With my birthday/Valentine's Day trip on the horizon, we spent the weekend getting me prepped for skiing by visiting the slopes in North and South Lake Tahoe. For someone who pretty much just learned to really ski last year, I felt like I needed a little refresher before hitting the big slopes in Whistler this coming weekend.

North Lake Tahoe: Squaw Valley

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    On Friday morning, we got up before the sun, hit Chick-fil-A for breakfast right at opening, and headed to Squaw. Squaw Valley was the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics. We were not impressed. Maybe it was because there wasn't much snow, or because it was my first day back on the slopes in a year, or maybe it was just because it was awful. I learned to ski last year in Breckenridge, Colorado and skied later in the season at Northstar, another North Lake Tahoe ski resort. At both places, the slopes were marked, there was no chance of this beginner ending up on a black diamond because of unmarked terrain, at the top of each lift there was a map, some lifts had maps on them, and even some had guides at the top to make sure you knew where you were going. My nickname might be "Mapquest," but I can't map out mountains for the life of me, and apparently, neither can Squaw.
Picturehappy.. before heading down the green-turned-blue
    Tyler stayed with me until lunch then we split up so he could challenge himself on blacks while I continued practicing the basics on greens and pushed myself back up to blues. By "back" up to blues, I don't mean from last year - one of my first runs at Squaw was a blue because it was marked green at one point then when we got to it, it was blue. Not only was it more difficult than stated, half of it wasn't covered by snow so I had about a 7ft ridge between rocks and a huge drop. I was one unhappy camper, but not as upset as Tyler who had to sit at the bottom and coax me down.
    I also ended up in the Olympic half-pipe thanks to unmarked areas. Surprisingly I didn't do half-bad with that misfortune until I went a little too high on one side and when I went up the other half, I got stuck in rock because it wasn't covered in snow. Other than when I forced myself to fall on the green-turned-blue run to slide on my butt down the narrow part, this was my only fall of the day!

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    The only way down the mountain [other than the gondola] was to take blue runs. I can pretty much conquer any blue at this point except blues that have moguls. I also hate crowds and since half of the trails on the way down were sheets of ice forcing everyone to one side while we're all trying to come down the mountain at the same time, add in a section of moguls and I was glad the day was over.
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There is an ice-rink under the snow on top of the building to the right of the Olympic Rings
    There were some great views of Lake Tahoe and it was neat to see some Olympic facilities, but overall, we wouldn't recommend Squaw. Tyler said some of the blacks were good but difficult to get to. And while there is one side dedicated to greens and beginners, it was too easy for me but difficult to find anywhere else to go with no maps anywhere.

The Drive from North to South Lake Tahoe

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    I really could have taken 100 pictures, but I chose to just take it all in in mental images.. okay, and I fell asleep for part of the ride! This was an attempt to show how at this point we were surrounded by the lake on both sides.

South Lake Tahoe, California, and Nevada: Heavenly

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riding up the gondola from Heavenly Village
    Since Heavenly is owned/run by the same group that runs Breck and Northstar, we had high hopes. Heavenly was immediately different. When we got to the base of the lifts there was a huge map and a friendly guide who helped us map out runs that would be good for my level of skiing. Like Breck and Northstar, there were signs at the tops of lifts, maps on some of the chairs, and plenty of signs at splits in runs to make sure you stayed where you were supposed to. I was in map heaven.
    We were nervous at first because from Heavenly Village you can't see many runs at all. You take a gondola up for what feels like forever and just when you feel like you can't go any higher, you go over a peak and see another mountain full of runs!
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    The fun part about Heavenly is that half of the runs are located in California and half in Nevada. We skied Nevada in the morning and met friends for lunch on the California side of the mountain. At this point, Tyler broke away with the guys for more challenging runs and I stuck with the girls for our blue runs. This is the same group we're going to Whistler with, so I'm glad my "Happily Intermediate" girls will be with me! It's difficult to follow Tyler down the mountain because I know he's been doing this his whole life and he can do it all. Skiing with the girls forces me to push myself to stay at their level because I know they're new to it too!
    We had some great runs, I never fell, and I even managed to navigate myself around fallen skiers, so I'm feeling ready for Olympic park #2 [Whistler] this coming weekend!
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Back down the gondola at the end of the day
    On one of the lifts, Amanda posed the question to Anna [friend, not sister] and I, "What would you name a ski run if you had the chance to?" I said, "Rae's Run" - my middle name and an alliteration which I'm super fond of. What would you name a run?

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02/26/2014 11:44am

I'm so sad I can't join this weekend! You guys will have so much fun. Thinking of a name for a run (or most things) is difficult! Maybe I would do The Weaver and it would be a green run, where everyone is bad and weaves back and forth haha. And no one good would be allowed on it! It's just for us beginners who need lots of space and no one zooming by :)

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OMG I get so annoyed when good skiers and snowboarders zoom by me!

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