Few ski resorts can match Heavenly Ski Resort’s scenic beauty and expansive network of lifts, terrain, trails, and snowmaking. Located in South Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border, Heavenly is the region's largest ski area, featuring the highest elevation at 10,067 feet and the longest vertical drop.
With an average of 360 inches of snowfall per year, Heavenly gets some of the best snow in North America. Even better, bluebird days are enjoyed 300 days a year on average. Plus, the views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountain range are magnificent.
Heavenly is about three hours from San Francisco (without traffic) and an hour from Reno. It was founded in 1955 and is spread between four base areas: Stagecoach Lodge (local’s spot), Boulder Lodge (best for beginners), CA Heavenly Village/Gondola (best for walking to and from the slopes), and California Base Lodge (best variety and most parking). From wide-open groomed cruisers to 1,600-foot plunges in the double-black-diamond canyons and some of the most outrageous tree skiing in North America, there’s something for everyone at Heavenly.
A 75-minute drive away, Reno-Tahoe Airport is the closest and most convenient airport, with daily nonstops on Alaska Airlines from Los Angeles and Seattle, American Airlines from Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago, and Delta from Salt Lake City. Sacramento International Airport is 2.5 hours away—longer if it’s snowing—and should only be considered in the unlikely circumstance that there are no flights available into Reno.
From the Airport:
South Tahoe Express (866-89-TAHOE) offers 11 daily shuttles ($27 one-way adults, $15 children) from Reno-Tahoe to the casino hotels and Embassy Suites on the South Shore strip near Heavenly Village, where taxis can be easily hailed if headed off the beaten path. For those in need of a car, Heavenly provides rental deals through Hertz.
No car is necessary if staying on casino row or near pedestrian-friendly Heavenly Village, which offers shopping and dining and easy access to the gondola. South Lake Tahoe’s free public Blue Go busses are clean-emissions vehicles that transport half a million people yearly, stopping at all the major hotels and connecting Heavenly’s base areas.
Red Hut is a Tahoe breakfast institution with three locations, including the original shop that opened in 1959 and the more conveniently-located new café on the corner of Ski Run and Lake Tahoe boulevards. The omelets are great, but waffles, including bacon waffles with the crispy strips cooked right in, are the house favorite.&
Featuring a towering wall of windows, massive wooden beams, and a modern-mountain design, the Tamarack Lodge atop the Heavenly gondola is a model for energy efficiency and pleasing aesthetics. Choose from a selection of foods ranging from pizza to pasta to everything in between, with indoor and outdoor seating.
Named for the legendary youth ski team that produced Glen Plake and other past skiing greats, Blue Angel Café is a short drive from the California base and is a favorite local spot due to its innovative menu and affordable prices. Try the curry of the day or the daily True Blue Plate Special, and don’t skip the sweet potato fries with homemade aioli.
19 Kitchen Bar on the 19th floor of Harvey’s casino offers some of the best views of the lake, a VIP seating area, hardwood grill and a small but select menu of American seafood and steak specialties. Start with a Tahoe-tini, order the Chilean sea bass or filet mignon, and don’t forget the homemade donuts for dessert.
With a spacious and modern décor, the Edgewood Tahoe Restaurant provides unimpeded views of Lake Tahoe from every table and is located at the south shore’s finest golf course. House favorites include the seared elk steak with sun-dried cherry relish and spaetzle or the marinated bavette steak.
Located near the marina and several art galleries for after-dinner browsing, Riva Grill is a local’s favorite with décor inspired by Tahoe’s summertime wooden boating culture. Cocktails include the famous Wet Woody, and the menu features upscale burgers and fish tacos as well as the signature chimichurri pork tenderloin.
With gourmet pizzas, salads and pasta dishes, Blue Dog Pizza is a short walk from Gondola Square in the Raley’s shopping plaza, across the street from Heavenly Village.
Known as a 24-hour party town due to its casino nightclubs, blackjack tables, and drink specials, South Lake Tahoe offers loads of opportunity for naughty nights.
McP’s Pub is a local’s hangout with a covered and heated outdoor deck and a wide selection of beers.
Located in Heavenly Village near the skating rink, Fire + Ice serves classic and fruity martinis and has an outdoor patio with fire pits for enjoying the sunset.
Late-nighters and bridesmaids on a bender should head to Opal in the MontBleu casino, where the music thumps until morning and scantily-clad dancers shimmy on mini-stages beneath flashing lights.
