Tahoe Traveling: Stop and Smell the Mt. Rose

January 31, 2012

When travelers arrive at the Reno airport for their Lake Tahoe vacation, they want nothing more than to get up the mountain as fast as possible. While the sapphire water of the enormous alpine lake is breathtaking, there are a few gems tourists might want to check out along the way.

There are several avenues one can take when heading to Lake Tahoe from The Biggest Little City in the World, such as through Carson City and up Highway 50 into South Shore or Interstate 80 through Truckee and ultimately into either Tahoe City or Kings Beach. The quickest route, though, is Highway 431, also known as Mt. Rose Highway.

Mt. Rose Meadows

Lake Tahoe is definitely the pot of gold at the end of the vacation rainbow, but there are some other nuggets to see along the 37-mile Mt. Rose journey.

The Summit – OK, so shopping may be the farthest thing from a vacationer’s mind, but the sheer abundance of quality stores and restaurants located at The Summit, warrants mention. Before spending time enjoying the great outdoors, immerse yourself in a little indoor decadence. Stores include Banana Republic, Gap, Hollister, Patrick James, bebe, Ann Taylor, Chico’s, J.Crew, Talbot’s, Sketchers, Bath & Body Works, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, and the always-popular Apple store.. For those looking to eat after hitting the shops and before hitting the road, there is BJ’s Brewhouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, Chocolate Bar, FatBurger, and the omnipresent Starbuck’s.

Galena Creek Park – Nestled at the foothills of the Sierra, right along Mt. Rose Highway, this regional park offers incredible hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. Feel free to inquire about ranger-led expeditions through the park, the exhibits in the old stone visitor’s center, and the campfire opportunities. There is also fishing and a plethora of picnic areas to choose from.

Mt. Rose Meadows – A local favorite for its stunning views of both Nevada to the northeast and the Tahoe Basin to the southwest, there is a myriad of hiking and mountain biking paths to enjoy in the summer – including a single track that leads off the mountain and south down into the Carson City area. To the north is a popular trail to Tamarack Lake. In the winter, this is a favorite locale for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and sledding.

Mt. Rose Turnoff – Yes, just a tiny concrete space on the side of Mt. Rose Highway, but should be mentioned as almost the entire lake can be seen from this vantage point. As far as tiny concrete highway pull-outs are concerned, this one rivals the parking lot overlooking Emerald Bay and the “Tea House” on Fannette Island.

There are many other great options to choose from depending on the season, such as skiing at Mt. Rose Ski Resort, heading east into Virginia City, or playing golf at Arrowcreek Country Club or if you know somebody at the private Montreux Gold Club where the PGA Tour stops once a year.

Considering just how spectacular, though, Lake Tahoe truly is, it’s understandable if most tourists just head straight there. After all, it is a diamond in the Sierra rough.

But for those who want to take their time and enjoy what Mt. Rose Highway has to offer, there are certainly a few pearls to discover.

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Ski Season Just a few Snow Ball Throws Away

October 4, 2011

It may not be enough to hit the slopes quite yet, but with this week’s forecast calling for the white stuff in the Sierra, people got black diamonds on their mind.

“Snow accumulation of 3 to 8 inches at higher elevations,” stated a National Weather Service forecast for Wednesday, Oct. 5. “Snow level will be 6500 feet decreasing to around 5000 feet in the afternoon. Southwest winds 15 to 25 mph. Gusts up to 60 mph in the morning.”

With near 90 degree temperatures just a few days ago in the Sacramento area and high 70s in and around Lake Tahoe, this storm seems to be taking folks by surprise. In fact, the weather service reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned travelers in the Sierra not to take this early storm too lightly as it could bring heavy snow and strong winds.

While the storm may be fierce at times, warmer temperatures are due back later in the week. That means most of the white stuff will melt away well before anybody straps on a pair of skis or steps into a snowboard. Yet, the idea of it actually snowing in the Sierra has many people gearing up for the upcoming winter season.

Adding to the excitement is the news of Alpine Meadows merging with Squaw Valley. Not only are these two of the best ski resorts in Northern California, but both are on a short list for tops in the country.

“This was simply about the implementation of a vision,” said Andy Wirth, CEO of Squaw Valley. “A vision of something greater and pursuing a tremendous opportunity on behalf of our guests.”

Since the region in between both resorts is owned by a third party, it should be noted that users will not be able to ski or snowboard between the two. Come November, however, there will be a shuttle service running between the ski areas and connecting the two may be investigated in the future, officials said.

Yet, talk about ski resorts and snow fall in the mountains have people putting away their golf clubs and dusting off their skis. And since it’s still early October, maybe it’s not too far-fetched to, as Irving Berlin might put it, “dream of a white Halloween.”


Gambling in North Tahoe? You Betcha!

August 5, 2011

It may be illegal at Bushwood Country Club, but gambling is definitely permitted in the state of Nevada. In fact, since it’s the number one revenue generator for the Silver State, all visitors are actually encouraged to spend at least a little time in a casino searching for Lady Luck.

While the north shore of Lake Tahoe makes up just a tiny fraction of the 36th state to join the Union, it does have its fair share of gambling parlors. Most of which tourists can’t miss – no matter how hard they try – as signs and blinking lights bombard them as they drive into Nevada from Kings Beach, Ca.

It’s not the Las Vegas strip, but the small community of Crystal Bay is home to four of the area’s five casinos: Cal-Neva, Crystal Bay, Jim Kelley’s Tahoe Nugget, and the Tahoe Biltmore. There are many restaurants and bars that contain video poker machines, but the only other casino on the north shore is the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Incline Village.

Most come to this little alpine section of the Sierra Nevada for a little rest and relaxation amid the breathtaking natural beauty. To them, enrichment to their lives comes from enjoying the outdoors and spending time with family and friends – not from any potential winnings at a blackjack or craps table.

For those that do decide to take their full house and go straight to the casinos, each one offers a great chance to try to double-down on the vacation fun. There are a few common sense things everyone should keep in mind, though, that may help keep a few more cents in the pockets.

One of which is: Do not gamble with money you can’t afford to lose. Gambling should be viewed as entertainment and any extra cash that might be won considered added bonus to an otherwise fun outing.

All those twinkling lights one sees in and out of each casino amounts to one extremely hefty utility bill. Yet, it’s a tab the casino does not have any trouble picking up. The reason: the odds on all gambling games is stacked in its favor and most gamblers walk out of a casino with less money than they had walking in. Since the “house” has every advantage, sometimes its wise to stay and have a good time at home.

Still, it can be fun and some people do in fact win. Thus, gambling might be something worth doing while vacationing in the area. After all, as the saying goes: “When in Rome.” Or, in this case, Nevada.

There are many different games to choose from, but the ones with the best odds – or the ones with the least “house” edge – are as follows: craps, blackjack, baccarat, pai gow, and then roulette.

While that is a nice list to follow, it is a bit more complicated as the edge is really dictated by how one bets in each game. For example, bettors have the most chances to win at craps, but that’s if they stick to the Pass/Come and Don’t Pass/Don’t Come lines. Roulette is also one of the best choices if gamblers only bet on red or black.

Then there’s Sports Betting. While not quite the same as betting on whether Judge Smails will slice his tee shot or not, it is just as simple. Gamblers simply pick a team (or individual athlete) they believe will win a sporting contest.  To make things more fair, a line or odds are placed on each game or match.

In the end, the important thing to remember is have fun. While the house does have the edge, just about everyone finds Lady Luck at one point. If not, though, best to just say “Gunga galunga” and continue having a great Tahoe vacation.