I’ve had a wide range of experiences as a traveler. I’ve had several days of muscle soreness after walking on the uneven steps of The Great Wall of China. I’ve ridden in a New York City cab with a driver who had an “attitude”. I’ve dived for my life into a curb head first to avoid an oncoming bus that was going to make me a permanent part of a central London roadway. I’ve wrestled alligators in the Florida Everglades. Wait, I’m getting carried away here. I’ve not wrestled alligators – yet.
I’m about to turn 40. I’m a lifelong Wyoming resident. Until my visit to the Reno-Tahoe area, I had never skied. When I told people this, they looked at me with dismay, given that Wyoming is known for its skiing, roughly 450 miles away from where I live. Then again, the ski paradise of Colorado is only ten miles to the south. Many people expect me to resemble a drugstore cowboy who wears rattlesnake boots and a ten-gallon hat. I’m living proof that you can’t stereotype people. I’m about as un-cowboyish as they come. I outgrew my desire to act like one about the same time I lost all my baby teeth!
Never Hurts to Try Something Once
It never hurts to try something once, could lead to twice, thrice… I kept this in mind as I ventured in a coach bus to the Northstar at Tahoe ski resort, roughly a 45-minute drive from Reno, Nevada. Ah, that’s when the weather is good. I met some nasty weather on the way to my first ski adventure. The gallant bus driver braved the “chain law” weather on Interstate 80 (same geographic neighborhood as the infamous Donner Pass) to get the skiers to their destination. Snow fell, heavier and heavier, stopping many semi-trucks in their tracks westbound, causing a complete halt to eastbound traffic.
After we reached the grounds of the resort, our luck ran out. The bus got stuck on the road for about an hour, had to be rescued by a tractor pulling the bus into the parking lot. During the wait, automobiles had whisked by, making it dangerous to get out onto the road to walk to the drop-off point. Anyway, our ski equipment was in the bottom of the bus, so it would have been rather impossible to get into our gear from the busy roadside. As we were being pulled, the other skiers on the bus started rejoicing, the heavy snowfall made for better skiing.
To the Slope
People who are into skiing must have a passion for it because it takes effort and money. You have to lug heavy skis (though modern skis are lighter than their predecessors), ski poles to the gondola and chair lifts. You need to be fitted just right in heavy and tight-fitting ski boots, buy quality ski apparel such as ski pants and gloves to resist the absorption of snow. Prices for lift passes and transport are not cheap.
I found a dry parking garage to put on my ski boots, got my equipment, then headed up a few flights of stairs to the gondola lift. I shared the gondola box with three people. The conversation centered around me being a ski novice. I was chided by one skier in particular, “You’ve never skied before, but you live in Wyoming. Wyoming has Jackson Hole. And Colorado, too, has all that skiing.”
Where Are You, Ski Instructor?
We disembarked, I was advised to go to the lesson area for new skiers. I found the sign admonishing me to go some 500 feet “that way”. I ventured “that way” with some other novices, also included those wanting to learn snowboarding. We waited awhile, then were advised to go back the same 500 feet we had just covered. I had yet to ski, I was getting tired. Running six miles a day doesn’t exhaust me, but carrying skis and poles more than 1,000 feet was beginning to tax my reserves. We finally found our instructors in the midst of steadily falling snow.
Here You Are
My teacher was a middle aged man, turned out to be patient. First, we walked with one ski at a time on each foot, using our ski-less foot to help us move around. We got accustomed to the feel on both skis, using our poles to navigate through the snow. It was time to move up the hill (pictured). As you can see, it doesn’t appear steep, but I learned the hard way, that a good pair of skis can create a lot of speed. I had trouble heading up the hill and walking straight, the newly fallen snow felt like quicksand. The instructor told us to turn sideways and walk. For several minutes, I was still in “quicksand”, until I realized I needed to make sure my feet were turned inward. Now I was moving up the hill.
We got about a third of the way up when the instructor began talking about gliding down the hill, showing us how to position our feet, which would affect the way the skis moved. I would soon be skiing downhill. I came down slowly, I could see I was gliding, the others had done well too. Time to go higher. We didn’t take a lift, rather an escalating carpet ride, 100 or so feet further upward.
First Time Going Down
The instructor showed us how to position our feet and bodies, admonished us to land on our bottoms if we felt we were losing control. My turn to go. I looked down the hill, not that bad. I started, noticed I was picking up speed – happening too fast, tried turning my skis inward, but I was going faster, faster – I’m scared – I’m gonna die – Ahhhhh. I bailed out by sitting down and was immediately covered in snow, immobilized by the attached skis until the ski instructor came and helped me up. The man was nice about it, he didn’t chide me for being from Wyoming either! This scenario repeated itself a few more times, but with each attempt, I felt more comfortable even though the instructor had to rescue me two more times. I sat down when I thought I was going too fast.
So, this is what skiing is like. Will I ever do it again? Well, I think you’ll see me with a pair of skis before you’ll see me on a bucking bronco!
More on Northstar
For more experienced skiers, Northstar features 2,480 acres of skiing terrain. One-fourth of their runs are for advanced skiers, including runs that begin from the top of Mount Pluto (elevation 8,610 feet) like The Burn Out and The Promised Land. Sixty two per cent of the runs are for intermediate skilled skiers. The maximum vertical drop from Mt. Pluto is 2,280 feet to the Day Lodge area, which includes a tubing center.
Northstar has more than 67 jib features and five terrain parks for snowboarders. One of the runs, called “The Stash”, combines a backcountry feel for snowboarders. There are roughly 30 miles of cross country trails. The Village Center contains an ice rink for free ice skating, though lessons do cost.
You’ll have lots of dining and shopping options, especially at the Village Center. Its eateries serve such wintertime fare as smores and Starbucks coffee. You can buy jewelry and The North Face brand goods. At mid-mountain and the summit of Mount Pluto, dining options are available too, though less plentiful.
During the spring and summer months, take advantage of horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, tennis and more. Check their website (above) for their accommodations and Stay & Ski Free package deals!
Roy’s Travel Tips
The city of Reno is named after a Civil War General, Jesse Reno, killed at the 1862 Battle of South Mountain in Maryland. Reno’s ancestors came from France before the American Revolution, changed their name from “Renault” to “Reno”. “Reno/Renault” means “wise, judicious”. If you visit the Reno area, you will be making a “wise” decision!
Reno’s Public Transport is The RTC, free to the downtown area only. The RTC Sierra Spirit happens to also be a free Wi-Fi “hot spot”.
I stayed at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in neighboring Sparks. It has over 1,600 rooms and suites. The beds are comfortable, you’ll have adequate work areas. You pay just under $12.00 for hi-speed internet service (24 hours of usage), You can pay by the minute at the hotel-casino’s time-usage kiosks in the business center and lobby. Room rates include use of the health club and atrium pool. Parking is free, too, including valet and it’s covered! John Ascuaga’s Nugget also provides a free airport shuttle.
The hotel-casino contains 85,000 square feet of casino gaming options. For live entertainment, the Rose Ballroom (1,900-plus seating capacity) and the Celebrity Showroom (600-plus seating capacity) offer live acts. Notables like Peter Cetera (former lead singer of Chicago), Travis Tritt, Chris Isaak, David Spade and the Tower of Power have appeared or are scheduled to appear.
Inquire about the hotel-casino’s ski, show and internet package deals – more value for your money!
Reno Area Visitor Information
Roy’s first Reno area article is at this link.
Roy A. Barnes is a frequent contributor to Bootsnall.com. Roy has had other travel-related jobs including working for a travel agency and at a regional airline, where he expedited aircraft parts to planes that needed fixing.