“D” and “skiing” are not used in sentences together.
I’m fairly confident the last time I put skis on and raced down a mountain was during President Clinton’s first term.
I’ll admit — I never imagined my first real foray into West Coast skiing would be in Las Vegas. As a teenager when I was able to whisk down those black diamonds, I envisioned myself clad in a faux fur hat and pink ski goggles racing down a majestic mountain on fancy skis in some resort town like Park City or other ski-bunny town.
The first time in my adult life I faced the mountain west of the Mississippi was this past weekend. In Las Vegas. At Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort.
Yes. Las Vegas has skiing.
And, it’s not inside some resort on an artificial mountain, it’s outside. In the mountains. With real snow. (Well, most of the stuff people actually ski on has been made by snow machines, but it’s still snow.) And, below that stuff is the real, fallen-from-the-sky deal. In fact, as we entered the holidays in 2011, Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort, the only ski/snowboard resort in the area, had the deepest snow base in the region, measuring in at a whopping 50 inches.
A pretty 45-minute drive from The Strip is the resort, tucked into the Spring Mountains’ Lee Canyon. Here, unlike the desert some 6,000 feet below, winter actually comes. Sometimes with striking force. Fortunately, the day I head up the mountain, the sun is shining.
The mountain attracts both locals looking for a day trip, and tourists keen on experiencing yet another side of Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort has 11 trails — only two of which are beginners (the ones I explored). The rest of the trails are blue (60 percent) and black (20 percent).
The vertical drop is on par with what I’m used to from my Mid-Atlantic skiing days back home — a tamer 860 feet. In terms of distance, the longest run at the resort is 3,000 feet.
But, for me, that’s just fine.
Although I used to be a good skier, on the mountain that day my legs refuse to unfreeze from the oh-so-attractive “wedge.”
The biggest challenge for me wasn’t gliding down the mountain. It was getting on and off the lift the first time. There were no bars on these bad boys, so my hand wrapped around the frame in a death grip.
Granted, I was also a little nervous about the actual act of skiing. Since it had been ages, I joined a class quickly to get a refresher in the fine art of the “wedge.” The resort offers a wide-range of classes, including group and private lessons for skiers and snowboarders.
I am very happy to report, I sustained no injuries on this sunny Las Vegas day. Which is more than I can say for other adventure sports activities I have tried … like the time I enjoyed para-falling instead of paragliding; or my sea navigation issues.
In terms of what to wear … I think it is safe to say my outfit was laughable. Being chic and a budget traveler don’t go together! I don’t own ski clothing, so I wore jeggings (I know …), a turtleneck, T-shirt, fleece vest and brought with me a pair of thick sweat pants, an REI fleece-lined jacket, knit gloves and a hat.
Fortunately, the resort offers clothing to rent so within minutes, I had a nice pair of waterproof pants to wear. And, had I needed it, I could have also rented a thicker coat. Bonus? Unlike my scrounged together winter monstrosity I assembled, the apparel at the resort won’t leave guests looking like they are a fashion “don’t.”
On this Saturday morning though, the sun was shining, the sky was nearly cloudless and the mid-30 temps didn’t require too many layers beyond what I was already wearing.
I also don’t own skis, or any of the other gear that goes with it, so I rented those there, too.
When the snow melts, the resort turns into a gorgeous area for hikes winding through pine trees complete with fresh mountain area and perfect temps compared to the sweltering heat in town.
The bottom line:
Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort is a the perfect place for people in Las Vegas looking to get a breath of the great outdoors without venturing too far from The Strip. The snow conditions vary depending on the weather and when I skied, it was packed and slightly icy. Price is fair, and deals can be found online to help minimize the expense. People coming to the mountain should not expect a Vail or an Aspen, but they should expect a fun day skiing less than an hour from one the most popular tourist destinations in the world — Las Vegas.
Unlike resorts dotting mountains in the west, this one doesn’t have on-site lodging. In fact, the closest beds available are on the other side of the mountain in Kyle Canyon with a choice of two properties — The Resort at Mt. Charleston or Mount Charleston Lodge.
Otherwise, it’s back down the mountain and into town. The closest major resort in town is Santa Fe Station.
From The Strip, take I-15 North to 95 North. Stick on that for around 30 miles then turn left onto Rt. 156 to Lee Canyon. About 17 miles up the road (note: don’t speed, there are police who will pull you over, take it from me), the road dead-ends into the resort. Don’t have a car? Don’t worry. The resort also operates a shuttle bus that departs from Town Square and Santa Fe Station around 8 a.m. every day, returning after 4 p.m.
For details, visit Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard’s Web site.
Editor’s Note: I was a guest of the resort for the day, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.