While making their way from one resort to another, some visitors are aware there there are many other things to see and do in Southern Nevada that lie outside the world-renowned Las Vegas Strip. Some of these include a range of museums, state parks and outdoor adventure. While some visitors are aware of the multifaceted activities Nevada has to offer, one might not associate ski resorts to the area. However, Lee Canyonpresents an alluring adventure of off-the-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 Mount Charleston, Lee Canyon 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. These backcountry 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.”
This 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. However, their newly implemented 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 Vegas
Adding a ski trip to a Las Vegas vacation is painless, resort staff says.
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, and the trip from Las Vegas usually takes less than an hour. The highway typically has clear driving conditions, and the trip from Las Vegas usually takes less than one hour. Additionally, the resort is working on implementing a shuttle service from the Las Vegas area.
Once at the resort, visitors not only have the luxury of renting the typical equipment, including skis, boots and snowboards, but they also have the unique option to rent snow pants and jackets. Those who are not equipped with goggles and gloves can purchase them at the ski shop, adjacent to the ticket booth. There, you’ll also find a locker room and, on the second floor, the Big Horn Café and the Bristlecone Bar.
While there is no lodging available at the ski resort, the Resort at Mount Charleston and the Mount Charleston Lodge are within a 30 minute drive.