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Try stargazing on snowshoes with an expert

Linda J. Bottjer
Nevada Appeal News Service
In this photo made available on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010, three snowshoe hikers watch the almost full moon rising behind the Weissfluhjoch mountain in Arosa, Switzerland, on Monday, Dec. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Keystone, Alessandro Della Bella)
AP | KEYSTONE

Star-gazers on snowshoes, from novices to experts, will journey six kilometers for two hours of illumination under nighttime celestial skies during a Dec. 30 snowshoe hike at Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort.

It will be led by Tahoe Star Tours through the skills and poetry of Tony Berendsen.

“We are thrilled to offer Star Gazing Snowshoe Tours,” said Nadia Guerriero, the director of events at Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort. “We’ve enjoyed a great response to our summer Star Tours with Tony, and we look forward to offering our guests the chance to experience the starry winter sky.”

From operating Fleishmann Planetarium’s telescope at the University of Nevada Reno to serving as president of Northern Nevada Science Coalition, Berendsen loves to share his lifelong passions.

Tours begin with the reading of his original poetry including “Elders” and “Wonders.” Sharing his heartfelt emotions on the universe’s marvels creates an atmosphere of understanding and appreciation for the group.

Jupiter will be high in the sky and should be easy to spot, Berendsen said.

His own astronomical fascination began in Cheyenne, Wyo., during the late 1950s when his father gave him a 3-inch telescope with a reflective lens.

“I wasn’t sure what to do with it,” he said. “But I knew we had a dark sky outside.”

A high school counselor discouraged him for turning his hobby into a career but Berendsen’s interest never faded. Following his family’s move to Reno he joined the Astronomical Society of Northern Nevada, eventually becoming its president.

In 2004, along with UNR’s Dr. Melodi Rodrigue, the need to expand public outreach and help raise charitable funds created the first summertime star tours with Northstar.

Four years ago Berendsen began the specialty tour business. His starry seminars happen with Tahoe Adventure Company’s nighttime kayak tours and accompanied by a Reno string quartet.

Remembering Berendsen’s fun facts Dec. 30 will result in prizes.

Facts like the only way anyone will ever witness the end of the Milky Way is to bite into the end of the similarly named chocolate bar. The galactic planet and star-encrusted version is 250 million light years away.