Skating on the thick ice |

Skating on the thick ice

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

SPOONER LAKE — In-line skaters have been having a field day in the Lake Tahoe Basin lately — in the snow.

The hard-packed snow conditions have re-energized the sport of skate skiing. This is a form of cross country skiing that uses the same skating motion that the four-wheel enthusiasts make on skates — with the help of poles, short skis, space-age looking boots and the biting cold, dry humor of a stingy Mother Nature.

Max Jones, who runs Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Resort, has a few tips for Alpine skiers growing weary of waiting for snow. Try an alternative type of skiing that combines an endorphin rush and caloric burn with the natural wonders of Tahoe’s outdoor world.

Many skiers in the region have flocked to Spooner Lake’s 8,000 acres for that reason.

“Say you’re an in-line skater, and every morning you had 50 miles of a perfectly paved bike path to skate on with no cars. That’s what we offer here,” Jones said Thursday.

Even ski instructors have found refuge with this other type of skiing.

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“When it snows, I think about classic skiing. When it’s cold and hard, these are perfect skating conditions,” said Rick Eckert, a Tahoe Donner Alpine ski school instructor who took the day off to check out Spooner Lake.

Eckert was joined by several others who braved the bone chilling cold to cover the immaculately groomed corduroy around Spooner Lake and the nearby meadow Thursday morning.

As the mercury barely topped 16 degrees, Darla Mazzoni left the lodge and headed up to Marlette Lake, but she quickly turned around to retrieve a face mask.

Still, Mazzoni was optimistic of warming up — given the cardiovascular workout of skate skiing.

“I would say skate skiing is the most intense cardiac workout I’ve ever done,” she said. She estimated the activity burns between 600 and 1,000 calories an hour depending on the slope.

Mazzoni should know. The personal trainer covers all five passes of the Death Ride, a grueling sporting event that requires a cyclist to climb more than 16,000 feet in elevation to complete it.

To get the next generation interested in exercise and spending time with mom, Mazzoni has introduced her children, Cory, 11, and Kyle, 12, to skate skiing.

“Cory loves it. Kyle said it’s too much work,” she said.

Jones said downhill skiers seeking more of an aerobic workout have become a prime market for skate skiing.

Beyond the target audience, the equipment technology has advanced through the years, too.

“As much as Alpine skiing has changed, cross country skiing has kept up,” Jones said, pulling out the latest in boot technology.

Salomon has launched a brand using a carbon fiber material and an arch that grips the bottom of the boot for better support. They’re gray and look like something astronauts might wear.

A skate skiing package costs $24 a day at Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Resort, a Nevada State Parks facility located off Highway 28 near Spooner Summit. Snowshoe, cross country tour ski packages and two cabin rentals are available.

A third solar-powered cabin is expected to be erected by July 4 for summertime activities.

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at