It's close to Carson City and it's fun in the wintertime

I would be willing to bet that, by now, many of you are awfully sick and tired of being cooped up by our seemingly, unending winter weather.

As you are all too aware, it's cold outside, our ponds, lakes and reservoirs have a thick cover of ice and there is a deep layer of snow on the nearby mountains.

Yep, it's wintertime. And there is still more to come! However, if it's wintertime, it also means that it is time to have fun at a special location very close to the Carson City area.

You bet! You can have a ton of fun in the outdoors in the winter and that location is only minutes away.

To be more precise, I am referring to having fun in the wintertime at the Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Area. Yep, the Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Area.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Area, here is some enticing information:

How to reach it: Take U.S. 50 west from Carson City to Spooner Summit (the junction of U.S. 50 and Nevada S.R. 28). Then take S.R. 28 for about 1/2 mile to the entrance of the Spooner Lake Park which is a portion of the greater Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park.

Who runs it: The Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Area is owned and operated by Max Jones and Patti McMullan. That business is operated under special permits from both the Nevada State Parks System and the U.S. Forest Service.

How to reach them: Call (775) 749-5349 (day lodge) or (775) 887-8844 (snow phone) or Email at spoonerlake@pyramid.net or go to website www.spoonerlake.com.

What they offer: A total of 90 KM of trails for cross country skiing or snowshoeing. They include: the Spooner Lake Trail (3.5 KM), the Shepherds Trail (9 KM), the Saints Rest Trail (22 KM) and the Carson Range Trail (35 KM.

All of those distances are roundtrip from the day lodge.

What are the operational hours: Weekdays: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Weekends: 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Note: There is no entry allowed to the trail systems after 4 p.m.

What does it cost: Here are the 2002 fees:

Adult all-day area fee: $17.50.

Adult second consecutive day: $8.50.

Adult afternoon (1-5 p.m.): $12.

Adult twilight (3-5 p.m.): $8.

Junior (ages 13-17): $8.

Seniors (ages 60-69): $8.

Under age 12 or over age 70: $2.

How about cross country skiing lessons: Lessons hours are: 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Sunday through Friday, or on Saturdays at 10 a.m., 12 noon and 1:30 p.m. The lessons cost $38 and they include ski rental, lesson and area fee.

How about ski rental fees: The 2002 fees are:

Adult all day: $17.

Adult afternoon (1-5 p.m.): $12.

Junior (ages 13-17): $7.

Juniors (under the age of 12): $2.

Sunday Family Package: $46.50 (includes the area fee and rental skis for parents and up to three children under the age of 18).

Ski skating rentals: $24.

How about other rental fees: They include:

Adult all day snowshoe rental: $16.

Adult afternoon snowshoe rental (1-5 p.m.): $11.50.

Junior snowshoe rental (ages 13-17): $7.

Snowshoe and area fee combo: $25.

Kinder Sled: $7 per hour.

Other special offerings are:

Tuesday area use passes: $8.

Wednesday striding ski rentals: $8.

Thursday lessons: $2.

Overnight accommodations:

For those interested in doing something really unusual in the wintertime, how about staying overnight in the Great Outdoors? You can, very comfortably, in two different, wilderness cabins. They are the Spooner Lake Cabin at Spooner Lake and the Wild Cat Cabin on the trail from Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake.

The winter 2002 cabin rates are $130 per midweek night for two persons or $309 for a Friday or Saturday night for two.

Here's what those rates include:

A queen-sized bed upstairs.

A Foton downstairs.

All pillows, pillow cases, sheets and blankets.

A wood burning stove with plenty of firewood.

Two-burner propane stove.

All necessary pots, pans, plates, cups, forks, knives and spoons.

Drinking water.

Gray water container.

Note: there is no sink nor is there any running water.

The cabin rental also includes trail passes and rental skis or snowshoes.

As an aside and on a personal note: I first learned how to ski (and how to fall down!) on cross country skis about 20 years ago at the Spooner Lake area. A small group of close friends had conned me into going cross country skiing for my first-time-ever attempt and it was quite an experience for Don Q.

When it was time to start cross country skiing, I put each of my rented ski shoes into their respective bindings on the skis, clamped the bindings shut, skied about six feet on those very skinny skis and proceeded to fall over sideways. True story!

That was the first of countless falls, which continue to this day. The overall experience of that day lead to a deep and everlasting love affair with the sport of cross country skiing.

And, the Spooner Lake area has had a very special place in my heart since that first outing.

Since that first day at Spooner, I have spend an enormous amount of time having fun in the winter on my skinny skis.

That skiing fun has been at places like: Spooner Lake, Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake, Spooner Lake to Snow Valley, in Hope Valley, Hope Valley to Burnside Lake, the Red Lake Creek area, Red Lake, Red Lake to Lost Lakes Pass, Caples Lake, Kit Carson Pass to Winnemucca Lake, Kit Carson Pass to Round Top Mountain, U.S. 395 to Willow Flat, Willow Flat to Mt. Emma in the Hoover Wilderness area and even one unforgettable outing (never again!) at the Heavenly Ski Area.

I have learned (you will notice I did not say that I have "mastered!") telemark skiing on my skinny skies.

As a result, I have had a ball leaving lazy "S's" (and some interesting-looking holes where I have fallen) on some big open slopes.

However, to be very truthful I have also, on more than one occasion, also scared the dickens out of myself telemarking on some steep slopes. Most notably, the time I skied from the top of Mt. Emma, down a steep drainage to Willow Flat.

But, you know what, all in all, I deeply love cross country skiing and eagerly look forward each year to wintertime.

So, if you've never tried cross country skiing, why not venture out this weekend to the Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Area. I guarantee that you won't go wrong.

Give it a try! You'll have a ball!

You, too, can fall in love with a sport that makes you look forward to each and every winter!

For information, call (775) 749-5349 (day lodge) or (775) 887-8844 (snow phone) or Email at spoonerlake@pyramid.net or go to website www.spoonerlake.com.

-- Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't tell you what months of the year I have cross country skied.

If he says, "Don Q has skied in this general area every month of the year except September," he could have been on one of my ski trips.

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