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The Block Hotel in South Lake Tahoe
First Snowboard Specific Hotel

visited by Lauren Traub Teton, Summer 2006

"If I  had a hotel, I'd put Sony Play Stations in all the rooms, and give out free passes to the nightclub."
Marc Franc Montoya, pro snowboarder and hotelier

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  click on the pic to view large  
  art on the garage walls  
formerly the Monte Carlo Motel "Anything but Sqare" hi tech lobby
rooftop hot tub billiards, anyone? Lauren sinks into the beanbag chair

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"If I  had a hotel I'd put Sony Play Stations in all the rooms, and give out free passes to the nightclub."

Pro Snowboard Marc Franc Montoya, urban legend from the streets of Denver, was at a family gathering, talking to his bro-in-law Liiko Smith and said
"If I  had a hotel I'd put Sony Play Stations in all the rooms, and give out free passes to the nightclub."

A few months later Liiko heard about a motel for sale in South Lake Tahoe.
Next thing you know, he calls MFM and says "I bought it." Liiko happens to be a world-class experienced hotelier and hotel mogul. His Carmel Mission Inn is one of the 76 most profitable hotels in the US, and he was in "Top 30 under 30" in 2000.

Liiko realized that no hotels were catering to the snowboard market. He saw the niche.
He knew he couldn't cater to the snowboard market on his own, so he brought in Mark Frank (a.k.a Franco, or MFM.).

Liiko knew that what core snowboarders need in a hotel is a difference attitude from the staff; to be treated well at the desk, to hear their music and to enjoy their amenities.  "We want snowboarders to feel more comfortable at our hotel."

Beer, Barber, Rib Eyes, and a Hangover Kit

Amenities at The Block start with the very visible free Boost Telephone booth in the lobby. Free passes can be had to the nightclubs Altitude, and often passes to the trendiest club in town, Montbleu. There is also a complimentary welcome beer or 2 and energy drinks to revive the weary traveler. The Block turned down Coors and Budweiser for the welcome beers; they chose instead the cheapie quaff of snowboard champs, PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon.)

Three barbecue grills stand ready for guests to use.  There is a rooftop hot tub. Sometimes the hotel brings the beef for the guests. For Labor Day 2006 they bought 120 filet mignons and rib eye steaks for their guests. Some weekends they have a barber. There are "Hangover Kits" on Sundays consisting of a Bloody Mary, granola bar and an aspirin. At The Block at Big Bear there's a Block Shuttle to take home guests how who have imbibed too much.

Speaking of Big Bear, at The Block at Big Bear every room has a 56 inch tv, an Ipod, and the furnishings are much newer and more modern than at Tahoe. We heard that this hotel group just closed on their 3rd property "The Block at Boreal" to open at the end the 2006/2007 season. I

At The Block at Tahoe, there are different crowds on different nights. "Core boarders come mostly during the week on Sunday through Thursday so as not to be raked over the coals by the weekend charges. Corporate guys who are older and past snowboarding come here weekends for an identity refreshment" says manager Joseph Smith.

"During the winter season, you can't walk through here without seeing a face you recognize.
Pros stay here even if they're riding at Northstar-at-Tahoe, an hour away. Eddie Wall, and Simone Chamberlain from Mammoth are here a lot. MFM is here at least once a month. During winter, he's here 3-5 days /month. He stays in the MFM room." Of course!

If Your Name is Travis, You're Probably a Partner

Other pro snowboarders Kurt Watstell, Jussi Oskanen, Travis Parker, Travis Wood, and Travis Rice, are partners and investors.

Renovations are happening at the Tahoe Block. The hallways are being revamped. $100,000 is being put into the rooms. Outdoor carpet that was installed in the guest rooms to be compatible with wet snowboard boots and mountain bikes is being changed to tile. Rates will be raised a bit. Prices are $100 and up, which is more than the going rate at the small lakeside motels nearby, but this hotel caters to a specific market. A huge convention center is being built across the street and Block staff envisions business adults and their kids staying at the Block while taking a break from business conventions, to hang and ride.

The Block Party - Drinkin' and Fight Club

The legendary Block Party happens every year in December. The 3-day party is by "invite only" at the hotel. The event draws 2000 - 5000 partiers. A welcome party goes down the first night at Bills, with drinking and fighting. No, not that kind of fighting. A signature feature of The Block Party is the Fight Club the first night.

The Block's Fight Club had a spontaneous start one night. Everyone was in the NJB lounge. Likko yelled down casually "2 men enter, 1 man leaves." 2 guys got in the ring and that was it. Liikko is a former Olympic Boxer and holds 6 consecutive Golden Glove Championships.

At the 2005 Block Party, there was a huge rail jam at Sierra-at-Tahoe the next day in the daytime. It was a playground course, not linear. You could drop in anywhere and choose any of 15 features. The Rail Jam is an invitational  with 25 contestants, cash prizes and donations to charity.

Sat. night there was a barbecue. At Montbleu The Block Party took over both night clubs; Bleu, with 2000 people and Opal, which holds 500 for the VIP room. Sunday is the Going Away Party Breakfast and Lunch Barbecue. A  lot of hangover kits are given out.

THE BLOCK  is located at 4143 Cedar Avenue in South Lake Tahoe, near Harveys/Harrahs Casinos and the incoming convention center. It is 1 block from the Heavenly Gondola in S. Lake Tahoe. Reservations can be made by calling 530.544.2936 or online at or

more photos of the Block Hotel at Tahoe here

"Let's Ride!"






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