For many skiers, it’s up the lift, down the hill and back again.
But a new program pairs U.S. Forest Service rangers and guests at the Lake Tahoe Heavenly Mountain Resort for an hour-long, free, guided ski and snowboard tour.
“When you attend a Ski with a Ranger tour, you’ll learn about recreation on public lands, forest health, wildlife, and water quality,” said Megan Dee, who coordinates the program for the agency’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. “However, instead of sitting in a lecture or reading a brochure, you’re learning by skiing or riding the slopes of Heavenly while enjoying breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe.”
The free tours are available to guests who ski or snowboard at an intermediate or higher level. According to Dee, ‘Ski with a Ranger’ attracts a wide range of guests, including locals, repeat visitors to the resort, and Forest Service employees and retirees from other parts of the country.
“Our experience was fantastic,” said Michael Sexton of Novato, Calif., who took the tour with his wife. “Our ranger guides Jenna Hooper and Emily Mathews were fun and very well-informed about the ecosystem and history of the Tahoe Basin. I have taken many ranger guided tours over the last 30 years and these ranks among the best.”
The ‘Ski with a Ranger’ program in Lake Tahoe dates back to at least 1976, but the program waned. It came alive in 2009 when the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act helped the Forest Service hire a coordinator. That first year, rangers made 497 contacts; last year, four times as many skiers and snowboarders signed up for the program. This year, the program offers Spanish-language tours as well.
Adrian Escobedo, who works in Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit’s Civil Rights Office, said the first Spanish-language tour saw tourists from Argentina, Ecuador and other Latin American countries. He plans to offer several additional Spanish-language tours, including two during the resort’s upcoming “Latin Ski Week”.
“Whether you speak English or Spanish, there is no better way to learn the most interesting Lake Tahoe facts and history,” said Pete Sonntag, Heavenly’s general manager. “While skiing with a ranger, you will learn about Heavenly’s unique relationship as partners in recreation with the U.S. Forest Service to share the important responsibility of maintaining a healthy forest, protecting our fragile ecosystem and exposing Heavenly and Lake Tahoe to a more diverse population.”