Good, cheap fun
Playing in the snow doesn’t have to be expensive
Grab your sled or tube and hit any hill with snow on it for one of the cheapest forms of entertainment all winter. Do it for free at Tahoe Meadows, Galena Creek Park or Rancho San Rafael (when the snow actually sticks). Nearly every local ski resort also has a sledding or tubing area for about $20 a day. Buying a sled can cost between $20 and $200.
$ Ice skate
Indulge your Ice Capades dreams at local outdoor ice rinks.
Rink on the River: New York City has Rockefeller Center; Reno has City Plaza. We try, anyway. That slab of concrete at the corner of First and Virginia streets turns into the Rink on the River each winter. It’s $5 for adults, $3 for youth and seniors. Skate rentals are $2, or invest in your own ice skates for $25 and up. The rink is open Monday through Sunday, through Feb. 24. Visit www.cityofreno.com for hours and more information, or call (775) 334-6268.
Olympic Ice Pavilion at Squaw Valley: This Olympic-sized, outdoor rink overlooks Lake Tahoe. The price for all ages is $10, including skate rental. For an extra $16, take a cable car 2,000 vertical feet above Squaw Valley to the rink. The pavilion is open most of the year, but check specific times at www.squaw.com/winter/snoreport.html, or call (530) 581-7246.
Davis Creek Regional Park: Once the pond at Davis Creek in Washoe Valley freezes (typically in January), it’s free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Bring your own skates, as there are no rental services. Call 849-0684 for skating conditions. For more information, visit www.washoecountyparks.com.
If you can hike, you can snowshoe. Just strap into the shoes and head out toward a snowy peak. A good place to start is Tahoe Meadows off Highway 431 between Reno and Incline Village. You’ll know you’re there by all of the cars parked along the strip of highway and the giant snowy meadow stretched out beside them. Follow that meadow into the woods, and climb steadily upward for stunning views of Lake Tahoe. The crowds dwindle the farther from the meadow you go. Outdoor writer Mike White lists about 65 worthy routes in his book Snowshoe Trails of Tahoe. Buy your own snowshoes for $50-$300, or rent them locally for about $11 a day, with multiple-day discounts. Other than the gear, snowshoeing shouldn’t cost you a thing.
$$ Cross Country Skiing
Snowshoers and cross country skiiers often cross the same terrain and for about the same cost. In his book Cross Country Skiing in the Sierra Nevada, Tahoe-based writer Tim Hauserman says his top three favorite trails are at cross country ski centers: Drifter at Tahoe Donner, Super G at Spooner Lake and Silver at Tahoe Cross-Country. The trails have varying day-use fees of $10-$22. If paying a fee isn’t your thing, head out into some of the same local forests the snowshoers are frequenting. One-time costs include skis ($50-$500), poles ($25-$100) and boots ($100-$700). Or give it a try with a rental for $10-$15 a day, with multi-day discounts.