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Staying overnight at Tahoe stretches slope time

A majority of skiers and snowboarders who drive from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe resorts are day-trippers, but some of the best deals -- and best experiences -- are reserved for those who spend the night.

An overnight stay-and-ski package needn't cost much more than the price of a lift ticket, especially midweek. And that's not to mention the convenience.

"People have more time poverty than ever before, and are willing to pay the premium for convenience," says Franz Weber, a former Olympian and speed-skiing champion who directs the ski program at the luxurious Resort at Squaw Creek, which is connected to the Squaw Valley USA lift system. "Those who spend a lot of time and money coming to the mountains don't want to deal with traveling again once they get there, or dealing with long lines."

And need we mention traffic? As any day-tripper knows, the weekend crush on Interstate 80 or Highway 50 can sap the joy out of a blissful day on the snow. An overnight stay can take the stress out, allowing for travel at off-peak hours as well as first crack at the lifts.

Virtually every property in the Tahoe Basin offers deals for snow-resort visitors, with the lowest prices available midweek. Here are some examples:

Heavenly bargains: A buy-one-get-one-free deal at Heavenly features two nights of midweek lodging at an economy property and a lift ticket starting at $39 per person per night, based on double occupancy. Two-, four-and six-night packages are available (nonholiday, no Saturday nights) through Dec. 18. Also at Heavenly: An early season, midweek package, from $149 per person, includes three nights lodging and three lift tickets; it's also good through Dec. 18. For details: (775) 586-7000 or www.skiheavenly.com.

Truckin' in Truckee: The Best Western Truckee Tahoe Inn offers midweek (Sunday-Thursday, nonholiday) packages starting at $146 per couple; included are lodging and breakfast for two plus two lift tickets to Homewood or Diamond Peak. The price is $160 with skiing at Boreal; $176 with a choice of Alpine, Northstar or Sugar Bowl; and $198 for Squaw. For more information: (800) 824-6385 or www.bestwesterntahoe.com.

Alpine adventure: Alpine Meadows' Bed & Boards package features lift tickets and lodging at a choice of 50 participating properties in every price range, starting at $59 per person per night midweek and $79 per person per night weekends (plus tax and service). For more information: (800) 949-3296 or www.skialpine.com.

Live it up: The Resort at Squaw Creek, a ski-in, ski-out resort at Squaw Valley USA, offers one-night stay-and-ski packages from $399 per night. A "snow family" plan includes breakfast and a $50 credit that can be applied to ski, spa or other activities. All packages include ski valet and locker service, health club use, local phone calls, ice skating, skate rentals, cross-country skiing (including rentals and group lessons), snowshoes, sleds and organized recreational activities. For more information: (800) 327-3353 or www.squawcreek.com.

Hyatt ski and spa: The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Incline Village, which recently opened the region's largest spa facility as part of a $60 million renovation, has an array of ski packages including the "grand winter day and night" deal. At $109 per person midweek (based on two to a room), it includes buffet breakfast, one lift ticket or a $50 spa credit per person and complimentary shuttles to the slopes. Taxes and a $10 resort fee (which covers coffee, bottled water, newspaper, use of the fitness center, local phone calls and incoming faxes) are additional. For more information: (800) 233-1234 or www.laketahoehyatt.com.

At the Cove: The midweek package offered by the Zephyr Cove lakeside cabin resort doesn't include skiing, but at $329 (including taxes) per couple for three nights (Sunday-Thursday stays, Jan. 11-April 8), it's a steal of a deal. Included are a guided snowmobile tour for two, an Emerald Bay sightseeing tour for two aboard the MS Dixie II, one breakfast for two, one lunch for two and 20 percent off at the gift shop. Kids stay free in their parents' cabin. For more information: (775) 589-4907 or www.zephyrcove.com.

Go condo: The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association's interchangeable ski package, from $101 per person per night (based on quad occupancy with a two-night, nonholiday minimum) includes a one-night condominium stay and one interchangeable lift ticket per person good at Alpine, Diamond Peak, Homewood, Mt. Rose, Northstar, Squaw Valley or Sugar Bowl. Tax and cleaning fees are included; some restrictions apply. The package is available through April 24. Weekends rates are slightly higher. For more information: (800) 824-6348 or www.mytahoevacation.com.

Other ways to save

Rewards card: A lift ticket to Sugar Bowl or Kirkwood, discounts on lodging and lift tickets -- plus free rentals, tuneups, ski waxes and more -- are included in the $50.99 Tahoe Card at www.snowbomb.com.

Family focus: For the lowdown on family deals, check out the electronic newsletter Kidz n' Snow (www.kidznsnow.com). It has information on skiing, snowboarding, equipment, snow-play areas and other kids activities at Tahoe.

Lease it: Kids growing out of their equipment? Instead of buying or renting, consider leasing ski or snowboard gear for the season. Tahoe Dave's Skis and Boards, with four locations in the Tahoe area, is one of only a few shops offering the service. Ski packages start at $99 and snowboard packages at $175. For more information: (530) 582-0900.

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