently. And if greedy developers and city officials believe they’re turning South Shore into a Vail, they, too, haven’t been there recently.

South Shore has ski areas, Vail has ski areas. South Shore relies on tourists for its economy, Vail relies on tourists for its economy, but the similarities stop there. When it comes to everything else besides ski areas and tourists, it’s like comparing East Palo Alto and Pacific Heights.

As far as the question Jonah posed near Round Hill, it was starting to carry some weight. December and January were two of the wettest on record in Colorado, but it doesn’t really matter if doesn’t snow while you’re there. Whether you’re on a 48-inch base or a 140-inch base, it all rides the same.

After five days of pounding moguls at Telluride, Vail and Beaver Creek (The Face at Heavenly has nothing on Telluride’s bumps), it was off to Snowbird. Utah has “Greatest Snow on Earth” printed in blue letters on its license plate, and although it snowed 12 inches the night we arrived in Salt Lake City, the next day wasn’t quite the snorkel powder Utahans will talk your ear off about.

But since they live in a state where the strongest beer you can buy in a grocery store is Bud Light, I tend to cut Utahans some slack when they brag about their legendary snow. And I especially don’t feel too sorry for them and their 3.2 percent beer because Snowbird is probably the best powder-day mountain in North America – Kirkwood on steroids.

In the end, Jonah’s question made sense. Damn, that Lake Tahoe is beautiful.

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