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I try my best to be value-conscious when planning my getaways, whether that means compromise on flight times to get a better deal, using coupon codes for rental car discounts, or bringing my own food/beverages in my checked baggage. Since I sometimes enjoy casino outings, and had visited a few Harrah’s outlets over the years (Joliet, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City,) I had enough Caesar’s Rewards (formerly known as “Total Rewards,”) to score a comped room at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe for a few nights. I also had enough airline miles for a round-trip nonstop flight to RNO from Chicago. My largest budget line items for the trip would be rental car (I got a nicely discounted rate from Budget with an AARP discount code) and lift tickets (small savings for booking lift ticket online for 2 consecutive days and adding to my EPIC pass card from last year.) And, oh yeah, gambling – the least likely thing a “value-conscious” traveler would pursue but…hey, I like to play the slots now and then, what can I say?
My original flight was due in on a Tuesday night after 10pm. I originally planned to pick up my car and drive an hour to Tahoe from the airport. I fretted about that decision until I got a text and email from the airline stating that they may be cancelling flights Tuesday due to a predicted snowstorm, so I could change my flight to Monday night with no change fee. I jumped on that offer immediately, then set up a hotel stay near the Reno airport via Hotwire.com. I chose Western Village Inn, in Sparks- a small and unusual casino/hotel that is part of the Peppermill Resorts family of properties. The price was under $50 for the night, it was under 10 minutes from the airport, and was located right near the on-ramp to the highway I needed in the morning. (One of these days I will write a post on how to make a nearly-perfect guess of property names for “secret” hotel rates. It’s not rocket science.) Also, knowing the parent company, I guessed correctly that it would have some luxe decorative touches throughout which often – though, not always – makes me feel more comfortable.
Since I have a United Airlines Explorer Card, when I opened my account, I received a complimentary access to the United Club. I opted to use the B-concourse one at O’hare which was conveniently located right next to my departure gate. I was able to get a simple but flavorful and healthful meal before departure, thus saving me money on dining at the airport.
The flight was fine, in fact we arrived 30 minutes early. If you’ve ever been to RNO, it’s quite a nice, easily navigable airport, with rental car counters right in the bag claim area, and the actual cars just outside the door. SLC, DLH, and PIT are also set up this way – onsite vehicles/rental counters, no bus ride needed for offsite car pickup. I got my car before picking up my bags and headed over to the hotel.
I was a little weirded-out when I pulled into the lot of Western Village. It was in an industrial area and the casino building was standalone, next to what looked like an apartment building. I didn’t know where to park until I saw a blue “registration” sign near the casino entrance. I left my bags in the car, went in to find a pretty nice, bright gaming floor and dining options, and the helpful desk manager helped me get settled with my keys and signed me up for their player’s card. I drove over toward the hotel (the thing I thought was apartments) and dropped off all my luggage and skis. It was nice enough – somewhat old and worn, but had updated granite vanity top, comfortable bed, a Keurig coffeemaker & pods on a small dining table, and was overall clean and quiet. I noticed there were coin-op guest laundry facilities, too. I was also comfortable with the level of security getting into the guest floors. I would consider staying there again if I was able to get as good of a deal and wanted to be closer to Reno, say, to ski at Mt Rose or even any of the resorts near Donner lake which are less than an hour away, or to kayak the Truckee river, see a concert in town, etc. I slept well and enjoyed the good coffee in the morning and heck, I even was $30 bucks ahead on the slots there, too!
Since my room in Tahoe would not be ready until 4pm, I opted to drive from Western Village to Donner Ski Ranch which involved an easy drive on I-80 and a very scenic drive along and overlooking Donner Lake in Truckee, California. I was lucky that the roads were dry. I’m not sure it would be accessible during a snowstorm. Skiing midweek is always great because the crowds are thin. Add to that midweek (Tue-Thur) pricing of $40 all day adult lift tickets and you’ve got a sure winner for a great day.
I am recovering from a difficult year, health/fitness-wise. In May 2019, I tore my plantar fascia while running hills on the treadmill and ended up with a walking boot and crutches (and no gym visits) for much of the year. Then, I had surgery on my neck in December to replace two cervical discs. That went well, and surprisingly, though more serious of a situation, I healed quickly and 2 months out, had little to no issues with my neck. My foot, however is another story. Basically I’m ok as long as I wear very arch-supportive shoes and/or arch support bands all the time.
Anyway, my health issues relate to another reason I chose to ski on a Tuesday at Donner: lots of easy runs, no crowds to bump into me, short walk from the parking lot to the slopes. It really ended up being great for those reasons, plus the natural beauty from the top of Chair One.
I got in a ton of runs, regained my confidence, and overall, had a fantastic time.