Lake Tahoe on the Cheap

This past week a hole opened up in our schedule, and we realized that if we played our cards right we may be able to take off in the middle of the week.  This realization occurred only three days out. We quickly hashed together a plan to head toward Lake Tahoe, where I could finally learn to snowboard and Chris could get back to the sport he loves.

Mountainize in Tahoe

We’ve lived in San Francisco for over a year, and I’ve yet to learn how to ski or snowboard.  We didn’t have a ton of money to spend, but we knew we wanted it to happen.  In the past when similar opportunities presented themselves we would quickly become overwhelmed with all the details involved, and resign ourselves to staying home – but not this time.  If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, or just want to save a bit of money next time you head to the slopes read on.

Chris Binkley snowboarding

1.  Go doing the week, or any other off time.  We headed out Wednesday evening and practically had the mountain all to ourselves.  If week days are out of the question, look into other off-peak days such as during The Superbowl or when it hasn’t snowed in several weeks (they’ll still have snow on the mountains, even if it’s man-made).

2.  Don’t think you have to make a giant time commitment.  We would often put off such a trip due to the assumption that we’d need to take a long weekend or more off of work to make it worth it.  All-in our trip lasted about 36 hours, and it was still incredible.  Even if you don’t live within driving distance to a mountain you can head to the airport on a Friday afternoon, spend Saturday and Sunday on the slopes and fly back late Sunday.  Sure, it’s a whirlwind but sometimes those are the best kinds of vacations.Cloud Plane Photo

3.  Look around at the different resorts for deals, and don’t be afraid to check the so-called pricey resorts.  We thought we could only afford the bottom of the barrel of Tahoe resorts, until we did some price comparisons.  Sure, we still couldn’t afford Squaw’s $100 lift ticket, but we were able to find several great deals from many of the resorts.  If you do enough hunting around the resort’s website you’re bound to find a deal that applies to you, such as Squaw Valley’s “Fly & Ski Free”, if you fly in early that day they’ll hand you a free lift ticket for the rest of the afternoon.

Board on the cheap!4. Once we had it narrowed down to a few choice resorts, I did some googling.  I was able to find an even lower rate off the resort’s lift ticket on skiforfree.comLiftopia.com and skifreedeals.com are also worth looking into.

5. Lodging: You’ve got to sleep somewhere.  I’ve known folks who “camp” in their car outside the resort to avoid paying for a hotel.  While we weren’t going that extreme for this trip, we still didn’t want to pay out the nose for a place to sleep.  Though we had connections to a friends and family rate at Marriott, there were several other great options available.  Take 30 minutes to read the reviews and you’ll save yourself from a cheap room so dirty the floors turn your socks black.

Rent Your Gear

6.  Gear: Whatever you do, you’ll always save money getting your gear somewhere other than the resort.  If you don’t own your own, look into sports stores for rentals.  You can rent a board and boots from Sports Basement for $15 and save $30 off the resort price.

7.  Package Deals: Depending upon your needs there may be a package deal that works for you.  I found a beginner package that offered a 2.5 hour lesson, gear rental and lift ticket for around $50.  Sold!  Though, be leery of the package that seems to offer things you weren’t looking for in the first place.

Snowboard on the cheap

8.  What to wear?  If you know you want to go skiing or snowboarding, but you know you don’t have the pants or the jacket for it – start shopping for sales now.  I scored an end-of-season deal on insulated water-proof pants long before we began planning this specific trip.  Also, ask your friends if you can borrow their gear.  To the beginner: my advice would be to invest in the waterproof pants at first, as there isn’t much of a substitute there.  Whereas, you can get away with layering under almost any decent winter jacket.

9.  Food!  We packed along some cliff bars as backup fuel, but we knew we wanted to enjoy at least one meal out.  The night we got into town, we hit up a local brewery for pizza.  Our hotel room came equipped with a fridge which we were able to stash our leftovers in, allowing us to stretch the one meal into breakfast as well.  Look for rooms with fridges, bring along a cooler or stick the food outside if it’s cold enough, to pull this off for yourself.

Snowboard Cheap

10.  Gas.  If you’re driving to get to and fro, it’s definitely worth it to use an app like GasBuddy to track down the cheaper fuel along your route.  Nothing stings more than fueling up, getting back on the highway and passing a station offering gas for 15cents cheaper than what you just paid.

Those are our tips, based on our most recent experience.  What are you’re favorite ways to shave off a buck or two while still having a great time on a ski or snowboard trip?

 

Joseph is a small mountain town in northeast Oregon. Situated six hours east of Portland at 4,150ft above sea level, and surrounded by the towering Wallowa and Seven Devils mountains, Joseph is a rather picturesque small mountain town.

Mountain Town: Joseph, OR

Basics

With a population hovering around 1,000 Joseph maintains a thriving main street (yes, they literally have a Main Street) equipped with local breweries, bank, library, cafes, and art galleries.

