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Cross-country skiing without the crowds in northeastern California.

Cross-country skiing without the crowds in northeastern California

Marked trails, new nordic centers with Mount Shasta or Lassen Peak as backdrops. From the Bay Area, 5 hours by car

Predictable snowfall, few people, and vast back-country forests have for years drawn experienced nordic skiers to northeastern California. Now there's good news for beginning and intermediate skiers: new nordic centers with lessons and groomed trails, all with spectacular views. Anchored by Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak, this part of the southern Cascade Range is well worth a winter or spring trip. Roads are nearly always clear of snow, making driving easy.

From the Bay Area to Mount Shasta or Lassen Volcanic National Park, you have to spend only about an hour more in the car than you would driving to the Tahoe Basin. Cedar Pass, in the farthest corner of the state, is a brand-new, informal operation; it isn't yet worth a long detour. Redding, with its Amtrak, bus, and air connections and rental car services, can serve as a jumping-off point for both the Shasta and Lassen areas.

If you drive, be sure to bring chains. On rare occasion, stretches of some roads close in storms but are usually cleared within hours. For highway information, call (800) 952-7623.

Expect to pay about $23 to $35 for a double room at most motels or lodges; many have kitchenettes. And except for holiday weekends, you can usually reserve on short notice.

All telephone numbers are area code 916. Trail pass prices are for all-day use; rental fees include boots, skis, and poles.

Mount Shasta: miles of forested trails, with a major nordic ski center nearby

Mount Shasta Recreation Area (6,800 to 7,000 feet). Rising from Shasta Valley like a monolith, 14,162-foot Mount Shasta presides over one of California's most pristine ski areas. But weather around the brooding mountain can change at whim-- sunny and calm one moment, cloudy and wind-swept the next. Dress in layers so you can adjust clothing accordingly.

You can explore the massif's southwestern skirts on four short marked trails for beginning and intermediate skiers. The trails lead from three small parking areas along the north side of the Everitt Memorial Highway, which is kept snow-free to Bunny Flat, some 11 miles from downtown Mount Shasta. Blue diamonds placed high on the trunks of Shasta red firs lead you to meadows buried under 10 or more feet of snow.

Unmarked trails run all over the mountain; sometimes hard to follow, they're for use by experienced skiers only.

For maps and information, write or call the Mount Shasta Ranger District, 204 W. Alma St., Mount Shasta 96067; 926-4511. You can also get trail maps at the House of Ski (on the Everitt Memorial Highway as it leaves town) or the Fifth Season (426 N. Mount Shasta Boulevard); both rent skis and can give trail advice. The latter offers nordic tours; call 926-3606.

From downtown Mount Shasta, drive east on Alma Street; at Washington Drive, turn left onto winding Everitt Memorial Highway. Look for trailhead parking areas on the north side of the road near mileposts 10 and 11. January through March, parking can be crowded weekends.

Castle Lake Nordic Center (5,220 feet). Just across the valley from Mount Shasta are the Klamath Mountains, and nestled among their bowls and ridges is this three-year-old facility. It maintains up to 30 machine-groomed trails--27 miles of excellent skiing for all abilities. Most years, you'll find snow here mid-November through April.

Don't be fooled by the boxy trailer that serves as a rental and snack shop. This is a professional, friendly operation. Children and beginners get special treatment; at 10 and 11 on weekends and holidays, they can get lessons for $2.50 with an all-day trail pass. Regular 90-minute beginner lessons cost $14, or $8 for ages 6 through 18 (trail pass included). Rentals cost $8 and $6.50; trail passes cost $5 and $4. For brochure, write to Box 660, Mount Shasta 96067.

From I-5, take the Central Mount Shasta exit west; follow signs to Lake Siskiyou. Just after crossing Box Canyon Dam, turn left onto Castle Lake Road; follow it 6.2 miles to the center.

The town of Mount Shasta is some 275 miles from San Francisco. For a list of lodging, write or call the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce, 300 Pine St., Mount Shasta 96067; 926-4865. Hours are 10 to 3 most weekdays. The office can also tell you about the Alpenfest, a weekend of films, dances, contests, and races, held February 1 through 3 this year. For snow conditions at either Mount Shasta or Castle Lake, call 926-5555.

