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8,000 Feet Above With Reno Tahoe Helicopters

A visit to their office is a full sensory experience. You’ve got the crisp scent of pines, the brisk mountain air, still calm of the winter morning – and then of course, there’s the booming Italian ballads. Trust us. It’s surprisingly fitting.

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Owned and operated by Claudio Bellotto, an ex-Italian Air Force pilot and senior cruise ship officer with an epic sense of humor, Reno Tahoe Helicopters offers a lot more than just a view from 8,000 feet above. Eleven years ago, when Claudio first came to South Lake Tahoe, he found the only viable option for viewing the famous Lake was with two feet on the ground. So he bought a helicopter and some office space at the Lake Tahoe Airport, and opened the doors of Reno Tahoe Helicopters.

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Today, while Claudio and his team, fellow pilots Clint and Carl, operate tours on a daily basis, the business has grown into a one-stop shop for all of South Lake Tahoe’s aerial needs. They’ve been chartered for everything from helicopter skiing and aerial marksmanship training, to filming documentaries with National Geographic. Scouting missions for wildlife and lost persons also frequent their schedule, as well as the occasional wedding proposal. (They’re running a 100% success rate for “I do’s,” if you’re in the market.) For passengers that aspire to become pilots, they also run the Altitude Helicopter Academy, a full service pilot school that specializes in high altitude and mountain proficient training. The intro into Italian opera course is included at no extra charge.

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On our visit, we talked business with Clint and Claudio until they couldn’t resist sharing some of their favorite views. After a quick fuel check, we were on our way to meeting everyone’s favorite member of the family, the Robinson R44 Raven II.

Outfitted for three passengers and a pilot, the aircraft offered panoramic views from every seat. As we buckled up and slipped on the craft’s noise cancelling headphones, Clint began smoothly flipping switches and radioing out calls before gently lifting the helicopter off the ground. In seconds we were gliding through the mountainscape, heading towards the lake’s crown jewel – Emerald Bay.

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When we hit 8,000 feet, the knowledge started pouring out. Clint talked us through the lake’s history, pointing out sites like Fallen Leaf Lake with it’s live, underwater forest, and the stone Tea House of Fannette Island. We peppered him with questions, while he joked about the questions passengers asked, and reflected on the challenges of running a business affected by seasonality. All the while, he never missed a beat, seamlessly navigating over the lake and past the peaks of Mount Tallac.

When it finally came time to go, we were on the verge of signing up for the academy ourselves – partially so we could get back in the sky, but mostly so we could hang with Clint and Claudio again.

Thanks for being a part of the FareHarbor family!