I took this vacation last year and it is close to the perfect one in my eyes and I thought the people on TFT would enjoy it. It is cheap, easy to access with great resort skiing and roadside back country, lots of snow and lots of sunshine too. The cherry is the cabin by the river with the best public hot spring I have ever been to.
: Southwest Airlines has a direct flight from Boston to Reno with a stop in Denver. I was able to ski half a day at Mount Rose on the day I flew out. Great BC skiing right at Mount Rose too and you could do that as well your first day. Return flight is also direct and not a red eye! Leave around noon. I used the bus from Portland Maine to connect on either end-super easy. As you probably know Southwest operates a little differently. You buy tickets directly from them. It is a different strategy for cheap seats than using kayak. The early bird gets the worm with Southwest. If you know ahead of time when your vacation is just keep an eye to when SW opens those dates for tickets. Southwest has the best ticket change policy in the industry in my opinion. Plus 2 bags, including 1 ski bag fly free!!!!!
I found Reno to be an easy airport to drive in and out of and the car rental prices last year were among the cheapest in the country. Word of advise:buy chains-many of the rental companies offer them. There is a rubber bungy cord with hooks which tightens the chains-this is a worth while thing to buy to help secure the chains. If you buy from a big store you might be able to return them if they are unused. I used mine and there is no way I would have driven the roads on front wheel drive rental car tires without them. It snows 500" at Carson's Pass and they have enforced chain controls-no chains, no go. I felt ok with chains and front wheel drive. For me it was ok not to have a big 4 wheel drive rental.
I bought a season pass (6days a week) for $239 last year. They offered a cheap insurance to go with the pass. Not sure how the pricing is this year. If a season pass does not make sense there were daily ticket deals to be had ahead of time through snowbomb. Bought mine this year for $50 which includes one Kirkwood ticket and access to discounts. Again it is the early bird who finds the savings.
I loved Kirkwood. Each morning I drove to within 50 feet of the high speed lift that went to the top. If you haven't skied out west before, you tailgate rather than use the lodge. Closest resort parking I have ever had in a public lot. Kirkwood is a great mountain-500 inches; highest elevation in Lake Tahoe; great vibe; interesting, surprisingly large ski area; amazing back country from the top of a surface lift; great scenary; Uncrowded especially during the week. If anyone goes to Kirkwood hit me up and I will give you the lowdown. On the website link is video archive of every day they were open last year. Just pick some random days and have a look. I did not go to Mamouth, but it is a 2 hour drive on usually dry, scenic Highway 395 on the East side of the Sierras and there are hot springs in that direction too! and more back country!!
Check out Back Country Message Board
for amazing stoke and partners. Go to Amazon and search for these two books: Backcountry Skiing California's Eastern Sierra
which covers a region South from Mammoth so a bit of a drive (best by a mile back country ski book I have ever had the pleasure to drool over-really if you have read this far, buy this book for the amazing pipe dreams it gives) and "Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding Lake Tahoe
. Very easy road access. The snowpack seems to be one of the better ones at stabilizing and if you have gone tenderly into other areas you, would be surprised at how people charge the new snow in Cali-I found it easy to talk with people at the trail heads and if you are prepared and know your way about you there is just unbelievable back country. I did not do this, but there are huts to ski into around Lake Tahoe and further south in the National forest and National Parks. If you want to do a real BC tour, then this is the book: Back Country Skiing in the High Sierra
: Hope Valley Cross Country Skiing
You know you are at the right place if the center is a yurt. There is also a very nice cross country ski center at the base of Kirkwood
Where to Stay
: Carson River Resort
Give Todd a shout he is a great guy. The 1940's Sears and Robuck cabins have 2 good full size beds, a small separate kitchen, gas fake wood stove for heat, lots of windows, fire pit out back, charcoal grills and deck chairs for relaxing in the sun. These are rustic cabins which are on the small size for more than two people, but you could put two couples in them if you wanted to save money. I used 2 (the first only had a minifridge and a microwave for a kitchen) during my stay and the beds and linens were of very good quality and they were kept clean. The road over the pass is closed in winter so it is essentially a dead end with very little traffic. You listen to the East Branch of the Carson River. No phone-land line or cell reception, no tv, no internet, no radio, really adding to what is needed for a vacation. I saw, what was supported by Todd and a State Park Ranger, Mountain Lion prints a short way down the river. The town of Markleeville
is the county seat for Alpine County, by far the least populated county in California. This is home to the Deathride over 5 passes in the summer. The Chamber of Commerce
is where you can pick up great maps and your snopark pass which allows you to park up at Carsons pass-good place to hit up for information. This sleepy town in winter has 2 hotels, 1 bar with free wifi and music on Friday nights, post office, Public Library with free wifi, and a small general store. Just up the road is Grover Hot Springs SP
. Amazing-no sulfur, little smell, water is monitored and flows through one large pool at a good rate; great views, a cool pool, showers and very clean. It is more crowded on weekends with Russians from the coast driving up to spend a day in the hot springs-those people know how to do it. This is my favorite mountain town I have ever been in. About a 45 minute drive to Kirkwood on well maintained roads with unbelievable scenary. Markleeville
is at 5,400' of elevation for easier sleeping and is warmer than the skiing higher up. It is a 2 hour drive to Mammoth which I hear lives up to its name and gives a different option for skiing depending on storm tracks. The 1 1/2 hour drive from Markleeville
to the Reno airport is East in dry Nevada with no passes so no worries on the drive in or out.
Snowpark passes are also available at Carson Ranger District US Forest Service; 1536 South Carson Street, Carson City, NV 89701
(775) 882-2766 as well as Woodfords Station, Sorensen's Resort.
I would think this vacation is doable for a week for less than $1,000 per person if two couples went in on it and shared a cabin and car rental. If it was just one couple or separate cabins then $1,300 per person if you cook most of your meals-this is a real cost savings on vacation. People always say Salt Lake City is the cheapest, but I think it would be hard pressed to beat this for a week and the quality would be nowhere near the same.
I might try to publish this someplace so please do not repost somewhere else.