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The OTHER ways to have fun in the snow

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Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010 12:00 am

Not everyone likes to ski. But that doesn't mean they can't enjoy all the perks of snow country not far from Lodi.

From soaking in a hot spring to dog sledding, here are 10 things you can do in the snow without being attached to skis or a board.

1. Soak in a hot spring

Escape the slopes by slipping into a 102-degree mineral spring water pool that is relaxation for the skier and non-skier alike. Just south of Lake Tahoe, the Grover Hot Springs State Park is open year-round. Visitors can watch the snow fall from a seat in the warm pool in a pine forest.

The most popular season is June through August, with hours varying daily from September to May. The pool closes during severe snow and thunder storms.

For more information, call the park at (530) 694-2248 or (530) 525-7232.

2. Ice skate in nature's backyard

Just because you don't like to ski doesn't mean you can't enjoy the brisk air and snow-flaked scenery. One way to get active without putting on a pair of skis is ice skating. Many Northern California ski resorts are nearby indoor and outdoor skating rinks. One of the most popular is the Ice Rink at Curry Village in Yosemite. It has been an area tradition since the 1930s. Also tucked beneath Half Dome and Glacier Point is an outdoor fire ring with supplies for making smores and hot cocoa.

The Curry Village Ice Skating Rink is open from mid-November until early March. For more information, call 372-8319.

3. Feel speed behind a pack of dogs

Did you think dog sleds only existed in the movies? Dog sledding may seem like a foreign concept, but Shasta visitors can take a family-fun sled tour in Trinity National Forest. As you are pulled by high-energy canines for one hour, you will see Mt. Shasta, Mt. Lassen and the Castle Crags.

For more information about Shasta Ranch Lodge and Dog Sled Express, visit

4. See Lake Tahoe by way of gondola

Gondolas on the California and Nevada state line let you see Lake Tahoe from a different perspective. The cabins take guests about two-and-a-half miles up a mountain. After seeing views of the lake, the gondola stops at The Deck, a 14,000-square-foot platform. Located at 9,123 feet, guests are treated to views of the Carson Valley, Desolation Wilderness and shore-to-shore views of Lake Tahoe. Fore more information, visit

5. Get wild at a concert

If your beau won't get off the mountain and you're done playing on the bunny hill, grab some friends and let the pros entertain you. From the Reno Events Center to Harrah's Lake Tahoe, you can see anyone from Brad Paisley (Feb. 21) rockers Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Feb. 27) and Rick Springfield (March 6).

6. Make ice cream with snow

Whether you want to entertain yourself of the kids, making homemade ice cream is a sweet way to spend a day in the snow. It only takes four ingredients: clean snow, vanilla flavoring (or any flavor you like), sugar, milk and whipped cream. Fill a large bowl with snow, then add a half cup of sugar and two teaspoons of the flavoring (or to taste). Add milk slowly and stir until it's smooth. To make it even smoother, stir in whipped cream. Enjoy it then or wrap it tightly and store it in the freezer.

7. Ride snowmobiles in Bear Valley

Up Highway 4, you can find snowmobile country in Bear Valley. Bear Valley turns into a snowmobile-only community as roads close after the first big snowfall. There are numerous widely-groomed trails, and rentals start at $99 an hour. For more information, call (877) HWY4-FUN.

8. Cozy up with a warm mug of cocoa

Sometimes, getting away to the snow provides that perfect time to cuddle up in country ski resort with a warm drink and pile of books or magazines. Some even have wifi — not so you can check your bank account or work load — but so you can read all of your favorite blogs or write long e-mails to old friends.

It's also the best time to enjoy those sweet drinks, with and without alcohol. Give anything warm a try, from real Irish mochas to Kahlua and coffee.

9. When all else fails, toboggan

When it comes to having some snow fun, you can't go wrong with a molded plastic toboggan. Whether you drive toward Lake Tahoe, Arnold or Sonora, finding a place to stop and ride an affordable way to enjoy a day in the snow. Pack a lunch, some dry clothes for the ride home and even take the dogs for a ride. Be careful when stopping on the side of the roads and pay attention to no-tobogganing signs.

10. It may look masochistic, but ice fishing is really cool fun

Ice fishing is wildly popular in Minnesota and other parts of the upper Midwest. There, whole party houses are hauled out onto frozen lakes for weekend-long celebrations that also include tending lines dropped into a hole in the ice.

Ice fishing is catching on in California, too, at least in the handful of lakes at altitudes lofty enough to freeze over solidly from December to March most years.

Among those are Silver, Caples and Red lakes, all on Highway 88 east of Lodi. Elsewhere in the Sierra, Boca, Prosser and Stampede lakes and Lake Davis are popular ice fisheries.

If you've driven past these lakes on recent weekends, chances are you've spotted little groups of people huddled around fishing poles, looking miserable.

They aren't. Ice fishing is deceptive fun. The fishing can be scalding hot. The days may start off quote chilly but often turn sunny and spectacular. The air is fresh and bracing.

It can be wonderfully social, with friends and family sitting in the sun, chatting and munching away the day. Or it can be quiet and solitary. Your choice. Party houses aren't a fixture of the California scene. It is pretty much a day-trip experience, with fisher-folk out in the open, braving the elements.

If you go, you'll need:

  • Warm clothes. As the saying goes, dress in layers. Be especially mindful of your feet, as the ice will push cold through light sport shoes and numb your toes quickly. Think heavy, water-repellent boots and thick socks, maybe a couple pair.
  • An augur, to drill a hole in the ice. You can buy these online. You can get the muscle-powered kind or, for the less-hearty types, there are motorized versions. No augur? You could probably clear away an old augur hole with a hammer or crowbar, but that can be chancy, as the ice can melt and refreeze in layers, sometimes several feet thick.
  • Basic fishing gear, including bait. What to use? Salmon eggs, nightcrawlers, other types of worms, such as mealy worms, and shrimp are popular attractants. (Of course, you need a California fishing license.)
  • Something to sit on. This can be a plastic bucket, tipped upside down. When you are finished, you can fill the bucket with your fish and ice and take your dinner home chilled. Most ice fishermen, though, bring portable folding chairs. Keep in mind: You may be sitting for long periods.
  • Sunscreen, because the sun bounces off of the ice and snow and will turn your face into a tomato if you don't take precautions.
  • Snacks or lunch to nibble on. Plenty of water to stay hydrated. Optional for those over 21: Something alcoholic to sip and help stay warm.
  • Also optional: A camera to record your catch.

The season is determined by the weather. Peak season is December, January and February, and some lakes often remain frozen hard through March. But as the weather warms, the ice turns to slush and the lakes can become treacherous. From this time of year on, it's important to make sure your lake is still solid and fishable.



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