Mountain Town: Joseph, OR

The physical town of Joseph is less than one square mile.  Though, the community is often referred to as Wallowa County, as the surrounding unincroporated areas add to the recreation and other opportunities.  The county borders Idaho to the west and Washington to the north.

Joseph, OR Mountain Town

Enterprise, the closest larger town, is just five miles away with larger town comforts such as a Safeway grocery store and a BJs warehouse club.

Recreation

For such a small town Joseph has plenty of events and celebrations packing the calendar.  From a classic car show, to traditional Fourth of July celebration, triathlons, Native American celebrations, sled dog races and more.  For the locals, a summer-long farmers market with accompanying concert series offers access to local fresh produce.

Joseph Or Bronze Bike Rally

While there isn’t exactly a dedicated bicycle shop in town, the local hardware store has kept up with local demand by expanding their bike offering to an entire room.  Several of their employees were even sent to the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, OR to be schooled on the basics of bikes.

A beautifully pristine lake nestled between snow capped 9000′  mountains, nearby Wallowa Lake offers camping, hiking and boating.  There is even a tram that can be taken up to the top of the mountain.  Bring along your mountain bike, and you’ve got the equivalent of a shuttle-ready mountain biking nirvana.

Wallowa Lake

There is also a recreational train, the Eagle Cap Train, offering relaxing scenic rides through the local mountains.

There is a local ski run, void of the tourist drawing amenities it is a locally-run area.  With one t-bar and one rope tow up the mountain and a 640′ elevation gain its the perfect little mountain for kids, beginners or just drama-free fun.

Ski Wallowa Or

Local Business

For such a small town there is a shockingly long list of local storefronts:

Joseph OR Main Street

Joseph’s Sheep Shed is a local yarn shop and fiber gallery.

Bee Crow Bee is a local shop offering a line of carefully handmade bath & body products.

Mad Mary is a shop offering “everything fun & fattening”.  It’s a fun gift shop and soda fountain all in one.

Downtown Joseph Or

Lodging

Lodging options are plentiful.  From B&Bs like Barking Mad Farm where you can stay in a turn of the century farm house with views of the mountains.  To the basic Indian Lodge Motel and the East Street Cottages.

Barking Mad Farm

Weather

Though they certainly feel all four seasons, the weather in and around Joseph is rather mild, as being in a valley surrounded by mountains shelters the area from many of the extreme weather fronts.

Economy

The local economy, while healthy, does rely on government jobs (being the largest area employer).  Average income hovers just below $30k, with the average two bedroom house priced around $100k.

Welcome to Joseph, OR

Lifestyle

The lifestyle in Joseph, OR is summed up pretty well by the county chamber:

“When you are 65 miles from a McDonald’s or a Wal-Mart, and two and a half hours from a mall, you will find a whole new definition of the phrase for quality of life – It’s a “way of living”.  Here, the focus is definitely not on consumption.  It’s on family and community.  It’s on entrepreneurship.  And perhaps above all, it’s on outdoor beauty and recreation.”

Fish Trap at Wallowa Lake

We first heard of Joseph when Russ & Laura rolled through and interviewed Dan Price.  Then Tammy at Rowdy Kittens visited while on a writing retreat.  Joseph, by all accounts, is a delightful mountain town.

 

This is the first in a series of posts profiling mountain towns.  Let us know where your favorite mountain town is to see it featured in a upcoming post.  

 

 

We’ve been squirreling away quotes about camping, biking, mountains and outdoors for some time now.  We thought it would be fun to compile them all into one post.

 

Mountain Snow

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There is an intense but simple thrill in setting off in the morning on a mountain trail, knowing that everything you need is on your back. It is a confidence in having left the inessentials behind and of entering a world of natural beauty that has not been violated, where money has no value, and possessions are a dead weight. The person with the fewest possessions is the freest. Thoreau was right.

- Paul Theroux

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I love to be outdoors. I prefer being outdoors to, you know, being inside.

- Keith Carradine

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The clearest way into the universe

is through a forest wilderness.

- John Muir

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I became a loner. I became a mountain man. A lot of those things are very good qualities and they help you do your work, help you be singular and keep the artistic integrity of your work intact, but they don’t make it very easy to live your life.

- John Milius

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The modern world is fast, complex, competitive, and always concerned with what happens next. There is always more to do than there is time. The landscape and even the light are mostly artificial. This can be exciting, but all too often it is frustrating, stressful, and exhausting. In contrast, hiking for weeks or months at a time in an unspoiled natural environment is a simple, repetitive activity that leads to calmness and psychological well-being, a feeling of wholeness, of being a complete person. Each day follows the same pattern, linking in with natural rhythms–walk in the light, sleep in the dark, eat when hungry, take shelter from storms. Only the details are different. I get a great pleasure from this simplicity, from the basic pattern of walk and camp, walk and camp. It is good to escape the rush of the modern world and for a period of time to live a quieter, more basic life. Problems and worries subside as the days go by; they are put into perspective by the elemental activity of putting one foot in front of the other hour after hour, day after day. And on returning from the wilds, restored and revitalized by the experience, I find civilization can be much easier to deal with; indeed, aspects of it can seem very desirable.

