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You don’t need skis to have fun in Tahoe

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Shante Smith, 11, eyes the pins while bowling at Tahoe Bowl.
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Skiers and boarders seeking wide-open terrain can rejoice because not everyone rides the snow on planks. Some ride on sleds, toboggans or inner tubes. And many people, especially those frolicking over the holiday period, find other alternatives when they either can’t afford to ski every day, want variety or are forced to wait out the weather.

On the South Shore, there’s certainly a choice of activities – from sledding, tubing and snowshoeing to playing billiards, bowling and renting movies.

Orbitz.com has ranked South Lake Tahoe as one of the best places for non-skiers who travel with skiers to visit on its November 2005 Web site. It also does well for local residents like Aaron Collins, who took his two boys bowling Thursday knowing the crowds would be more sparse than last week’s holiday scene. He took family members visiting from Texas at the time.

“We got the last two lanes,” Collins said, while helping his boys, Laine, 6, and Chris, 10, get fitted for bowling shoes.

Jeremy Agnew, who runs Tahoe Bowl, said the place “was slammed on New Year’s from the time we opened until an hour before we closed,” he said. There was a three-hour wait at times.

“We did the business of four days that we do in a month,” he said Thursday.

The same thing happened at the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena. The arena had its busiest day ever Dec. 28 when 1,106 skaters visited the rink. From Wednesday to Friday, the $6.50 admissions amounted to the revenue the arena pulls in during a spring- or fall-season month since its May 2002 opening.

“We’ve been extremely busy. During the winter months, the weather really does affect us,” Recreation Superintendent Garry Moore said.

When the weather is poor, many families go out on their ski vacation seeking refuge or other activities. Sometimes, they find the play time is also more affordable than the $200 to $300 required to send a family of four on the slopes. Ice skating may run up to $50 with snacks included.

The concept is one reason that attracts Suzette Mezak of San Juan Capistrano. She took her son, husband and two daughters to the arena on Thursday. They tried to go skating last Wednesday but walked out when they saw the crowd. The family returned Thursday and will leave this Sunday.

“We were trying to find something entertaining for the kids to do,” she said.

The movie theaters have also turned into a haven for visitors and locals looking for leisure activities aside from skiing. Jerry Harrah, who runs the Village Cinema, said he’s waiting almost a year to have the kind of week his movie theater experienced between Christmas and New Year’s. Many showings on Wednesday and Thursday were sold out.

“This is why we worked so hard to open at this time last year,” Harrah said. The theater opened Jan. 14, 2005.

Jerry Bindel of Lakeland Village should know about the busy week. The general manager of the condominium complex shuttled his guests all over the South Shore last week.

“A lot of the indoor activities were popular,” he said.

Orbitz.com pegged South Lake Tahoe as a place for “groups and families who have a member with two left skis, so-to-speak. South Lake Tahoe provides a bevy of entertainment with venues and casinos offering fun and adventure minus the steep mountain slopes and tangled equipment,” the on-line report read.

Orbitz.com isn’t the first recognition for the South Shore’s winter wonderland diversity. USA Today, Travelgirl magazine, Men’s Journal, Ski magazine and Transworld Snowboarding have also recognized the winter hot spot in the last few years.

Heavenly Mountain Resort has quantified a 20 percent spike in destination visitors every year.

Some skiing alternatives in South Lake Tahoe

— Skating at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena on Rufus Allen Boulevard; Sawmill Pond at Lake Tahoe Boulevard and Sawmill Pond Road; Village Ice Rink at Heavenly Village; or Kirkwood Ice Rink in Alpine County.

— Playing billiards at Classic Cue on Lake Tahoe Boulevard.

— Bowling at Tahoe Bowl on Fremont Avenue.

— Going to the movies at the Village Cinema in Heavenly Village; or Wallace Theaters in the Horizon Casino.

— Arcade hopping at the Village Arcade at Heavenly Village, Harveys Resort Casino or Caesars Tahoe.

— Snowshoeing and cross country skiing at Camp Richardson Resort on Highway 89; Spooner Summit Nordic Center on Highway 28; or most anywhere.

— Snowmobiling at Hope Valley; with Zephyr Cove Resorts on Highway 50; and with Lake Tahoe Adventures in Meyers.

— Snow tubing at Sierra-at-Tahoe, Heavenly Mountain Resort or Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

— Sledding at Spooner Summit at Highway 50 and Highway 28; a spot across from the Lake Tahoe Airport on the west end of Highway 50; Echo Sno-Park at Echo Summit; or the baby hill at Highway 89 and Fallen Leaf Lake Road.

— Playing laser tag at Village Laser Tag at Heavenly Village.


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