- Overall Rating 5
- Family Friendly 5
- All Mtn. Terrain 5
- Terrain Park 4
- Nightlife 4
Pros: Great views, warm weather, lots of trails
Cons: some flat and even uphill sections,
Recommended For: Singles, Family Friendly, Empty Nesters
Date Visited: Feb 1, 2010
This was the first time for my wife and I to ski out west so I have nothing else to compare it against in the west, but we had a great time and this was the best ski resort we have been to so far. There are definitely some things to deal with that could be better (food prices, some flat and even uphill sections of trails, etc) but the length and variety of trails and the scenery are much more important to me,
Heavenly is so big and laid out differently than other places that it can be disorienting. I recommend becoming VERY familiar with the trail map ahead of time, carrying a trail map with you, and checking the boards that are in several different places on the mountain (one lift, Dipper Express, had the trail map on the lift itself; pretty cool and would be great if all the lifts had that).
You can access the mountain on the Nevada side, California side, or the Gondola in the middle. The problem with the Nevada side is that you have to drive a bit to get there and the problem with the California side is that it is almost entirely double black diamond (there is a little green trail and an intermediate trail that winds around the hill but that side of the moutain is primarily for expert skiers). I recommend doing like most and taking the Gondola. You ride that halfway up the mountain to get started and at the end of the day you ride it back down to the bottom.
I understand that food and drinks are expensive but we didn't buy anything while we were skiing. We took our own snacks and drank the free water that was available in a few spots. We waited to chow down until the end of the day at a restaurant in town.
Regarding rentals, we rented our gear from Powder House and were very happy with them. They were very friendly and helpful. They have several locations but the best spot IMO is right next to the Gondola. We reserved our equipment online and got ski equipment and jackets and ski pants for a very reasonable price.
As far as the terrain, there are a couple of terrain parks, a number of mogul bowls & trails, and expert level runs but Heavenly seems geared particularly for intermediates. That was perfect for us. We tried the Milky Way Bowl which was a stretch for us but still fun. Otherwise, we really enjoyed all the blue trails. When we rode up the Gondola to start the day someone told us that a blue at Heavenly was like a black diamond at Stowe (where we skied in December) but we didn't find that to be true. We thought the blue were truly intermediate and right at our level. The other thing is that most of the trails are fairly wide so lots of room to maneuver and it would be great for someone moving up from beginner to get started.
We really enjoyed the conditions because it was warm (40s) so no getting cold. On the other hand, there were some slushy sections at the end of the day and the snow for the tree skiing was pretty hard. It also would have been nice to have more powder but overall we were satisfied with the snow conditions.
We skied at the end of the week after Valentine's Day and President's day (which I understand was a mob scene), so we went at the right time as the lines for the lifts were fairly short and the trails weren't too crowded.
Heavenly was a great place to go skiing and Tahoe in general is a beautiful place with lots to do. We stayed at a budget motel within a block of the Gondola which was great for the price and proximity. Big Pine Mountain House wasn't posh but it served the purpose and I wouldn't mind staying there again. If you want something nicer you can find that too. We also spent a day touring the entire circumference of the lake (on the North Shore, I recommend Log Cabin for breakfast) so we got a lot of good pics.