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A bit of Europe in Truckee

Times Staff Writer

THE newly opened Cedar House Sport Hotel is on an unassuming business artery on the outskirts of this historic Sierra town. Location aside, there is nothing ordinary about Jeff and Patty Baird’s twist on the quaint, family-run European hotels they have frequented during ski jaunts to the Alps.

The 42-room Cedar House fuses Tyrolean functionality with cozy, north-of-Tahoe informality and eco-awareness.

Gnarled log posts and angled industrial steel front the main reception building. A corrugated steel prow led us into the airy lobby with its sleek chandelier dangling overhead. Topping the building is a sod roof planted with wild strawberries, grasses and perennials, one of numerous green building principles incorporated into the hotel.

Inside, the family border collie greeted us. Antique skis and boots rest beside a cozy fireplace; farther back, evening cocktails and morning lattes are served at the quaint bar.

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Bunking down: Rooms are spread throughout several buildings clad in cedar shingles and corrugated steel wainscoting. Inside, blond wood cabinetry mixes with sleek leather and polished-steel furniture. On the walls, pastel hues bump against primary colors. Half the rooms have private decks.

We spent a happy couple of hours sipping beer and watching the World Cup soccer finals -- what else in this Euro-style hotel? -- on the LCD TV.

The hotel’s mix of art and functionality extends into the guest rooms. In one corner, the pogoCloset -- an artsy wood rack with stainless steel hangers that resembles the kid’s toy -- looms floor to ceiling like a functional sculpture. After experimenting, we found that two separate duvets on the queen-size bed worked wonderfully to regulate our individual thermostatic needs.

The imported German bathroom fixtures are nouveau enough that management supplies instructions for the operationally flummoxed.

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Hanging around: One need venture no farther than the patio, which is flanked by manicured laws or snow drifts, depending on the season. A steel-and-cedar awning offers as much awe as shade and plenty of contemplative solitude.

After sunrise, a B&B-worthy; array of breakfast foods awaits in the main building -- fruits, smoked salmon, croissants and muffins. I couldn’t shy away from Jeff’s tasty chai latte. There are plans to add a spa.

Going out: The “sport” in this sport hotel is in its partnering with various outfitters to offer excursions in alpine and cross-country skiing, plus hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and other Sierra adventures. The Truckee River and rafting, Donner Lake’s cobalt waters and one of California’s most scenic drives up old Donner Pass Road are to the west.

Head south over Brockway Summit and there is a big blue lake named Tahoe.

Old town Truckee, with its 150-year-old main street of trendy shops and eateries, is two minutes away by car. For dinner, try Pianeta or the “Iron Chef"-style cuisine of Billy McCullough’s Dragonfly.

Perks and peeves: My wife, a hotel robe snob, declared her Cedar House offering the plushest ever. Our one complaint: The roadside location, more because of the imperfect ambience than the street noise.

Cedar House Sport Hotel, 10918 Brockway Road, Truckee; (530) 582-5655, cedarhousesporthotel.com. Rooms and suites $160-$300 high season; $125-$250 shoulder season.

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