MontBleu brings slots, spa to South Lake Tahoe slopes

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Lake Tahoe has always had a split personality, partly because of its location overlapping California and Nevada, and partly because of its dual identity as both a gaming and outdoor destination.

MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa, a new entrant into the resort scene on the Nevada side, makes the most of both by offering guests a new take on the concept of destination skiing.

Formerly operated as the Caesars Tahoe, the 440-room property is situated in South Lake Tahoe, within steps of the Heavenly Mountain Resort gondola.

Renovations to the public rooms kicked off in late 2005, beginning with the lobby, casino floor and HQ Bar. All of those upgrades were completed in early 2006.

The decor, like the property's name, is an homage to the crystal blue lake for which the Tahoe area is famous and which is situated within clear view of the hotel.

A natural progression

Instead of the former glitzy, Las Vegas, casino-style ambience, the resort's design now features plenty of natural elements as well as the predominant color blue.

The 40,000-square-foot casino offers the usual slot machines and table games, and the Zone area features a sports-themed poker room.

The hotel's dining facilities include Ciera for steaks and chops; Del Soul, a Mexican grill; and 20-Four, a 24-hour diner.

There also is plenty of nightlife for visitors looking for apres ski. The Blu nightclub features high-energy dancing and, in a blast from the past, go-go dancers, while Opal Ultra Lounge has bar chefs and an assortment of DJs.

Guest accommodations at MontBleu are a departure from the usual South Lake Tahoe fare, ranging in size from 424 to 1,250 square feet and offering upscale amenities by Aveda and trademark Bleu Cloud Beds.

The Onsen Spa, an Aveda Lifestyle Salon & Spa, which opened at the end of December, offers plenty of luxury touches of its own with 14 treatment rooms and a couples room, unique to the area, for dual massages and facials.

Catering to the increasingly overlapping spa and ski markets, the spa also has a salon, sauna and eucalyptus steam room.

"Winter time in Lake Tahoe means sore muscles and skin that is exposed to the elements from days spent on the slopes," said MontBleu spa director Tanya Mason, who is overseeing the project.

Spa treatments include Fusion Stone Therapy, using Native American plants and warm and cool stones; Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy, which applies pressure by foot; and Beyond the Sea Body Wrap for exfoliation and detoxification.

Guests also can take advantage of the fitness center and a heated, indoor pool with waterfall and rock islands.

On the slopes

While guests who don't ski will find plenty to do in the area to amuse them, including shopping and off-slope winter activities like snowshoeing and snowtubing, the real draw for many is the variety of snow sports available nearby.

The most obvious choice is Heavenly Mountain Resort, accessible via a gondola that links the town to the slopes above. The ski area is known for superlatives, thanks to its size. At 4,800 acres, it's California's biggest, the highest summit rising 10,067 feet and the longest vertical drop measuring 3,500 feet.

There are 91 trails served by 29 lifts, nine of which are high-speed.

Skiers and snowboarders can choose from several other high-profile resorts in the area -- including Sierra-at-Tahoe, Kirkwood, Squaw Valley USA and Northstar-at-Tahoe -- all within striking distance.

A Winter Escape Package, good through March 29, includes accommodations and a $20 food-and-beverage credit. It is priced from $109 per night Sundays through Thursdays. A BonBleu Ski/Snowboard package upgrades accommodations to a deluxe or spa room and adds two lift tickets at a choice of ski areas. The package, good through April 14, starts at $207 per night.

For more information on MontBleu, call (800) 648-3353 or visit www.montbleuresort.com. For more on Ski Lake Tahoe, visit www. www.skilaketahoe.com.

To contact reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].

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