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Last tracks and lasting views

Sam Bauman

One of the great pleasures of spring skiing and boarding is the opportunities to picnic on the slopes or on decks at the resorts. That time is upon us.

And one of the most fun is at Diamond Peak, the Incline Village ski area that is not a destination resort so it attracts mostly local snowsporters. On Saturday nights through April 12, the Last Tracks event is a chance to taste some fine wines, enjoy finger food and gourmet cheeses and take in some of the best views of Lake Tahoe on the western horizon of Lake Tahoe that you’ll find.

Guests take the lift to the mid-mountain Snowflake Lodge at about 4 p.m.., just as the lifts and closing and only the die-hards are still riding. At the lodge tables outdoors are the best for viewing the fine lake views. Inside is where the wine and light snacks await (must be 21 to enjoy the wines). The festivities last until the sun sets about 6:15 and then guests jump into skis or snowboards and join Ski Patrollers or instructors for the mild corduroy blue Last Tracks run to the base.

Tickets are $29 at the guest services desk. I don’t know how legal it is, but I’ve sipped wine brought by people who just want the ambiance and skip the party. Either way it’s a fulfilling way to end a day on the slopes. Visit http://www.diamondpeak.com or call (775) 832-1177.

MORE ON DIAMOND

The Peak is hosting its first-ever poker run Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration is at the base lodge at 9 and the entry fee is $10, which includes a T-shirt. There are five clearly-marked dealers at different locations on the mountain with a deck of cards.

Each participant is given a card with clues on where to find them. Ski or snowboard around until you find the dealers. You have two hours to find the dealers and from them you’ll pull a card. The person with the best hand wins. There will be a barbecue and prizes on the deck afterwards.

The Peak had 26 competitors in the 3rd Annual Vertical Challenge March 1. Participants fit as many runs as they could in a seven-hour period.

The awards ceremony took place in the Loft Bar at 4:30 p.m. with Buck Milligan and Friends playing live folk music. Jim Hammerel won a 08/09 season pass in the Men’s division for skiing 70,128 vertical feet in one day, completing 42 runs on the Crystal Express chair and 12 runs on the Lakeview chair. Leslie Kopf won a 08/09 season pass in the Women’s division for skiing 67,308 vertical feet and completing 41 runs on Crystal and 10 runs on Lakeview.

HEAVENLY NEWEST RIDE

For those of you wondering where those screams are coming from as you enter Cal Trail, just look up. The Heavenly Flyer, one of the world’s most scenic and spectacular adventure rides opened last week.

The Heavenly Flyer propels riders at speeds up to 50 mph as they cruise over the treetops and look out over Lake Tahoe. With two separate lines, riders can enjoy the experience side-by-side with a friend.

At 3,300 feet, the Heavenly Flyer is the longest zip line in the continental United States. Its 525-foot vertical drop matches that of the Space Needle. From the Launching Pad, stationed at the top of Tamarack Express, to the Landing Zone, situated above the top of the Gondola and the tubing hill, the total ride time is about 80 seconds.

Winter hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 24/7. Rides are $30 ($20 for pass holders who present an active Heavenly season pass) and can be purchased at the Gondola ticket window or at the Adventure Peak kiosk located at the top of the Gondola.

There are a limited number of rides every day and are scheduled by appointment only. Next-day advanced ticket sales are available for a $10 premium to ensure a spot is available. Riders must be at least 52 inches tall and weigh more than 75 pounds, and cannot exceed 80 inches tall or 275 pounds.

EARLY SEASON PASS DEALS

Beginning March 24, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Sierra-at-Tahoe will offer free skiing for the rest of the winter season with the purchase of a 2008-2009 season pass. The only dual mountain pass that enables skiers and snowboarders to experience both the north shore and the south shore of Lake Tahoe, the Double Whammy season pass gives passholders access to 4,490 acres of terrain, 129 trails, 29 lifts, three halfpipes, some of the most innovative terrain parks in the country, snowshoe trails at both resorts – plus more than 40 km of cross-country trails at Northstar Resort.

Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort will extend its season until the end of April while Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort is scheduled to operate into mid- to late April. Celebrate the extended winter season at Northstar with lodging packages starting at just $79 a person. Experience California spring skiing at Sierra-at-Tahoe with lodging packages starting at $69.

The Value Season Pass is valid at Northstar Sunday through Friday and Sierra Resort any day, excluding blackout dates. The pass is available to adults ages 23-69 for $329.

The Limited Season Pass is an option for families. Valid at Northstar any day, excluding blackout dates and valid at Sierra Resort any day with no restrictions, this pass is $429 for adults ages 23-69, $229 for young adults ages 13-22, and $79 for children ages 5-12.

The College Season Pass is valid at Northstar any day, excluding blackout dates and at Sierra Resort any day with no restrictions at $229 for college students ages 17-69. Students must present a valid college photo ID and proof of a minimum of six class credits for the fall 2008 semester/quarter.

To purchase a Double Whammy pass, log on to http://www.doublewhammypass.com or call Northstar at (530) 562-2267 or Sierra Resort at (530) 659-7453, ext. 208 or stop in at the Vertical Plus office at either resort.

OTHER ACTION

They’re dancing at Squaw Valley, Punk Rock Prom today and Squaw Valley Prom Saturday … At Homewood on the west shore of the lake, the music is by Absynth Electronica at the happy hour. Lift tickets are $63 for adults Friday and Saturday, $39 Monday-Thursday. Don’t write off Homewood because from Highway 88 it looks kind of small. But it has fine runs in the back and some excellent views of Lake Tahoe from mid-slope. And parking is close to everything … At Alpine Meadows (which now owns Homewood), today is the last day of the International Police Winter Games. And tonight there’s the Tahoe Adventure Film Festival. Call (530) 583-4232 to find out times …Through next Wednesday, Heavenly Recreational Amateur Team Series (RATS)

nighttime race league pits local teams against one another as they compete for points that turn into prizes at the end of the season. Any animosity melts away at the post-event video critique at a local pub. Then today and Saturday, it’s Celebrity Special Olympics Winterfest at Heavenly. Watch as athletes compete with some of your favorite celebrities for the gold during this two-day event. Spectator seating is available. Hours vary, check heavenlyresort.com.