Winter pleasures without the traffic jams, at Mount Shasta

Last year Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County had more holiday visitors than it had in the past 30 years.
Last year Mount Shasta in Siskiyou County had more holiday visitors than it had in the past 30 years. The Record Searchlight

Quick. Name a bucolic spot about 220 miles from Sacramento with great skiing, lakeside activities and nice restaurants.

No, not Lake Tahoe. Instead, think of snow-capped Mount Shasta, which features all of the above, but with thinner crowds and lower prices.

This 14,180-foot dormant volcano rises majestically near the Oregon border. But for many, it’s merely an iPhone snap or two on the way up to Portland or Seattle. It shouldn’t be that way. For those in the know, Mount Shasta is one of California’s coolest winter getaways.

First, there’s the Mount Shasta Ski Park (4500 Shasta Ski Park Highway, McCloud, 530-926-8610), which saw more weekend and holiday visitors last season than during any of the past 30 years. With a still-to-be-set mid-December opening date, the park may be on the small side, but still features 32 trails, 1,435 vertical feet of runs and, perhaps most attractively, fewer skiers and shorter lift lines, at least compared to Tahoe resorts.

You can rent skis at the park or around town at The Fifth Season (300 N. Mount Shasta Blvd, Mount Shasta, 530-926-3606) or Shasta Base Camp (308 S. Mount Shasta Blvd., Mount Shasta, 530-926-2359).

To the southwest, Castle Lake is the place for snowshoeing, ice fishing and back country skiing. Locals also snowshoe, sled and back country ski on the road past Mount Shasta High School (710 Everitt Memorial Highway, Mount Shasta) – the staff at local gear provisioners can show you how to get there.

Come evening, visitors can hide away on the banks of Siskiyou Lake at the Mount Shasta Resort (1000 Siskiyou Lake Blvd., Mount Shasta, 800-958-3363). Several chalets – with single rooms or one- or two-bedroom houses – can be rented for as low as $119 a night during the winter. At dusk, catch Mount Shasta’s reflection on the lake’s tranquil waters. When the snow melts, an 18-hole golf course emerges nearby.

Another lodging option is the Railroad Park Resort (100 Railroad Park Road, Dunsmuir, 530-235-4440), where guests stay in converted cabooses.

The best food awaits in nearby Dunsmuir off Interstate 5. Sengthong’s Blue Sky Room (5855 Dunsmuir Ave., 530-235-4470) serves up Thai and Vietnamese fare, while the Cornerstone Bakery & Cafe (5759 Dunsmuir Ave., 530-235-4677) prepares hearty American breakfasts and lunches.

This is winter recreation, far Northern California style, without the casinos, flashing lights and traffic jams.

Ryan Sabalow contributed to this report.

‘The Nutcracker’

What: Since 1944, the Nutcracker has danced its way across the stage at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House. Organizers have extended the show’s schedule this year, so there will be opportunities to catch the beloved production.

When: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. showings, Saturday, Dec. 10 through Thursday, Dec. 29, except for Dec. 12, 19 and 25.

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave.

Cost: Tickets range from $75 to $275.


Sounds of ‘Star Wars’

What: The Oscar-winning director of sound design for Skywalker Sound will describe how audio affects cinematic storytelling with examples such as “Star Wars,” “The Incredibles” and “Forrest Gump.”

When: 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5

Where: Hanna Boys Center auditorium,17000 Arnold Drive

Cost: $35 general admission; $75 VIP


Christmas at Preston Castle

What: Preston Castle, the stunning Gothic mansion that once housed a reform school, will be lit up with Christmas decorations and feature caroling and a holiday bazaar.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10

Where: Preston Castle, 900 Palm Drive

Cost: Free admission to view the holiday lights from 5 to 7 p.m.; $10 self-guided castle tour


Jessica Hice