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Ski with a ranger at Heavenly and learn about Tahoe

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Monday and Friday skiing at Heavenly Mountain Resort soars on the wings of volunteer angels with its free Ski With a Ranger program.

Headed by U.S. Forest Service, the tours offer both residents and visitors the chance to learn about the natural and cultural aspects of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“The 10 volunteers are the heart of the program,” the USFS’ Tara McCarthy. said of the activity based at Heavenly for the past three years.



Through a series of events that include several days of training atop the mountain in South Lake Tahoe and shadowing experienced guides the volunteers work hard to ensure everyone leaves with a better understanding of the surrounding natural environment. Heavenly operates on protected USFS land with a special use permit.

Protecting the Lake Tahoe Basin’s watershed is key to the lake’s clarity. Humans need to understand the importance their actions play in preserving it, McCarthy said, and to guarantee its survival.



Nature’s ferocity also is seen with the Angora fire’s burn scars. More than 3,000 Jeffery pines and mixed conifers were destroyed in 2007, along with 254 houses, and disrupting the lives of both human and wildlife inhabitants.

The American marten is a Sierra Nevada’s wild creature receiving special attention. A member of the mustelidae family, it resembles a small cat as it forages along dense forest floors in addition to climbing trees thanks to its semiretractable claws. With glossy brown fur and a patch of light reddish fur at the throat, the animal is typically active in the evening hours and has an ability to walk on hard snow.

The massive 2010-11 season’s snowfall effected the tour greatly, admits McCarthy, however has not cancelled the volunteers’ commitment to providing information even when trails are closed.

They can still be found around the lift areas in their forest green jackets and black pants “roving” as they are called. Anyone is invited to ask a question.

When the weather cooperates, intermediate skiers and boarders, of any age, meet the ranger volunteers at the message board at the top of the gondola. The hourlong tour has multiple stops along blue and green runs and begins at 10 a.m. and 1p.m.

The ongoing cooperation between Heavenly and local tourism organizations such as Explore Tahoe is a partnership McCarthy feels benefits tourists and locals alike.

“It is a good mix of getting the message out.”

The message is that Lake Tahoe’s treasures are for all to respect and enjoy.


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