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Shasta snow fun.

Shasta snow fun In winter, Mount Shasta exchanges its three-season snow cap for a floor-length white cloak, a stunning fall of almost 2 miles from the 14,162-foot summit. It takes a lot of snow to cover the most massive mountain in the U.S. outside of Alaska. Now there are a lot of ways to play in all that snow.

Admittedly, accomplished downhill skiers won't have enough lift-served terrain here to keep them busy for more than a day or two. And you won't find luxurious slopeside condos on this mountain, either.

What you will find is a low-key, family-oriented area with one of nature's more awe-inspiring wonders at its center--a place where you can conveniently sample a variety of winter sports. Downhill skiers and snowboarders can slalom down Mount Shasta's flank at California's newest ski area. Nordic skiers have a choice of striding in machine-set tracks, skating on groomed trails, or meandering through untracked meadows ringed by majestic Shasta red fir. For those who prefer their winter recreation closer to the ground, open slopes invite sledding and tobogganing.

Unlike the situation at Tahoe and other ski meccas, reserving affordable accommodations on short notice is rearely a problem in the small towns near Shasta, even during holidays. But since none of the ski or snow-play areas we describe has on-site lodging, you'll need to use your car. Though roads are usually cleared quickly after storms, snow chains or four-wheel drive vehicles with snow tires are sometimes necessary. All telephone numbers are area code 916.

Ski on one board or two

at California's newest spot

Eleven years ago, Mount Shasta lost its only alpine ski area when an avalanche destroyed a chair lift at Mount Shasta Ski Bowl, located mostly above timberline on the mountain's south slope. Life-served skiing returned to the mountain in late 1985, when Mount Shasta Ski Park opened on a lower and more sheltered south-side site.

Two triple chairs carry skiers from the day lodge at 5,500 feet to ski slopes at 6,150 and 6,600 feet. The Marmot Ridge lift provides access to wide and gentle beginner runs; steeper runs branch off through the trees from the top of the Douglas Butte lift. Besides the daily 9 to 4 hours of operation, the Marmot Ridge lift runs until 10 P.M. Wednesday through Saturdays for skiing on lighted runs.

Skiers looking for new ways to get down the mountain (and skateboarding teens who'd like a new challenge) should check into the ski park's snowboard center, which ofers both lessons and rental equipment. A few tumbles are inevitable at first, but before long you'll be "shredding" the slopes with ease. Confident snowboarders can graduate to the park's new halfpipe (a snow-lined, steep-walled trough for executing stunts).

Full-day lift tickets cost $23 for adults, $16 for ages 8 through 12 and seniors, and $3 for ages 7 and under. half-day (afternoon) and night tickets cost $16, $11, and $3. Skis, boots, and poles are $16 a day; snowboards and boots rent for $25. One-hour private lessons are $25; group lessons are $18. For snow conditions, call 926-8686.

Last year, the U.S. Forest Service approved a proposal by a local developer to build another new ski area at the site of the old Ski Bowl. Appeals were subsequently filed by opponents of the proposed ski area, including major environmental groups and the state attorney general's office. At our press time, Forest Service officials in Washington were still reviewing the appeals, though a decision was expected soon. For more information, call 926-4511.

Skate or stride a revived X-C area

After lying dormant for two years, Castle Lake Cross Country Ski Area opened again last year under new management. Its 52 kilometers of trails wind through forest in the Eddys range, across the Strawberry Valley from Mount Shasta. Clearings allow for spectacular views of the snow-covered volcano.

All trails here have both machine-set tracks for traditional diagonal striding and wide, groomed lanes for skaters. Beginner trails loop around the area near the small day lodge. Intermediate trails continue to the north (these offer the best views of Shasta) and up the ridge across Castle Lake Creek. The most challenging trails travers the ridgetop.

Trails are well marked; with the help of an area map, you should have no trouble plotting loop routes ranging from 1/2 kilometer to more than 11 kilometers in length. This year, in addition to skating lanes for skiers, the area will have a rink for ice-skating. Cost is $5.50 all day, $3.50 half-day; skate rentals are $4. Also new this year are three 500-foot-long luge runs (beginner, intermediate, and advanced); $1 per run, including luge rental. Hours are 9 to 5 daily, with evenying skiing, skating, and luge runs Wednesdays through Saturdays. A full-day pass is $10 for adults, $9 for ages 8 through 12 and seniors. Ski rental packages are available for $10. Introductory group lessons cost $10 for a 1 1/2-hour session. Call 926-3445 for trail conditions.

Ski for free on marked

but ungroomed nordic trails

Shasta itself has not groomed crosscountry trails, but the Forest Service marks some excellent trails on the south side of the mountain. Trails start at roadside pull-outs on Everitt Memorial Highway, which is plowed to 6,800 feet of elevation.

The main parking area is at the end of the plowed section of road, about 11 miles up from the town of Mount Shasta. From here, at Bunny Flat, a large open area on Forest Service land, you can ski 3 miles up the unplowed road to the old Ski Bowl.

Intermediate skiers who prefer to start off going downhill can follow blue diamond trail markers affixed to trees for a 3/4-mile jaunt to another large meadow known as Sand Flat. (Look for the first markers on trees along the left edge of Bunny Flat.) You can continue on a loop trail that heads into the forest on the west end of Sand Flat to view points overlooking surrounding valleys and mountains.

Beginning skiers can ski to Sand Flat from a pullout about half a mile below Bunny Flat. Columns of Shasta red firs adorned with bright green moss line the 1/2-mile route along a mostly flat and snow-covered road.

These trails are shown on a map you can pick up at the Mount Shasta Ranger district Office of Shasta-Trinity National Forest, at 204 W. Alma Street in Mount Shasta.

Unmarked ski routes on Shasta are described in The Mount shasta Book, by Michael Zanger (Wilderness Press, Berkeley, 1989; $9.95), and shown on a map drawn up by The Fifth season, an outdoor equipment store at 426 N. Mount Shasta Boulevard in Mount Shasta. The store also maintains a recorded information line giving ski conditions on the mountain; call 926-5555 to hear updated reports.

To arrange guided back-country ski tours or instruction on Mount Shasta, write to Shasta Mountain Guides, 1938 Hill Rd., Mount Shasta 96067; or call 926-3117.

Slippin' and slidin' and sleddin'

In the 1930s, the 90-meter ski jump on Snowman's Hill (6 miles east of I-5 on State Highway 89) was the site for several national championships. It's been almost 50 years since jumping was last done here, but people still flock to the site in winter to slide down the long landing slope on sleds, toboggans, inner tubes, plastic sheets, or saucers.

Bunny Flay (described above) is another popular snow-play site.

Where to stay

Accommodations around Shasta range from modern motels to turn-of-the-century ranch houses converted to bed-and-breakfast inns. For a complete list of area accommodations write the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Association, 1250 Parkview Ave., Redding 96001; or call 243-2643.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Mount Shasta, California
Date:Dec 1, 1989
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