Insider's Guide To Heavenly Valley
Nearly every turn at Heavenly has lake vista. (Heavenly/Facebook)
Heavenly Valley rightfully boasts its best elements: Most skiable terrain (4,800 acres) in Lake Tahoe area. Most vertical feet (3,500) on West Coast. Among highest summit elevations (10,067 feet) in the region.
And, it is the only resort in the West to inhabit two states (California and Nevada), and one where the trails begin part way up the hill, out of town.
Terrain. Trail map wraps around from northerly California side to more westerly Nevada runs, with South Lake Tahoe and the lake visible throughout. Two base areas are up on the hill above the town. Tahoe snow tends to be variable, so locals play exposures, sun and time of day – like hitting Orion’s in Nevada in morning and Ellie’s over in Cali in afternoon. Intermediate groomers dominate, with plenty of spacious old-growth tree skiing off the sides. Steeps mogul up quickly, such as the drop-away plunges above California Lodge base and off summit. Inbounds backcountry in Mott and Killebrew canyons on Nevada side. Dedicated teaching area at top of gondola, and in Stein’s area, but overall beginner terrain is limited and traverses can daunt snowboarders. For those staying in town, end of day means gondola ride down, roundabout shuttle ride or thigh-popping Gunbarrel chute to bottom.
Play. Heavenly’s Adventure Park at top of gondoa has it all: tubing, coaster, sledding, X-C and snowshoeing. A pair of terrain parks on Cali side. Down in town, families can take a steamer ride on the lake, toss in a fishing line, rent a bike, or take a nature walk. Adults who yield to the gambling lure merely have to step over the state line into Nevada and pull on a slot, roll the dice or fan out a hand of cards.
Eat. Six on-mountain lodges serve up wide range of classic ski food – burgers, tacos, salads – and drinks at most of them. In town, there are a world of choices – from ski-bum stews to paté foie gras and everything in between. Breweries, coffee shops, food trucks abound. Prices often reasonable, even at fine dining, because of casino draw. To save a few bucks, supermarkets and specialty markets line the main drag, South Lake Tahoe Drive.
Stay. You’ve got ski-in ski-out, bare-bones under the gondola, fancy on the lake shore, entertaining at a casino or cozy in your RV: Heavenly and South Lake Tahoe have all the choices. Plethora of VRBOs and B’n’Bs with all the vacation homes there, and no shortage of condos. If you have a car, stay farther afield, around the lake or in funky Carson City.
Travel. Reno airport has 200 flights from major cities, plus taxi service, major car rentals and resort shuttles for one-hour ride. Sacramento airport is 45 minutes farther off. Once in town, comprehensive shuttle service makes it easy to move around. Parking can be pricey, except if you’re staying on the mountain or at a casino.
Deals. Owned by Vail Resorts, Heavenly in the Epic Pass system – including online Epic Day tickets with deeper discounts the farther out you buy. Many lodges couple free tickets with extended stays, and casinos always cut rack rate to entice you to the gambling floor. The usual online suspects offer deals throughout the year.