Meteor rockets across lake

The M.V. Meteor took a boatload of skiers from Lake Tahoe's South to North shores Wednesday, the second day of operation for the high-speed ferry added to the Hornblower Cruises' lineup.

Hornblower spokesman Andy Chapman said he's noticed a steady increase during the week in bookings for the Meteor -- named after the historic logging steamer that sank somewhere in the lake in 1940 after 65 years of service.

And the numbers appear stronger than last year's offering of the Tahoe Queen. The Meteor replaced the paddlewheeler boat's morning runs, significantly cutting down on the time it takes snow riders to get to resorts on opposite ends of the lake.

In its first two days of crossing the lake, 28 two-plankers -- no snowboarders -- headed to Tahoe City on the Meteor, which accommodates both types of riders with on-board racks.

The snowboarders, many of whom work at the local ski shops, showed up last week for Hornblower's merchant day.

"It might be the visitor market or what we call the destination market. The people who are here for five to seven days are prone to ski," Chapman said.

"These are the longer-stay folks who look for new opportunities to try, and the Meteor fills that need," said Carl Ribaudo of the Strategic Marketing Group. The South Lake Tahoe marketer tracks tourism trends on the South Shore.

A family of four took advantage of the smooth, power-boat ride from the Ski Run Marina Wednesday at 7:15 a.m. An 8:45 a.m. departure will be added to the schedule this Friday, and daily beginning Feb. 5.

Riders have not boarded the ship at North Shore yet. The lake-link route is a new offering from Hornblower for North Shore skiers or boarders seeking to ride at South Lake Tahoe resorts, so the cruise operator expects bookings in February as word catches on.

The Meteor, covered with a plexiglass material to shield passengers from the elements, travels at about 29 knots, or 40 mph. The trip takes 35 to 40 minutes.

Passengers return to their home base at a more leisurely pace, with a party on the Tahoe Queen in the afternoons. They leave from the south at 3:30 p.m. and from the north at 6 p.m.

The Tuesday-through-Friday runs cost $87 from Ski Run to Tahoe City marinas. The price includes a lift ticket to Squaw Valley. The trip is $2 more going the other way to ski at Heavenly Ski Resort. The fares include the boat and shuttle bus rides, along with a party on the Queen.


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