Combine cabin fever with XC at area resort
Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Area has a remarkable variety of terrain: In a short distance you can oscillate among lakeshore, aspen grove, meadow, mixed conifer forest and, with some climbing, you can reach wide open spaces with views that go forever. The many Scandinavians who visit Spooner love it because it reminds them of their own mountains.
Beginners can take mellow, scenic rambles around Spooner Lake (4.5K) or Spooner Meadow (4K). More ambitious skiers can take blue and black trails, which offer plenty of opportunity for rigorous climbs and brisk descents, to Saint’s Rest (22K) that features great views of Lake Tahoe. An even more ambitious trip goes out The Big Loop (35K) to the eastern edge of the Carson Range where it seems like you can see the entire Great Basin. On the way back you can check out Super G, Spooner’s most challenging descent. A more easily achieved view of Lake Tahoe on green and blue trails is available on Wild Cat (8K).
The resort, established in 1984, has 80K of trails on 9,000 acres of Nevada State Park land. Its 7,000 – 8,000 foot elevation provides plenty of snow every year.
Rather than a warming hut, it offers a historic shepherd’s cabin at the intersection of North Canyon and Meadow Interconnect trails. Skiers can check out the nearby aspen for carvings left by the lonesome Basque sheepherders. Sandwiches, snacks, hot and cold drinks and homemade cookies are available at the lodge where you can rent classic and skate skis, snowshoes and kinder sleds. Spooner’s season ticket holders are mostly from Carson City, Incline Village and South Lake Tahoe, but its weekend visitors come from all over the country and all over the world.
Lessons of all types and levels of Nordic techniques are available from famed teacher and coach Nina MacLeod, who was born and raised in Norway and came to Sugar Bowl to work with Stein Erickson in 1965. She is certified in both Norway and Switzerland has been skiing primarily cross country since 1986. You can get lessons any day during the week or tour with her and get pointers on glide, balance and downhill techniques on Thursday morning. You can also get a free lesson from her Thursday afternoon. Spooner also provides training opportunities for schools and Special Olympics.
When she is not teaching at Spooner, MacLeod gives a series of weekend “Ski De Femme” clinics, probably the most popular lesson being the one at Royal Gorge-USA Cross Country Ski Resort. She will also be leading “Snowshoe Thompson Day” in Hope valley on March 13. There will be a tour, a long-board demonstration and a presentation on Snowshoe’s superhuman mail route over the Sierra. Proceeds will help preserve the Snowshoe Thompson statue in Genoa, Nev.
Spooner has another unusual offering: Ski in on your own and stay overnight at either of two rustic, but cozy and comfortable log cabins that are 1K and 3.5K from the lodge. The former overlooks Spooner Lake and the latter is on Wildcat Trail, home of some great Tahoe views.
Visitors bring food and clothing and can hang out in front of the wood stove and reminisce about their day. Sheets, pillows, comforters, cooking and eating utensils, a composting toilet, wood and six gallons of water are provided. Both cabins have a queen-size bed and a variety of futons. The closer cabin can sleep two to four and the more distant four to six.
To get to Spooner from North Shore: Take Highway 28 south eleven miles from Incline Village, turn left into Spooner Lake State Park. From South Shore or Carson City, take Highway 50 to just west of Spooner Summit, turn north on Highway 28, then right into Spooner Lake State Park.
John Eaton is a PSIA level I instructor at Royal Gorge-USA Cross Country Ski Resort. This is the fourth in a series of reviews by Eaton on area cross country destinations.
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