Want to try a new winter sport? Here's where to go.
The mountains are already snow-capped, and that means it's winter sport season. A lot of Reno and Tahoe dwellers are already geared up and ready to hit the slopes and trails, but if you've never tried skiing or snowboarding, and you're wondering where to start, we found some expert recommendations to point you in the right direction.First resort
Making sense of the options
Reno is within day-tripping distance of a mother lode of ski resorts, so where would a new skier or boarder begin? It depends what you’re looking for.
Mount Rose, just a 30-minute drive from south Reno, is a locals’ mainstay. For beginners, it has pros and cons. Some decry the lack of gentle terrain. Once you’ve conquered the bunny slope, called the Flying Jenny, you’ll have to graduate fast to slopes a few levels up in steepness. Mount Rose does offer ski and snowboard lessons and beginner packages to help you scale that learning curve though, and if you plan to start the season by binge-skiing, the $99 Dip Your Toe in the Snow Pass, which is good from opening day through Dec. 18, could pay off big-time.
Jessica Fisk from the University of Nevada, Reno’s Winter Sports Club recommends Boreal Mountain Resort for its beginner-friendly terrain and its lift ticket deals, which are among the best around. For college students and active duty military, day passes can be as low as $15 on Fridays. The disadvantage here is that the slopes can be packed with people.
Dylan Silver, a freelance journalist who covers Tahoe outdoors, advised, “Heavenly, Sierra and Northstar have long, flat runs. You almost can’t go wrong on them as a beginner.”
All of the region’s resorts offer lessons. The Ski & Ride School at Heavenly ranks as a favorite, with instruction at every level, turning greenhorns into skiers and experts into badass experts.
Families with kids enjoy the non-profit Sky Tavern. Over 100,000 people have learned to ski and board there since it opened in 1948. Snow forecaster Bryan Allegretto from the Open Snow weather blog pointed out, “It’s affordable. … The mountain isn’t intimidating, and most people there will be beginners.” To help get everyone psyched for the season, Sky Tavern hosts a Pray for Snow party Dec. 2.Off the beaten path
Going backcountry means skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing outside a patrolled or marked area. That can involve taking a lift up a mountain and skiing or boarding down a resort’s backcountry territory—or it can mean you wander out into the wilderness, hike up a mountain and descend in relative solitude.
That’s relative solitude because going backcountry alone is a bad idea, so bring some friends. Other bad ideas include getting killed in an avalanche. According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, “Over the last 10 winters an average of 27 people died in avalanches each winter in the United States.” So, first things first, get thee to an avalanche safety session and learn the basics. Your next opportunity is on Nov. 16, when Sierra Avalanche Center hosts a backcountry and avalanche awareness class at REI, 2225 Harvard Way. The class is free, but you need to register in advance at www.rei.com/stores/reno.
Popular backcountry stomping grounds include the Castle Peak area north of Donner Summit, which is patrolled by Tahoe Backcountry Ski Patrol, a volunteer group that provides information and assistance for backcountry travelers in the Tahoe and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests. To learn more about the patrol, visit tbsp.org.Less speed, great views
Where to cross-country ski
There are two schools of thought on learning to cross-country ski. Some prefer the teach-yourself method, which is not too hard and has the advantage of being free once you have the gear. To take up the sport on your own, simply spend a few minutes gathering tips on YouTube, then head to Tahoe Meadows, an easily accessible snow-sport spot that’s part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. It’s four miles southwest of the Mount Rose ski area on Highway 431. Park near the Tahoe Meadows South Trailhead across from the sledding hill, where you can pick trails or blaze one yourself. Don’t forget to pack a thermos of hot chocolate. There are no amenities here, but it’s a pretty spot.
Others prefer to learn under the guidance of an instructor. Tahoe Donner Cross Country in Truckee has lessons, clinics and events such as Equipment Demo Day on Dec. 28, not to mention creature comforts such as cross country warming huts and the Alder Creek Adventure Center, complete with bar, café and wifi.
“We call ourselves the best place to learn and continue learning,” said Tahoe Donner rep Derek Moore. “We have over 100 kilometers of stable terrain. Just this year we’re adding an additional 16 kilometers of trails, through a recent acquisition of Crabtree Canyon.”Gear up
Think ahead about rentals
“I’ve skied for 68 of my 70 years,” said Cindy Murin, cashier and concierge at Bobo’s, where she and a staff of eager skiers and boarders are glad to lend advice on their favorite gear, their favorite runs, and pretty much all things winter. The shop rents skis, poles, boards and snowshoes. Murin’s top tip: Renting equipment in town in the morning before you hit the slopes will save you money, and a season equipment rental ($99.95 kids, $139.95 adults) will save you even more. She advised dropping by to arrange a season rental before Thanksgiving. After that the selection gets thinner.