Ski swaps are early season opener while hiking still on agenda

If you're thinking of upgrading or replacing ski or snowboard gear, you won't want to miss the annual Heavenly Ski Resort Labor Day sale Friday through Sunday at the Crescent V shopping center on Highway 50 in South Lake Tahoe.

This is no charity swap and shop affair; the gear on sale will be top quality stuff, mostly from last season but including newest equipment on the market. The sale is free but you'll have to pay for the gear.

Area sales reps for equipment makers will be on hand to answer questions and help with selection. These people know their wares and can give straight answers to serious questions.

A couple of suggestions:

-- It's better to try on ski or snowboard boots in the afternoon rather than in the early morning. Reason is your feet swell during the day which may result in a poor foot.

-- Unless you are truly a black diamond skier or boarder, you don't need to got for the hottest boards. True downhill race skis require legs of steel, are hard to turn and often leave blue-run skiers in discomfort. Be honest with yourself when it comes to selecting the right gear.

-- Unless you're going to be skiing/boarding in Colorado where the icy winds really blow, don't go for too heavy outerwear. I've got a great Spyder parka that is a beauty but I rarely wear it in the Sierra Nevada. I find a good windbreaker with silks and a turtleneck does the job in our milder winters (with the obvious exceptions for bad weather, but then I usually don't ski in bad weather, local that I am).

-- If Heavenly is selling season passes at the event, give the deal serious thought. I haven't heard what day lift tickets are going for this season (Aspen is going to $70, for example) but $200 now will sure beat $50-plus a day rates.

And if you haven't been doing a lot of hiking or going to the gym, you might want to start think of getting ready for the snow. In a few weeks I'll be talking with Rusty Crook, PSIA examiner and former racer, about getting ready for the season. If you're on the senior persuasion, don't forget about Crook's Friday free classes at Mt. Rose. Crook is about as good an instructor as you'll find on the hills and his salty classes are fun. He even got me into gorilla turns last season.


The Carson Ranger District is offering another interesting trek, this one to Lookout Campground in Dog Valley Sunday at 10:30 a.m. This is a short hike to a crystal mine during which you'll learn about the history of the area and have time for searching for quartz crystals just waiting to be picked up. Bring a lunch, water, good hiking boots and figure on three hours. OK for ages 5 and up.

To get there take I-80 out of Reno for Verdi exit, take Bridge Street north to Dot Valley Road right to the gate where the pavement ends. A ranger will convoy hikers up the confusing dirt roads to the campground. Look for the Forest Service car and sign.


I've hiked Horsetail Falls off Highway 50 west several times but never got a good photo of the falls. So last week I drove 50 to Camp Sacramento just before the trailhead for Horsetail Falls for the Mt. Ralston trek. At the parking area a dirt road led up the hill with what appeared to be a very stony trail on the left. The road continues.

I took the rocky road, first got off track when I spotted a metal post off the trail and figured it was a way off the sharp rocks. Nope, but by bushwhacking back to the real trail I avoided a few hundred feet of tough stuff.

I'd been warned that this was a very steep trail, and it is. You can see the rocky trail ahead for perhaps a half-mile before it begins to slat to the right. After that it's a typical Sierra Nevada path, dirt, rocks, boulders. Nice thing is there is plenty of shade although the views don't really impress until up about 600 feet of vertical when you get a fine view of Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski area to the west.

Soon you begin to get views of the Horsetail Falls canyon, some sheer polished rock and green vegetation. The trail veers away from the canyon then and at one point it is met by a trail coming up from the north. More on that later.

I'd got a late start so I set a turnaround time (something I learned from reading Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air") for 3 p.m. At five minutes to three I had climbed 1,300 feet of steep vertical. And as is always the case, each turn in the trail revealed another ledge to climb. And not a hint of the falls.

So I retreated back to the point where the trails intersected and took the other one. This quickly turned into a dirt Jeep trail that had tire tracks. I was afraid that I would come out at the Mt. Ralston road, but after passing a roadblock and continuing a few hundred yards I could see the Camp Sacramento parking lot.

Obviously, if you plan to go the Mt. Ralston trail you might as well drive to the roadblock and skip that rocky section. You'll still have a long, steep hike ahead of you.


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