RENO, Nev. (AP) — It's no secret that Lake Tahoe is known as a world class destination for downhill skiing.
With multiple Nordic resorts and hundreds of kilometers of groomed trails, it is fast becoming a world class cross-country ski destination as well.
"The Lake Tahoe region has the highest concentrations of large cross-country ski areas in the country, totaling over 600 kilometers of groomed terrain," said Kevin Murnane, general manager of Tahoe Cross Country, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal (http://on.rgj.com/VNhGOu). "If you are visiting the area for a week, you can ski a different trail system every day and still have plenty of trail to discover on your next visit."
Those resorts include Tahoe Cross Country in Tahoe City, Tahoe Donner Cross Country in Truckee and Royal Gorge in Soda Springs, the largest cross-country ski resort in the nation, which also is under new ownership.
This concentration of resorts will also attract international attention when Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center hosts the 2013 Super Tour Finals, one of the premier cross-country ski races in the United States, April 4-11.
The Big Dog
New ownership means many new changes at Royal Gorge.
"We jumped in with both feet and just hit the ground running," said JoJo Toeppner, director of Royal Gorge. "Getting the trails open was huge."
Royal Gorge opened in 1971. Founder John Slouber envisioned the largest and most prestigious cross-country ski resort in the U.S. With more than 200 kilometers of trails and approximately 6,000 acres of terrain, Slouber's vision was realized before he retired and sold the resort in 2005. California developers Kirk Syme and Todd and Mark Foster reportedly bought it for $35 million.
The developers' plans for the area included 900 condominiums, a hotel, man-made lakes and more.
The development plan never took hold, thanks in part, to the recession and a lack of support for the development from the Donner Summit community.
When the previous owners defaulted on their loan, Royal Gorge was purchased by the Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land. The $11.25 million purchase was finalized on Dec. 20, 2012. Sugar Bowl Ski Resort now is operating Royal Gorge under an agreement with the purchasing entities.
"The Truckee Donner Land Trust acquired the 3,000 acres of Royal Gorge lands with not only conservation in mind but also public access and enjoyment," said John Monson, director of marketing for Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. "While prior owners had development in mind, that is no longer the case."
Sugar Bowl Ski Resort reportedly invested about $700,000 in capital improvement projects at Royal Gorge. Those improvements include a renovated Summit Station day lodge, enhanced wayfinding signage and a new grooming fleet.
"Our plan is to return Royal Gorge to its once and former glory, and we're well on our way to doing just that," Monson said.
Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center has also made investments ahead of the 2012-13 season, including the purchase of a Pisten Bully Nordic 400 groomer and expanding terrain by adding three new trails that will be open later this season.
Cross-country skiing is low-impact sport that offers health benefits as well as a way to exercise and enjoy the outdoors during the winter months.
Canceled earlier in the season due to lack of snow, The Lake Tahoe Nordic Festival is now set for Feb. 8-10 at Tahoe Cross Country.
The first of its kind in the region, the festival is geared toward introducing people to the sport and celebrating Lake Tahoe as one of the fastest-growing cross-country regions in the country. A kickoff party sponsored by Great Basin Brewing Co. will be followed by two days of clinics, demos and educational presentations about winter recreation.
For those looking to enjoy both downhill and cross-country skiing, there are opportunities to enjoy both sports under one season pass at resorts that offer both, such as Tahoe Donner and Sugar Bowl.
"We're seeing great success with dual-resort combo passes, meaning downhill skiing and riding coupled with cross-country skiing and skating at Sugar Bowl," Monson said. "I think people love the idea of getting some downhill turns in, grabbing lunch and then hitting the cross-country trails."
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com
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