Lassen area: quiet back-country skiing, nordic downhill, beginner trails

Lassen Volcanic National Park. To the delight of skiers, 400 to 700 inches of snow blanket the park and virtually close it to cars from November to early June. You're left with untrammeled skiing through a vast volcanic wilderness of plug domes, steaming vents, and 50 lakes.

Manzanita Lake in the park's northwest corner, 47 miles east of Redding on State Highway 44, has 12 miles of marked trails, some offering easy, flat skiing for beginners; base elevation is 5,847 feet. For $15 (including rental, or $7 without rental), you can take group lessons here some Saturdays at 10; for required reservations, write or call Alpine Outfitters Sports, 950 Hilltop Dr., Redding 96003; 221-7333. For lakeside snow conditions, call 335-4266.

Most visitors enter the park at its southwest corner, 52 miles east of Red Bluff. Just inside the gate is the Lassen Park Ski Area (6,800 feet), with a chalet, chair lift, and two surface tows. Nordic skiers with bindings and safety straps can use downhill slopes. All-day lift tickets cost $11 weekdays, $14 weekend days.

The area gives a 2 1/2-hour nordic lesson and tour for $15 per person ($10 for each extra person in a group), and a 1-hour nordic downhill lesson, also $15; to make required reservations, call 595-3376. Nordic rental fee is $9, but selection is limited.

Four marked and five unmarked trails lead from the chalet. For free maps (and advice on nearby trails just outside the park), check with rangers in the chalet or park headquarters in Mineral.

Mineral Lodge in the town of Mineral, 9.2 miles from the southwest gate, rents skis for $8 adults, $5 children. You can also join free ranger-led snowshoe tours from the Lassen chalet at 1:30 Thursdays through Mondays; the 1 1/2-mile walk takes about 2 1/2 hours. For snow conditions, call 595-4464.

For a brochure on winter in the park, including a list of nearby accommodations, write or call Lassen Volcanic National Park, Box 100, Mineral 96063; 595-4444.

Childs Meadows Resort. On State 36 just 9.4 miles southeast of the park entrance, this resort (at 4,800 feet) grooms up to 25 miles of meadow and mountain trails, half of which are just right for beginners; daily trail fee is $5, $2.50 for ages 7 through 12. Fridays through Sundays, 1 1/2-hour lessons ($10) are given at 10 and 1. Rentals cost $9 adults, $5 children. For details, call 595-3203; for lodging, call 595-4411.

Cedar Pass: New trails off U.S. 395

For scenery different from the Cascades and Klamaths, consider 6,305-foot Cedar Pass in the rugged Warner Mountains east of the Modoc Plateau. Here, a club-run downhill operation has a new neighbor: a fledgling nordic center in the adjacent meadow, with 6.2 miles of groomed trails for all abilities. On some of the ridge trails, you can look straight across Surprise Valley to the Nevada desert.

Begun this season, the nordic operation will be open most weekends from mid-December through Easter. Trail fee is $4; rentals and 2-hour lessons, $8 each. For schedule, write or call Modoc Chamber of Commerce, Box 1690, Alturas 96101; 233-2819.

From Alturas, drive 5 miles northeast on U.S. 395, then about 10 miles east on State 299 to Cedar Pass.

Finding unmarked trails on public lands

Each of northern California's national forests has unmarked routes. For a list of addresses, write or call the Office of Information, U.S. Forest Service, 630 Sansome St., San Francisco 94111; (415) 556-0122. For details on skiing on BLM lands, write or call the Recreation Planner, Bureau of Land Management, Box 1090, Susanville 96130; (916) 257-5381.

Photo: Snow flying off nordic skis, she telemarks down slope shared by alpine skiers in Lassen Park's southwest corner

Photo: "Bend those knees,' says instructor at Castle Lake. Inexpensive beginner lessons are given weekends and holidays. Skiers in background warm up for race

Photo: Color denotes five ski areas. Diamonds mark groomed trails. State 89 through Lassen Park is closed November to early June

Photo: A-frame chalet at Lassen houses cafeteria, rental shop, and ranger office. You meet here for nordic lessons, snowshoe tours

Photo: A swirl of snow and cloud obscures Mount Shasta's peak, while three skiers and their dog blaze a trail on lower meadow at Bunny Flat

Photo: Waltzing on snow isn't easy, but one couple can't resist at Castle Lake's Alpenfest weekend, February 1 through 3 this year
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Mount Shasta or Lassen Volcanic National Park
Date:Jan 1, 1985
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