Sorensen's Hope Valley, Calif.
(14 miles from Kirkwood)
Sorensen's roots sprouted in 1926 when Danish immigrant Martin Sorensen opened a service station, store and dance hall at the site of a derelict turn-of-the-century fishing lodge.
Today, owners John and Patty Brissenden offer 32 cabins, a cafe and a ski touring center, all surrounded by graceful aspens a snowball's toss from the Carson River. Although only a 20-minute drive from the glitz and lights of South Lake Tahoe, Sorensen's rests in the Sierra Crest's Alpine County, the least populated county in California.
Sorensen's offers more than 60 miles of marked, ski-packed trails surrounded by lovely woods-off-track cross-country skiing doesn't get much better. Discounted tickets to Kirkwood are also available.
When you've had enough of the outdoors, there's plenty of attraction inside. Sorensen's dining room is a quintessential bistro: an intimate and pine-paneled setting where fellow diners often greet you and chat. Lovers of copious, homemade cooking enjoy seafood pasta, the quiche of the day and especially the beef burgundy. And don't leave without trying the popular four-berry cobbler.
Sorensen's cabins have a rustic appeal. Ranging from one-bedroom cedar cabins to a replica of a Norwegian farmhouse for six, they climb the hillside amid junipers and lead-gray aspens. A dormitory bunkhouse, equipped with all the basics, provides economy for groups.
Sorensen's also hosts more than 30 special programs each year, including such winter traditions as pine-bough Christmas decorating, dog-sled tours, ice-fishing, snowshoeing and cross-country ski treks commemorating Snowshoe Thompson's original mail routes.
Information: 800-423-9949; www.sorensensresort.com.
Apex Mountain Resort, B.C.
(At the base of Apex)
At just 550 acres, Apex Mountain Resort is small, but it treats its visitors with a big heart. For example, a horse-drawn carriage, rather than a shuttle bus, conveys skiers from their various lodgings to the mountain.
If you're staying at Apex's boutique hotel, Sheeprock Lodge, the carriage isn't necessary-you're just a minute's walk from the lifts. But then, you might need the ride in order to save your strength, because your innkeeper is Gary Gierlich, a former freestyler with the Canadian Ski Team, retired general manager of the Apex Mountain Resort and overall aerobic junkie. Gierlich loves taking a few runs with his guests-or joining them for a high-speed glide along the tree-lined Ice Skating Adventure Trail beside the lodge, a cross-country outing from the nearby Nickel Plate Nordic Center, a whirl on a snowmobile (the rental facility is next door) or a moonlit snowshoe hike.
Indeed, Sheeprock Lodge's slogan is "A & R," that is, adventure and relaxation. Happily, Gierlich and his wife and co-owner, Susan Hatfield, are equally determined to offer top-notch "R." At their 14-room post-and-beam inn, the pampering includes an outdoor hot tub, massive log beds plump with pillow-top mattresses and goose-down duvets, and a fireplace lounge where guests can sip wine and gaze at the mountain. An award-winning wine list at the lodge's restaurant and Hatfield's home-cooked breakfasts help guests combat any remaining fatigue...so that Gierlich can administer more "A" the next day.
Information: Rooms cost $76-$96 per night, breakfast included. 877-677-1555 or 250-292-8558; www.sheeprocklodge.com.