Heavenly, South Lake Tahoe

California, USA

Heavenly Mountain Resort is ginormous – a whopping 4800ac (1943ha) makes it the biggest ski area in California. In keeping with the terrain, the party scene is equally as big. A ski holiday here might be the type where you need to take a holiday afterwards to recover. But families shouldn’t be afraid of coming here either. The mountain is certainly big and diverse enough for everyone to enjoy.

Scout Loves

  • Spectacular views of sapphire blue Lake Tahoe on a sunny day.
  • Endless choices of terrain in two states.
  • Incredible tree-skiing and fantastic groomers make it a top playground for intermediate skiers.
  • The renowned Unbuckle Apres Party at Tamarack Lodge – party at 9150ft (2788m), including half-priced drinks and DJs.
  • Try to win back the cost of your ski ticket at one of the many casinos in Stateside.

Scout Tips

  • Take the free resort shuttle for a day trip out to Kirkwood for a bit of variety. If you’re on an Epic Pass the skiing there is included in your ticket.
  • Beginner skiers are relegated to a small section of the mountain – but it means they won’t be bombed by the egos of expert skiers.
  • You don’t need to stay up in the mountain. There is a gondola all the way from the lake providing easy access for those staying there.
  • Heavenly Village is more like a big town. With a major road through the middle it lacks the intimacy of a ski village.

Scout Review

Perched on the southern edge of Lake Tahoe is Heavenly Mountain Resort. This prime position means that stunning lake views are the norm from almost all parts of the mountain. One of the other benefits of its location comes from the fact it lies in two states, Nevada and California. Because it’s in Nevada the resort is a party haven thanks to the 24-hour casinos near the base of the mountain. It’s like a mini-Vegas with a ski resort attached – world-class skiing combined with entertainment, all-night dance clubs and five-star dining makes for a super fun ski vacation.

The party extends to the resort too, and every afternoon the famous Unbuckle Apres Party sets the scene for the rest of the night with dancing girls and half-priced drinks. And this season the resort takes the parties to the slopes – a mobile DJ snowcat will be pumping music to get you in the mood.

You’ll be forgiven for thinking it’s all about a party, but Heavenly is actually an incredible skiers mountain too. It boasts some terrific terrain for intermediates – they can cruise the long groomers or test themselves on the perfectly gladed runs. There are a few challenging runs for the more extreme skiers too, including 1600ft plunges in the Mott and Killebrew Canyon areas that are accessed via gates.

Heavenly Accommodation

There is some lodging on the mountain, but since the gondola connects the lakeside Heavenly base area directly with the mountain, it’s just as easy for skiers to stay down in Stateline (Nevada) or South Tahoe (California). There’s more choice for accommodation styles, restaurants, bars and shops. And the good news is that staying in Heavenly isn’t going to break the bank like other resorts. 

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Resort Activities

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Apart from the parties and casinos there are a few other activities in the Heavenly Village area including shopping, ice-skating and a movie theater. Snow-based activities include snowshoeing, snowtubing and zip-lining up at the mountain adventure peak. It’s open daily until 3pm. Lake-based activities in winter are more limited than summer but you can cruise the lake on a paddle steamer.

Getting There and Around

South Lake Tahoe is about 3 hours’ drive from the San Francisco area, though sometimes on winter weekends the traffic can double the time.

An alternative to driving is to fly to Reno, which has plenty of direct daily flights and is 70 minutes’ drive to South Tahoe. You can also fly to Sacramento although it’s about a 2-hour drive.

You won’t need a car if staying on the mountain or down by the lake – some places are close enough to walk to the gondola base area or there are buses (although they can be a hassle). If you want to ski other areas, there are shuttles to Northstar and Kirkwood in the morning and back in the afternoon – they leave from the transit center near the gondola. If you are planning on exploring different areas of the lake, you’re probably better off renting a car.

When To Go

Heavenly’s season operates from mid-November till mid-April. The best time of year to come is between January–March, with February being the most reliable. Spring skiing will have better weather, but less powder.

Holiday periods that are busy are:

  • Christmas and New Year.
  • Martin Luther King long weekend, January 17-20 (2014).
  • President’s Day long weekend, February 14-17 (2014).

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 6540ft / 1993m Tram 1 Beginner 20%  
Summit Elevation 10,067ft / 3068m Gondola 1 Intermediates 45%  
Vertical Drop 3500ft / 1066m Express Six Seater 2 Advanced 35%  
Skiable Area 4800ac /1942haExpress Quads Express Quads 8      
Annual Snowfall 360in / 9.1m Triple Chairs 5      
Longest Run 5.4 miles / 8.8km Double Chairs 3      
Operating Hours 9.00am (8.30am on holidays) – 4.00pm Surface Lifts 6      
    Magic Carpet 4      
    Lift Capacity per hour 52,000people      
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