Resorts exploring the other terrain
Ski resorts are taking steps to expand their reach.
More and more, ski areas like Sierra-at-Tahoe and Heavenly Ski Resort appeal to families looking for choices beyond the downhill variety.
Both South Shore resorts expanded their options this year.
Heavenly recently set up its cross country ski and snowboard trails off the gondola. The course comes with skating lanes too, for those seeking the ultimate quad burn.
Sierra-at-Tahoe opened its interpretative snowshoe trail this year.
The ski resort mapped out a route to follow through a snowmobile track and tree markers. The U.S. Forest Service and National Ski Area Association helped to take the idea another turn by putting out “ske-cology” signs along the way.
“What are the two types of trees?” one sign next to the 1-1/2-mile Canyon View Trail asks. The trail is split between the view route and Lookout Knoll Trail. The answer to the tree question is printed on the back: “deciduous and coniferous.”
Another sign asks what owls eat. It replies small mammals, lizards and snakes.
Marliese DeMauro, 7, received an additional lesson from Sierra-at-Tahoe spokeswoman Megan Waskiewicz, who was out on the trail for her morning jaunt on snowshoes.
Waskiewicz showed her how to hug a tree if she’s ever lost in the woods because it’s a source of warmth. The youngster — a Girl Scout herself — wrapped her arms around the Jeffrey pine.
“Hey, it is,” she said.
She and her mother Kimberly, who live in Key West, Fla., trade homes with a Lake Tahoe resident for a month every year.
Marliese learned to downhill ski at resort west of Echo Summit at age 4.
“We’ve been skiing for two weeks now. I just wanted something different,” Kimberly said.
Her daughter said she wanted to make her morning break “a spotting walk.”
This is precisely why Sierra-at-Tahoe established the trail. It rents Redfeather snowshoes for $15 for two hours, including children’s sizes.
The trails are free for those who bring their own equipment.
“The primary reason we opened this trail is to offer alternative options to skiing and snowboarding. Our industry isn’t necessarily competing with other resorts anymore. We’re competing with entertainment,” Waskiewicz said. “(Snowshoeing) gives a completely different feeling to this resort. It’s serene and quiet.”
On Thursday morning, the shadows appeared to dance over the snowy terrain whipped up by the wind. Trees resembled pieces of art. And the view across the ridge challenged the walker to find Waldo in the rocks.
Beyond a pleasant experience, snowshoeing also offers an easy way to burn calories.
According to a study conducted by Ball State University, the activity burns 420 to 1,000 calories per hour.
The California State University, Sacramento, track team uses the trail to train on.
Even the employees have gotten in on the act. Staffers — known to be a tight-knit group at Sierra — will relinquish their downhill runs for the woods out in back of the resort.
In the middle of town, Heavenly staffers have also tried out the new cross country ski trail that starts at the end point of the gondola.
About 2.5 kilometers are groomed as part of the South Lake Tahoe resort’s Mountain Adventure Park.
A rental shop located at the gondola endpoint rents snowshoes and cross country skis.
“It’s a good way to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere,” spokeswoman Molly Cuffe said.