Nevada Commission on Tourism
There are other things to do in Las Vegas besides party on the Strip.
Most visitors are at least vaguely aware, as they wend their way from resort to over-the-top resort, that there are museums, state parks and other attractions outside of the world-famous section of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Ski resorts may not come to mind.
But the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort presents a strong case for off-Strip fun.
“This is one of the top three most beautiful places in the state,” said John Morelli, the resort’s director of business development, ski patrol manager and risk manager.
About an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, just north of landmark Mount Charleston, the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort caters primarily to locals, but is easily accessible to out-of-town visitors. The small facility is pursuing an ambitious 10-year expansion plan, but visitors don’t need to wait to see changes.
Recent improvements to the 50-year-old resort include two new runs and new trail maps that show the area’s hike-to ski areas — something long enjoyed by locals but not always shared with tourists. Other changes include an expansion of the deck area outside the cafeteria, improved snowmaking operations and a remodeled rental shop.
The biggest draw, however, may be the snow itself. Morelli said the resort — with a base elevation of 8,510 feet, higher than that of most Tahoe-area resorts — tends to get the light, dry snow prized by powder hounds.
“That’s one of the reasons people like coming up here,” he said.
That was the case in early December 2011, when a storm dumped almost 40 inches of snow, drawing hundreds of skiers to the resort. The resort’s outlying runs — Blackjack and Bimbo — were closed that day, and it is from there that regulars often begin their treks to ski off-piste. Those hike-to areas are among the resort’s hidden assets, according to Kevin Stickelman, the facility’s general manager since 2010.
“We have a bunch of side terrain,” Stickelman said. “There’s lots of tree skiing here.”
That adds more options to a resort that is considered small by industry standards. With three chair lifts, one surface lift and 11 trails, the resort draws less than 150,000 visitors annually, Stickelman said. But a 10-year expansion plan calls for seven new chair lifts and the addition of 39 trails, increasing the resort’s acreage to 500 from 70. Those efforts cleared a major hurdle in July 2011, when the U.S. Forest Service accepted the resort’s master plan, which will eventually have to undergo environmental impact assessments.
Easy access from Las Vegas
Adding a ski trip to a Las Vegas vacation is easy, resort staff says. It’s one of the first things Stickelman mentions — besides a great ski school and expanding beginner and intermediate runs — as assets of the resort.
The drive from Las Vegas is straightforward: Take Interstate 95 north about 30 miles to Nevada 156 (Lee Canyon Road.) Head west on Nevada 156 for about 17 miles, where the road ends at the resort. The highway typically is clear and sanded, Stickelman said, and the trip from Las Vegas usually takes less than an hour. Add some time, however, during snow days. The resort also is working on shuttle service from the Las Vegas area, according to Stickelman; visitors should check the resort’s web site for details.
History buffs and animal lovers take note: on Highway 156, you’ll pass Camp Lee Canyon, built in 1936 as a Works Progress Administration project and now on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district; and there’s a chance you’ll spot some wildlife, particularly in the evening hours. Morelli, the director of business development, said he has seen foxes, wild horses, burros and elk — sometimes all in the same night.
Once at the resort, visitors can rent skis and boots, as well as snow pants and jackets. Those who don’t bring their own goggles and gloves can buy them at the ski shop next to the ticket booth. The building that houses both the ski shop and ticket booth is one of the two permanent buildings on site. There, you’ll also find a locker room and, on the second floor, the Big Horn Café and the Bristlecone Bar.
There’s no lodging at the ski resort, but the Resort at Mount Charleston and the Mount Charleston Lodge both are about a half-hour’s drive away.
The Nevada Commission on Tourism is a part of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. For more on Nevada travel, visit the website www.travelnevada.com.
IF YOU GO:
Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort, Highway 156, Mount Charleston, Nev.; 702-385-2754; www.skilasvegas.com. Check the website for a snow report, weather and road conditions, as well as a webcam.
Lift tickets cost $50 Monday through Friday and $60 weekends and holidays; for seniors age 60 and older and teens ages 13-18, it’s $35 Monday through Friday and $45 weekends and holidays; for youth ages 6-12, it’s $30 Monday through Friday and $40 weekends.
Photo credit: Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort