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How to safely view the total eclipse

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This astronomical event is a must-see, but see it safely

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that August 21 is the date of a total solar eclipse, the first mainland America has seen in yearly 40 years. During this historic event, the sun, which is 400 times larger than the moon, will cross pass with the moon which is 400 times farther away from the earth then the moon. During this time, the sun appears to be blocked out by the moon, except for its blinding halo formed by the sun’s gaseous atmosphere that shines around the moon’s silhouette. This will be something you and your children will want to see and experience, but viewing it must be done carefully so that the sun’s rays do not damage the naked eye.

Anytime you stare into the sun you can damage your eyes. This can happen in as little as 30 seconds. The reason an eclipse is more dangerous to the eye is because it causes people to look directly into the sun and for extended periods of time. The only time it’s safe to look directly at the eclipse is during the 1 or 2 minutes that the moon completely blocks the sun, and only people watching from a narrow band from Oregon to South Carolina—known as the path of totality—will witness that.

If you’d like to view this fascinating spectacle, make sure that you wear proper eyewear or use a viewing device. It is not advised to even use a camera or other lenses, as the rays can damage lenses and filters; and it is definitely not recommended to look through any sort of lens, binoculars or telescope. The best advice is to wait until after the event and view images in media taken by professionals using the proper equipment.


It is not safe to use regular sunglasses to watch an eclipse, though inexpensive eclipse glasses I readily available online and it many retailers for the price of about $5 to $10. Make sure to purchase your glasses from a reputable source, as several brands of these glasses on Amazon were recalled due to safety issues. Check out companies approved by the AAS Solar Eclipse task force.

If you have not purchased your glasses yet, you may be out of luck, because most vendors are sold out. But you can still make a pinhole viewer. Using this method, you pass the sunlight

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AdventureLifestyleOutdoorsThe Left CoastTravel

A summer snow skiing vacation in Lake Tahoe

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Mountain resorts make history by extending ski season to July Fourth

 

Careful what you wish for

For the first time in history, mountain resorts in Lake Tahoe have officially extended their ski season through July 4th weekend. After several dry winters, the Lake Tahoe resorts saw their snowiest season on record, reporting 700 inches of snow, approximately 300 percent more snow than a normal season. While the Reno-Tahoe area has always attracted many year-round visitors, for art and culture events and outdoor activities on the mountains and Lake Tahoe, this year visitors will enjoy an epic après ski.

 

For anyone who didn’t make it yet to Tahoe for the 2016-17 ski season, or for those who didn’t get enough, excellent powder and no crowds make it a perfect time to visit. And that’s just what a couple of my besties and I did, on a blizzard of a vacay of skiing, dining and lounging, hitting five resorts, in five days.

Parking it at Parc Foret

Our posse met up in Reno, where we enjoyed ultra-luxurious accommodations at the Parc Foret at Montreux. If you haven’t heard of it, this enclave of the Montreux master-planned development of luxury homes, about 30 minutes from the Reno-Tahoe airport, is a high desert oasis with year-round appeal, known for its 300 days of sunshine, world-class golfing, nearby casinos and nightlife, and of course, its proximity to the mountain resorts.

As we arrived at Parc Foret and got directions from the guard at the gatehouse to our abode, we kept looking for the landmark of the clubhouse, but we got confused, because we mistook every gigantor eight-bedroom manse on the street as the clubhouse.  “Oh, there it is; no, that’s a house. Now I see it, oops, that’s another house…”

 

 

The custom-built homes in the Montreux development impressed us with both their grandeur and design. We were lucky enough to experience the Stay and Play package, whereby potential homeowners are invited to reside a few days in the community – a clever marketing tactic, as its pretty impossible not to fall in love with the place.

Our modest 7200-square-foot house featured an open floor plan on the first level with a full kitchen and marble bar that opened into an enormous family room with a long, wall-to-wall gas fireplace, a perfect for gathering place to hang after a day on the mountain.

Each of us had our own grand master bedroom and bath, and there was plenty of space to spread out, from the downstairs game room and bar to the sunny deck overlooking the snowy woods. We also enjoyed lounging around our outdoor fireplace, right outside the front door.

We felt very at home at Montreux, where we were taken in at the clubhouse by the residents with whom we made fast friends, dancing the night away at a private party, as the DJ played surprisingly current rap and hip-hop. We were tempted to hang out there all day and skip the skiing, but the mountains kept calling our names.

Looking at the slopes through Mt. Rose-colored goggles

Our first stop was Mt. Rose, which is so close to the airport – about a 25-minute drive – that the resort offers discounted lift tickets for those who show their same-day airline boarding passes.

The resort is known for its spectacular views and its mellow attitude.  The resort features terrain for all levels as well as the longest continuous vertical in North America; and at 8,260 feet elevation, Mt. Rose is Tahoe’s highest base resort, which means the resort often has the best conditions even on the warmest spring days. As far as amenities, Mt. Rose is pretty much hard-core skiing, with not a lot of frills, but this may all change soon as the owners plan to develop it soon into a luxury resort.

Skiing large at Squaw Alpine

Our second day we spent at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadow, now known as Squaw Alpine since the two neighboring resorts merged in 2012.  The resort is massive in size, boasting a combined 6,200 acres and 43 lifts and 270 trails, attracting 6000,000 skiers a year. Although lift tickets and amenities are interchangeable, the two resorts feature distinctly different feels to visitors.

Squaw, famed as the site for the 1960 Olympics and recently voted as the top resort in North America by USA Today, is a high-energy resort that attracts many professional skiers, though it has a variety of terrain, including 25 percent beginner’s slopes. Alpine Meadows is known for its down-home and approachable hospitality and its easy-riding progression parks and wide-open bowls, with terrain for all levels of skiers.

Because of Squaw Alpine’s size and resources, it has amazing offerings. From tubing and snowmobiling, to dog sledding and ice-skating, there’s just about no snow sport you can’t do there. There is also a lovely village at Squaw with terrific dining and shopping and generally except for holiday weekends, it’s not too crowded.

Wishing upon Northstar

On day three we hit Northstar California, aptly named for its location on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. The resort is part of the Vail Group which also includes the Tahoe resorts of Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood, which all have the reputation as resorts dedicated to a premier visitor experience.

It was a bit of a drive from Parc Foret, about an hour and half, but we were glad to make a day of our venture to this luxury destination. Northstar features a Ritz-Carlton and other upscale accommodations and dining for visitors who like their skiing experience made easy. On-mountain dining includes the popular Zephyr Lodge, accessible by tram for pedestrians, which makes mincemeat of the standard chili and hot cocoa lodge fare with gourmet cuisine, which of course comes at a cost, but the typical Northstar clientele are not too concerned about a $25 lunch.

Northstar prides itself in its laid-back luxury, which is exactly what it sounds like. You’re treated like a VIP, but the tenor of the staff and the vibe in the village is definitely not uptight. The resort features amenities such as a valet who will carry your skis to the snow’s edge, though if you are staying in the luxury accommodations in the village, there’s hardly a reason for such a service, since the slopes are about 100 feet from your door step. In true ski-in-ski out fashion, one of the gondolas actually travels underneath the village condominiums.

Treasure of Sierra-at-Tahoe

As a storm came in, we rushed on our second to last day of vacation to Sierra at Tahoe. Unfortunately, the only road up to the mountain was bumper-to-bumper with other vacationers on the holiday weekend with the same idea. We spent more than 90 minutes edging up the hill for the last 7 miles to the top. The situation got a little desperate after morning coffee, forcing us to make an unscheduled stop behind a snow mound for a potty break.

The lumbering ride up to Sierra-at-Tahoe is worth the trip though. Having the only half-pipe on the south shore, Sierra is popular with snowboard riders, and because of its focus on value and affordable lift ticket packages, it draws many day users, making base camp a vibrant place to hang out. Being on the south shore, Sierra is also close to the night life and casinos, so it has become a favored resort of the party crowd.

In keeping with their theme of fun in the snow, Sierra’s kids lessons and the Smart Terrain classes for all ages are led by qualified instructors, upon whom the resort has bestowed the Certified Unserious badge, a designation that guarantees, among other things, that staff are dedicated to guests learning in a fun environment suited for their skill level.

 

Heavenly Can’t Wait

Our last day was at Heavenly Mountain Resort, which in my experience skiing there for more than 25 years has always lived up to its name. As the resort with the highest elevation of the Lake Tahoe area resorts, with a peak elevation of 10,067 feet, Heavenly has some of the most magnificent vistas. For skiers who like their terrain raw, Heavenly has no shortage of intense backcountry terrain, along with plenty of varied terrain from wide-open cruisers fo plunging 1,600-foot chutes. While they didn’t need it this year, Heavenly owns the largest snow-making system in the area, so even during dry years, they usually have decent conditions.

Our last journey down the mountain was on Roundabout, a winding narrow intermediate trail that traverses the mountain at a leisurely pace, sometimes where we had to use our poles to push ourselves. It’s a good thing the mellow terrain allowed us to catch our breath, as it would have been taken away by the spectacular views we got to enjoy all the way down.

Cool digs

We changed our accommodations our last two nights to the new Hotel Becket, a Joie de Vivre property.  It was quite a switch from our Parc Foret three-bedroom luxury home, but we expected and got a different experience at this uber cool millennial lodging spot. Directly across from the Heavenly Village of restaurants and bars, and sporting its own Ten Crows Restaurant, this happening hotspot is social central.

The hotel has everything a guest needs for a quick and comfortable slumber, wide screen TV, Wi-Fi, spa services, etc., and guests’ choice of rooms, either the rustic alpine charm of the Sierra-style Woods rooms, or the newly renovated and contemporary Village rooms, with architectural details such as reclaimed barn wood doors. But honestly, the target clientele of this hotel does not spend much time holed up in a hotel room, no matter how luxuriously appointed.

Rent-and-go

Hands down the most aggravating part of the skiing is returning rental equipment, but our newfound friends at Tahoe Dave’s made it a breeze.

Getting our gear there was much smarter than renting at each resort. We kept the gear overnight and saved ourselves the hassle of waiting in lines to rent and return gear each day. The folks at the shop were highly knowledgeable and helpful. They are also great salespeople, as they convinced us to buy the top-of-the-line ski goggles with chroma-pop lenses, which we were glad we did when we skied in blowing snow and the goggles did their job of amazingly sharpening the definition of the contours on the terrain.

You’ll be coming year-‘round the mountain

Even if you don’t want to hit the slopes for summer, there are plenty of warmer-weather attractions that will be in full swing during the overlap of spring skiing and summer season, such as scenic gondola rides and even a mountain coaster at Heavenly, as well as mountain biking, hiking, camping, ropes courses and ziplines, river boat tours, fishing adventures, water sports on the chilly waters of Lake Tahoe – and fun events like Squaw’s Peaks and Paws dog swim fest – bring a boon of year-round business.

While for ski resorts generally the rule is there can’t be enough snow, the 2016-17 season was a challenge. Some resorts brought in snow melting equipment from New York to clear parking lots. Also, because of the fierce storms and winds, many chairlifts were grounded and slopes opened late or not at all due to dangerous weather conditions.

The good news of course is that a more than 60 feet of snow is slow to melt, and for the first time ever, après ski will include Fourth of July fireworks.

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AdventureTravel

Suiting up for spring snow sports with fly hi-tech gear

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Trew-Chariot-Back-640x471This year’s epic snow sports season is likely to go strong into late spring and even early summer months. Some North American resorts have reported on high-snowfall years that their slopes stay open as late as the Fourth of July. So gear up in style for spring skiing and riding with these slick head-turning fashions and take advantage of some great near-the-end-of-season sales prices.

Pull on your big-boy/girl bibs

Bibs are back in a big way. The sister of the full-on zip-up onesie snowsuit of the 70s, ski bibs are rising up as the nouveau chic on the slopes. Not only do they look stylish and sassy, they are the far better choice for snow wear than traditional ski or snowboard pants. Bibs are perfect when you want a bit of extra warmth over a fleece pullover or under layer, but you don’t want to wear a vest. For aggressive riders and steers, the bibs come up high under the arms to prevent snow from getting in your waistband. They also stay up, so you don’t find yourself constantly tugging and adjusting your waist band, which is especially a hassle with gloves on.

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A hot and hip company, Trew, is leading the revival of bibs, with their high-performance bibs, that style spotters are seeing all over the best resorts this season, like the Trewth ($399) men’s bibs that set the standard for tit-to-toes coverage, or Trew’s already legendary women’s Chariot bibs ($399) that tackle the biggest complaint about bibs for women, with its “she pee” side zip (check it out here https://trewgear.com/trew/trew-updates/article/bathroom-break-in-your-bibs), that makes bathroom breaks easy and fast.

They also have beaucoup pockets for stuffing glasses, digital lift tickets, lip balm, wallets and other necessaries for the slopes. The styling of the Trew bibs, with bright colors and water repellent materials and fashionable bright colored zips and trims, will make you stand out in the snow. When it’s time to chill out in the lodge, you can roll them down to the waist, but they look pretty cool anyway you wear them.

Who wears the pants?

All that said about bibs, if you choose to go traditional, Trew has perfected snow pants, with the plentiful pocket design and fashion forward colors and trim, with an adjustable Velcro strip to keep the waistband snug. The pants for a little larger opening at the leg for heftier snowboard boots. For women, the Tempest ($349) features an adjustable waist, long legs, and three-dimensional articulated panel design that fits all shapes of physiques.  For guys, the Eagle ($349) pant is articulated and ventilated for sidecountry stash runs, with durability for long days hot-lapping your local mountain, and relaxed for comfort.

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As with all the Trew stormproof wear, their technologically advanced proprietary material, Dermizax®NX, is tops in breathability and toughness. The water-repellent membrane keeps you dry after fall, and next to the skin the material keeps you warm yet it is breathable, with ventilation openings.

As someone who has gone through many snow pants due to rivets popping, zippers tearing off we’re getting stuck, and seems tearing open, Trew has impressed me with its durability, looking and wearing like new for an entire season.

Top it off

For spring shredding, pair bibs with a lightweight water-repellent cold breaker like Trew’s Stella ($190) women’s fly freeride shell that has set the standard for the industry with its tailored-to-flatter, articulated-to-shred, and built-to-last design.

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Layer up

Underneath it all, Trew’s women’s lightweight Nuyard Merino ¼ Zip (sale priced $109) is ultimate hi-tech baselayer, woven with NuYarn merino, a  warmer, softer, better thermal-regulating and more mobile wool than its traditional merino brethren.  For warmer days, the Merino Sweater ¼ Zip (sale priced $55) keeps out the chill and regulates as you move, and it looks sharp and stylish for hitting the lodge apres ski.

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Hot mitts

Serius Heat Touch Torche component gloves ($394.99) may be the first gloves you have to read a manual to use, but hands down you will be wearing the smartest gloves on the mountain with these on your mitts. These three-in-one gloves have a battery-heated component glove that slips inside an insulated shell. They can be worn together or separately and with or without the heating batteries. The heat can dial down for spring skiing or up when you are at the top of the peak and the temps drop. Charge the batteries for about three hours, insert the batteries into the wrist cuff and press the button to the desired heat level.  What’s even smarter, and you can swipe away on your smart phone screen while wearing these gloves.

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Pack it up

Nothing’s more of a drag on your travels than hauling a bulky duffle around stuffed with all your gear.  You don’t have to lighten your load and leave stuff behind, instead get rolling with the massively spacious Eagle Creek ORV Trunk 36 ($419) or ORV Trunk 30 ($359).  This bag fits all your winter adventure gear plus the kitchen sink, with lots of pockets and compartments to keep wet stuff separate from dry and all your gear easily accessible. Some extra bells and whistles include an Equipment Keeper Porter Key with bottle opener, exterior and interior compression straps, and an external pocket for easy grab items. All that and a waterproof boot bin, to boot.

OVR Trucnk 30

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