Dashing through the snow on a sleigh ride adventure. | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Dashing through the snow on a sleigh ride adventure.

Nancy Oliver Hayden

Sam Borges started his sleigh ride business in 1967 with a one-horse open sleigh he built himself and his Belgian, Molly. “Molly and Me” offered sleigh rides in an open field next to Barney’s Casino, where Caesars Tahoe is now located. Borges offered the ride for $5 per person and told customers that if they had more kids than he did, the kids would ride free.

Borges and his wife, Rosie, have four sons who have been involved in what is one of the few remaining family-owned and operated businesses in the Tahoe Basin. Although Dean is a mechanical engineer, Don the athletic director at South Tahoe High School, David a doctor of chiropractic and Dwight has a degree in mechanical engineer, the boys and their families have all helped with the sleigh rides through the years. Only Dwight works full time these days.

“I didn’t plan to go into the family business,” Dwight said. “But I found most engineering jobs are in big cities, where the rent is high and it is always noisy. I traveled for a while after college, and when I returned to Tahoe in 1990 Dad asked me to become a partner.”

Since Dwight handles all the heavy work, Sam and Rosie don’t have to be on duty all the time and are semi-retired. However, after 34 years they still love being involved and answer phones and help drive on busy days.

“I love it. I meet the nicest people and they have such interesting stories to tell. We have many celebrities who take our sleigh rides and that makes it fun,” Sam said.

Sam loves to tell his passengers stories about people he has met and the Lake Tahoe area. A special touch on the rides is when he and Rosie stop the sleigh in the trees at the back of the meadow and give the horses a rest. In the serene setting they, as well as several of their grandchildren, recite Robert Frost’s “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Day.”

Borges Sleigh Rides is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week, snow conditions permitting, in the meadow fronting U.S. Highway 50 between Caesars Tahoe and Friday’s Station. Passengers can choose from the seven hand-made sleighs that vary in size from a cozy two-seater to one that holds 20 passengers. Each sleigh is equipped with warm blankets for snuggling and a friendly driver who points out local landmarks such as Lake Tahoe, Friday’s Station and Mount Tallac during the ride. Everyone sings “Jingle Bells” to the beat of the bells on the harness of the horses as they dash through the snow.

The Borges have nine horses that they keep at their property on Foothill Road in Genoa and bring up and back in a trailer every day. The horses are rotated so no one horse works all the time and four to six are brought up daily.

“They are pets and are really ‘people’ horses. We give them treats and they are always ready to come to work,” Rosie said.

The horses are Susy, a Baskir Curly, a breed that originated in Russia and was used to pull coal out of the mines; Queen Ruby, a Percheron/Baskir Curly mix; and Lucky, Chance, Charley, Sugar, Daisy, Little Joe and King, who are are Belgians.

In addition to the sleigh rides in the meadow the Borges give free rides at the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce annual Christmas party. In years when there isn’t enough snow at the party they put wheels on the sleigh. The sleighs also are available for weddings, private parties and business outings as are the carriage rides in the summer months.

The cost for the sleigh rides is $15 for adults and $7.50 for children under 11 years of age. For reservations and more information call Borges Sleigh Rides at (775) 588-1221.

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