Spring Fling in Reno/Tahoe Area

The Grimms of Laguna Beach are authors of "Away for the Weekend,"a travel guide to Southern California.

Don't think the ski season is over just because spring has officially arrived. There's still a month or more of downhill schussing in the mountains around Lake Tahoe.

Although snowfall has been well below normal, a storm added two more feet 10 days ago and most of the Reno/Tahoe ski resorts plan to keep operating well into April. Alpine Meadows hopes to have its runs open until Memorial Day.

Added enticements for a spring fling are bargain packages for accommodations and lift tickets, especially at lodgings in Reno and alpine resorts around Tahoe's North Shore. Even if you're a non-skier, there's plenty of alternate activity.

At South Lake Tahoe, just inside the California border, you can go through the woods on a horse-drawn sleigh, cruise across the lake aboard a paddle-wheel boat and get a bird's-eye view of the Sierra from an aerial tramway that rises to 8,250 feet. Gamblers can step across the border to casinos in Stateline, Nev.

Casino Tour

Nearer Lake Tahoe's North Shore, more gaming tables and slot machines await Reno-based visitors. You can get lessons at a gambling school and take a behind-the-scenes casino tour.

Also in Reno, Harrah's world-famed automobile museum is a treat for car buffs, and Harold's Club shows off a collection of firearms and music-making machines. Be sure to visit the new Wilbur D. May Museum that features artifacts gathered during the world travels of an heir to the May Co. fortune.

From Los Angeles you can reach Reno and Lake Tahoe by driving north on U.S. 395. Or fly to South Lake Tahoe Valley Airport on Air Cal, PSA, Delta/Western. Several other airlines have service from L.A. area airports to Reno-Cannon International Airport. Some offer fly/ski packages too.

An example is the Air Cal/Heavenly deal with round-trip air fare to South Lake Tahoe, two nights' lodging, shuttle bus and lift tickets for three days of skiing at Heavenly Valley. The cost is based on lodging, from $229 (economy motel) to $282 (deluxe casino hotel), per person double occupancy, with arrival Sunday through Wednesday (ends April 15). Call (800) 424-7225.

Ski Packages

For North Shore resorts, PSA has several Great Escape ski packages to Reno. One includes round-trip air fare from L.A. area airports, three nights' lodging, a two-day lift ticket that can be used at various ski slopes, and a rental car. Depending on lodging, rates are $308 to $331 per person double occupancy (ends April 15). Call (800) 223-2929 weekdays.

Consider a money-saving lodging/lift package if you're driving to the area. One offer on the North Shore is Cal Neva Lodge/Ski Incline's room, breakfast and lift ticket for $39.95 per person per night. It's for double occupancy Sunday-Thursday. A weekend three-day, two-night package costs $95 (ends April 19). Call (800) 225-6382.

If Reno is your base, there are deals like the Nugget Casino-Hotel's $89 package that covers two nights' lodging, lift ticket and transportation for a day of skiing at Squaw Valley, and entry to the hotel show (current headliner is Roger Miller). Call (800) 648-1177. The rate is per person, double occupancy (to April 15).

At South Lake Tahoe the ski packages include one offered by the largest resort hotel/casino, Harvey's, where $129 per person (double occupancy) gets you a room for two nights and an interchangeable lift ticket good for two days at six ski resorts. You must be 21 or older and arrive Sunday through Thursday (ends April 26). Call (800) 648-3361.

Besides skiing at the South Shore, you can go for a sleigh ride. Look for the huge horses hitched to open sleighs in a meadow across from the Caesars Tahoe resort hotel. Sam Borges or another family member entertains you with songs and Tahoe tales on the 40-minute outing. Adults pay $6, children under 12, $4; lap robes are provided.

Excursion Boats

Two paddle-wheel excursion boats embark from the South Shore for scenic tours of Lake Tahoe and Emerald Bay. The Tahoe Queen departs daily at 12:30 p.m. from Ski Run Marina for a 2-hour narrated cruise. Adults $11, kids 10 and under $4.50. Call (916) 541-4652. The Dixie resumes daily cruises April 25 from Zephyr Cove Marina.

For a panorama of the beautiful alpine lake, join skiers on the aerial tramway at Heavenly Valley. It takes you to a mountainside lookout and the Top of the Tram restaurant that serves drinks and lunch. The tram operates daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to April 26 and resumes on Memorial Day. Adults $9, children $5.

In Reno a popular non-ski activity is a visit to the Reno-Tahoe Gaming Academy where dealers learn about poker, craps, blackjack and roulette. You'll get quick lessons and a chance to play for practice, then tour a casino. Gaming memorabilia is on display, including all sorts of crooked dice. Tours are weekdays at 12:30 and 2 p.m. Admission $5. Call (702) 348-7403.

Also in downtown Reno, on the third floor of Harold's Club on Virginia Street, you'll find an array of rare firearms and other mementos of the Old West. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and admission is free.

Harrah Car Collection

A few miles east of town on 2nd Street/Glendale Avenue in an unimposing warehouse is the renowned car collection of William F. Harrah. Some of the valuable antique and classic autos have been auctioned off since Harrah's death in 1978, but there are still hundreds of shining vehicles to see. The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m.to 5:30 p.m. Admission $6.60; children 5 to 15, $3.50.

Just north of downtown Reno in Rancho San Rafael Park you'll find an unusual museum that portrays the life of Wilbur May, son of the founder of May Co. department stores. Featured are many priceless souvenirs he collected during 40 trips around the world. He lived in the era of big-game hunters, and one room is crammed with animal trophies from May's many safaris.

The Wilbur D. May Museum and an adjacent arboretum are open daily except Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (from noon Sundays). Admission is $1 for adults, 50 cents for children under 12.

For more information or room reservations in the Reno area, call (800) 367-7366. For North Lake Tahoe ski and room information, call (800) 822-5959; for South Lake Tahoe, (800) 822-5922.

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