- Chris Townsend

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There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.

- Chinese Proverbs

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A mountain has no need for people, but people do need mountains. We go to them for their beauty, for the exhilaration of standing closer to mysterious skies, for the feeling of triumph that comes from having labored to reach a summit.

- Earl Hamner, Jr.

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Mountain Lake

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

- John Muir

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I had daydreams and fantasies when I was growing up. I always wanted to live in a log cabin at the foot of a mountain. I would ride my horse to town and pick up provisions. Then return to the cabin, with a big open fire, a record player and peace.

- Linda McCartney

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Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…

- John Muir

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I do not own an inch of land,

but all I see is mine.

- Lucy Larcom

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There is no bad weather. You are not well equipped!

- Unknown

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Men go back to the mountains, as they go back to sailing ships at sea, because in the mountains and on the sea they must face up, as did men of another age, to the challenge of nature. Modern man lives in a highly synthetic kind of existence. He specializes in this and that. Rarely does he test all his powers or find himself whole. But in the hills and on the water the character of a man comes out.

- Abram T. Collier

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A simple equation exists between freedom and numbers: the more people, the less freedom.

- Royal Robbins

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Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars… and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole existence is joyful.  Everything is simply happy.  Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance.  Look at the flowers – for no reason.  It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are.

- Osho

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Marry a mountain girl and you marry the whole mountain.

- Irish Saying

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I’ve learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.

- Andy Rooney

Mountain Snow

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I never had any other desire so strong, and so like covetousness, as that… I might be master at last of a small house and a large garden, with very moderate conveniences joined to them, and there dedicate the remainder of my life to the culture of them and the study of nature.

- Abraham Cowley

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It is impossible to overestimate the value of wild mountains and mountain temples as places for people to grow in, recreation grounds for soul and body.

- John Muir

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We’ve been swimming at nude beaches and I love to go skinny dipping, but I’m sorry, sitting on top of a mountain, that’s just, you’re trying to show off or something. That’s ridiculous.

- Andy Richter

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You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.

- James Whittaker

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The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.

- Galileo

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It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.

–Horace Kephart

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No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being

- Ansel Adams

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I was comin’ down the mountain.

- Jane’s Addiction

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If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options.

You can climb it and cross to the other side.

You can go around it.

You can dig under it.

You can fly over it.

You can blow it up.

You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there.

You can turn around and go back the way you came.

Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.

- Vera Nazarian

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There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.

- Chinese Proverb

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The mountains are calling and I must go.

- John Muir

Mountain Sunset

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A man does not climb a mountain

without bringing some of it away with him,

and leaving something of himself upon it.

- Sir Martin Conway

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Climb up on some hill at sunrise.  Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.

- Robb Sagendorph

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We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home, in towns and cities.

- Nessmuk (G.W. Sears)

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I got into an argument with a girlfriend inside of a tent.  That’s a bad place for an argument, because then I tried to walk out and slammed the flap.  How are you supposed to express your anger in this situation?  Zipper it up really quick?

- Mitch Hedberg

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If you don’t let go, you can’t fall off!

- Jerry Moffat

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Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out – it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.

- Robert Service

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Even in these mercifully emancipated decades, many people still seem quite seriously alarmed at the prospect of sleeping away from officially consecrated campsites, with no more equipment than they can carry on their backs. When pressed, they babble about snakes or bears or even, by God, bandits. But the real barrier, I’m sure, is the unknown.

- Colin Fletcher

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The bicycle is its own best argument.

- Richard Ballantine

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Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.

- Rachel Carson

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No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied – it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.

- Ansel Adams

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Always in big woods, when you leave familiar ground and step off alone to a new place, there will be, along with feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. You are understanding the first experience, not of the place, but of yourself in that place. It is the experience of our essential loneliness, for nobody can discover the world for anybody else. It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that it becomes common ground, and a common bond, and we cease to be alone.

- Wendell Berry

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I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

- John Muir

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To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

- John Burroughs

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Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way.

- Dr. Seuss

 

 

Igloos are something out of a children’s cartoon to me.

Pretend Igloo

It blows my mind to think that they are real, and that I could build one with my own two hands.

Ice Igloo

I came across a post from Sam at Going Places Quietly about how to truly build a useful igloo.

His post addresses the truth that building an igloo is hard work, even with a crew of several guys. Building an igloo takes all day.

Ice Blocks

Building an igloo is much more involved than I ever imagined.

igloo

Though, at the end of it you’ve got a place to sleep for the night.

A place you built with you own two hands, that keeps you warm and out of the elements.

Plus, it’s just cool.

igloo entrance