Bringing skiing back to Spooner Lake

I skate skied along the shore of Spooner Lake, floated across Spooner Meadows and finished with a gentle climb up the Railroad Grade. My face was lit up with a smile the whole time. Not only was the corduroy fresh and smooth and the views of Spooner Lake and surrounding peaks spectacular, but it was a chance to relive happy memories of all those times I skied the trails at Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Area.

Dave Straley, left, and Tim Hauserman explore the trails at Spooner Lake.

Up until five years ago, you could ski the amazing terrain from Spooner Lake to Marlette Lake and climb to the top of the ridge above Marlette. There on a trail called Saint’s Rest were spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. (Was it named Saint’s Rest because you thought you had died and gone to heaven?)

Now a group of folks from Incline Village and Carson City have formed a nonprofit known as Nevada Nordic, which is bringing Nordic skiing back to Nevada — not only at Spooner Summit, but also, they hope soon, to the top of the Mount Rose Highway at Incline Lake.

Spooner Lake State Park is a mountain biking and hiking haven during the summer and fall, providing access to the Flume Trail, Marlette Lake and the Tahoe Rim Trail. For 27 years, married couple Max Jones and Patti McMullen ran Spooner Lake Cross Country Ski Area from this trailhead with nearly 90 kilometers of trails. When they departed in 2012 to start the Tunnel Creek Cafe, Nevada was left without a groomed Nordic-skiing venue. Now about 8 to 10km of trails are groomed from the Spooner Lake trailhead near the intersection of U.S. State Routes 50 and 28.

… the corduroy fresh and smooth and the views of Spooner Lake and surrounding peaks spectacular.

Currently the area groomed includes a loop around one side of Spooner Lake, and a trail up North Canyon Road a bit to where the Marlette Lake hiking trail begins. Here, unfortunately, the canyon road becomes too narrow for the current grooming machine to make the long trek up to Marlette Lake and Snow Valley. I also missed skiing the old Lower Aspen Trail, which as you might guess, was a fun trail running through groves of aspens. Instead of the big climb, the trail now winds around the meadow before heading up the straight railroad grade back to Spooner Lake.

Tim Hauserman enjoys the trails at Spooner Lake State Park.

Even though the offerings were not as extensive as before, I was pretty dang stoked to be skiing again on the Spooner trails. I was joined on by Dave Straley from the Nevada Nordic board of directors and Tony Eng, a volunteer from Carson City who has spent many hours freshening up the trails with a snowmobile pulling a Ginzugroomer.

It would be awesome if the Nevada Nordic folks could find a smaller, narrower Snowcat, such as the one Max had used, because it would allow them to groom much more terrain. Straley agrees and says it is on Nevada Nordic’s wish list. Currently, Matt Saele of Sierra Snowcat grooms the trails about once a week, usually after a recent snowstorm when there is a forecast for a few clear days ahead. In between, volunteers, such as Eng, do their best to keep the trails clean via snowmobile grooming.

The cost to ski at Spooner is free. There is a $7 parking fee, $5 for Nevada residents. When I was there, the ski conditions were excellent, except a bit sticky in the warm sunshine on one downhill section. The trail network is also popular with walkers and snowshoers with dogs. My best advice for skiers is to find out when they are grooming and get there right after it is groomed.

Nordic center at Tahoe Meadows
Nevada Nordic is putting a lot of effort and financial support into bringing skiing back to Spooner, however, the long-term goal is to create a cross-country ski center in the Incline Lake/Tahoe Meadows area.

“For years, a small group of Tahoe Basin cross-country skiers have had visions of a facility in the Mount Rose Meadows Area. It is a cross-country Camelot. Always gets enough snow to groom before anywhere else and keeps enough snow for a groomer long after all the local cross-country ski centers have closed,” says Straley.

Dealing with getting the permits from the U.S. Forest Service to create the new area has proven to be much more time consuming than they would have hoped.

“Northern Nevada lost two good cross-country ski facilities over the last 15 years,” he says. “We are trying to bring them back. Having Spooner groomed gives us the confidence that we can bring back Mount Rose also.”

For more information, grooming times or to support Nevada Nordic’s efforts, visit