Mountain bike park set to open

With new backcountry backpack in hand, I'm ready to try a weekend outing. In this case I think it will be in Hope Valley, along a trail followed last year and got lost.

I'm going to try it for just the weekend, seeing if I know how to pack for a couple of days.

The old backcountry pack was traded (the vendor said he misjudged me, thought I was a one-night beginner and didn't need a good pack) and the new one has a capacity of 4,500cc, a wide and padded waist support and plenty of pockets. We'll see.

Meanwhile, in a throwback to ski season, my skis and boots are at the Tahoe Boot 'n' Ski Works in South Lake Tahoe, the only shop I could find which could shave boot soles to replace camber inserts in bindings. Once that's done I can can try skiing without having to relearn skiing for each new ski.

• Northstar-at-Tahoe's new and improved mountain bike park opens June 18. The mountain bike staff claims many surprises in store this season, including new features to keep riders on their toes, longer operating hours and Express Gondola access to whisk riders to the top of the mountain in minutes.

Freeride fans will be elated to see a fresh batch of technical features to challenge skills this summer, including a 16-foot-ladder creek crossing, a rock dam crossing, a ladder-to-log ride and a ladder jump progression. Opening day riders can explore the new terrain for just $10.

Northstar's mountain bike park will be open seven days a week from opening day through Labor Day. Regular day ticket prices are $33 for adults and $20 for children under 12. Single ride ticket prices are $20 and $14. Lift passes are valid for the Gondola Express and Vista Express.

Full-suspension mountain bikes for adults and children are available for rent. The rental fee includes a free souvenir water bottle and use of a helmet and gloves. Lift passes and rental equipment packages are available. Helmets are required for all cyclists using the park.

A local's favorite, Northstar's Thursday Evening Cross Country Mountain Bike Race Series returns and races will be held every Thursday from June 24-Aug. 12. Northstar offers Dirt Camps, extensive two-day mountain bike clinics offered several times throughout the summer for riders of all ability levels. Call (800) 711-DIRT.

• The Gondola at Heavenly opens today. Kicking off the summer season, the gondola provides guests with great views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area June through October.

The 17-minute scenic ride takes sightseers 2.4 miles up the mountain. About two-thirds of the way up, the gondola slows at the 14,000-square-foot observation deck, complete with covered picnic tables, built-in benches and high-powered telescopes. The resort's outdoor eatery, Café Blue, will be open.

At the top station, guests are invited to hike on Heavenly's designated trails. Opening this weekend, the hiking paths meander through the forest allowing hikers to explore the area.

The gondola will operate from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. daily until June 18. From June 19, the lift will run every day from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through July 1. The gondola will switch to its regular summer schedule on July 2 operating from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Round-trip sightseeing tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for teens and seniors (65 plus), $14 for children (5-12), and free for children 4 and under.

This summer, PEAKS members may receive specially priced gondola tickets: $20 for adults, $18 for teens and seniors (65 plus), $12 for children (5-12). Guests can sign up to receive a PEAKS card at the gondola ticket window during summer gondola hours of operation and receive the PEAKS discount instantly.

Call (775) 586-7000.

• In a five-day job interview against 112 of the nation's most elite ski instructors, two Booth Creek staff members came out on top, being named to the Professional Ski Instructors of America's national teams.

Tor Brown, Northstar-at-Tahoe's cross country center manager, will represent the PSIA on its four-member Nordic team, and Doug Pierini, Sierra-at-Tahoe's Ski and Snowboard School manger, is one of 13 chosen to represent the Alpine team.

If you've ever skied with Michael Roggen, who teaches at Heavenly and is on he PSIA demo team, you have an idea of how tough it is to make the PSIA team. Roggen makes skied double black diamonds look like he's on a bunnyhill.

• Hands Around Lake Tahoe is celebrating its second year of attempting to form a human chain around the lake in the name of peace and healing. Last year, an estimated 10,000 people held hands on the beaches around the lake. This year the target is to have 77,000 people to form a human chain to reach completely around the lake.

Hands Around Lake Tahoe was founded by Debi LeFaye, who owns the Academy of the Ancient Arts in Tahoe City.

"It started out as a vision that I had and later found out that others saw the same thing. We're trying to send peace and healing to our lake community and to the world," she said.

Everyone is welcome to join this healing event on the Summer Solstice and Father's Day.

Hands Around Lake Tahoe is June 20 at noon on the beaches and shoreline of Lake Tahoe. Contact LeFaye at (530) 448-1199.

Sounds like a noble idea.

• The Village at Squaw Valley is tossing an Independence Day weekend party. On Saturday, July 3, guests will have the best seat in the house for a pre-fireworks concert in The Village Events Plaza with local bluegrass favorite No Bad Barley starting at 6 p.m. Fireworks will follow, just after dusk.

The Village will host a free Old West Weekend July 3-4, from noon to 5 p.m. each day.

Karen Quest, Cowgirl Tricks, brings her act to The Village. Strolling musical minstrels both days will add to the festive atmosphere.

Plenty of parking ensures easy access to all the free festivities. Village restaurants will be open late during the holiday weekend as will all shops.

And there's plenty of hiking around Squaw Peak via the cable car.

Sam Bauman is a Nevada Appeal Staff Writer. Contact him at sbauman@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1236.

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