First time to Heavenly? These are our suggestions for the best terrain options for every type of skier.
First, lap the Powder Bowl Express lift, hitting the bumps of Waterfall run. Then, take Sky Chair to the summit and swoosh down the fast groomers of Ellie’s and High Five. Now, it’s time for a short hike. Traverse Sky Line trail (due to its width, Heavenly requires some traversing to get from California to Nevada and back) to the bottom of Milky Way Bowl. Unclick just past the sign on Sky Line Trail, and follow the boot pack up to the summit of Monument Peak, which at 10,067 feet is Tahoe’s highest in-bounds terrain. Drop straight down the middle of Milky Way Bowl, or work to skier’s right toward Mott and Killebrew canyons.
If you want to avoid the agro conditions in Mott and Killebrew, but need some off-piste fun, check out the tree runs and pillow drops through Nevada Woods and The Burn - where charred trees from a fire provide starkly beautiful views, and powder stashes await those willing to explore. Wrap up with a finishing run down The Face or a tree run through East Bowl Woods back to the California lodge.
Located right out of the California base, The Face is a double-black mogul run unforgiving in its steepness. It drops 1,700 vertical feet into the equally challenging Gunbarrel and East Bowl moguls. These are the bump runs made famous by former hot-dogger Glen Plake, who holds the annual Gunbarrel 25 event here that challenges skiers to complete 25 thigh-burning laps.
The Milky Way Bowl is the best place to find fresh powder for expert skiers. For amazing tree turns, head to the Pinnacles and take some time to dip into the pines. Intermediates should head to Ridge Run and check out the amazing views of Lake Tahoe.
There are two ways to attack the mountain on a powder day, and the choice really depends on Heavenly’s weather and from which side (California or Nevada) you start your ski day. Mild temperatures at Lake Tahoe level can necessitate heading for the top, where snow is lighter. But, if temps are cold down low, then options are bountiful.
California Lodge Route
Setting out from Heavenly Ski Resort’s California Lodge, take Gunbarrel lift, and bag a quick lap through the well-spaced trees of East Bowl Woods. Ride Gunbarrel lift back up and board the mid-mountain Powder Bowl Express, disembarking to the right for Powder Bowl Woods - an often-overlooked tree stash at mid-mountain. When Powder Bowl Woods are skied out, ride Canyon Express to the top and descend beneath the lift to the trees of Ridge Bowl. Take Sky Express back up and drop down the fall line into the trees to skier’s right of Liz’s run.
Heavenly Village Route
If starting from Heavenly Village, take the gondola to mid-mountain and board Tamarack Express, heading skier’s right to access Airies Woods, which drop you out at Dipper Express lift. Ride Dipper to the terminus and ski toward Dipper Woods and Milky Way. By this time, patrol will hopefully have opened the gates to some of Heavenly’s best terrain—Mott Canyon, where skilled skiers can find steep chutes and rock drops. While waiting for Mott to open, hit the Dipper Knob area to skier’s right of Meteor trail. Adjacent to Mott is the equally ferocious Killebrew Canyon, typically the last terrain at Heavenly to open, so be prepared to pounce when it does.
Heavenly has a large grooming fleet, which means an abundance of groomer options for beginners and intermediates.
From the gondola terminus, take Tamarack Express and do a warm-up lap on California Trail or Sam’s Dream. Go back up Tamarack and drop into Orion and the East Peak area, served by the Dipper and Comet chairlifts. Cruise the Comet trail and take the lift back up. This time, ski down Crossover to the Olympic Express lift, which offers a run through the wide-open glades of The Pines.
If starting on the California side, head to the top of Liz’s run off the Sky Express lift, making sure to look over your shoulder at Lake Tahoe. Take Sky back up and descend Ridge Run, which offers some of the mountain’s most amazing lake views. Stop off to the side and grab a photo.
If you’re a beginner and want to explore some higher terrain, go to the Enchanted Forest. With shorter runs and gentle slopes, it’s a great place to start.
Beginner skiers and riders can also head for Maggie’s run, served by the Powder Bowl Express lift. Maggie’s run meanders down to the “Snow Beach” area, where a small food shack offers hot chocolate and snacks, and beach chairs provide a relaxed setting for families to meet up while doing laps on different lifts.
Newbies who want beginner trails only should stick to the Boulder Lodge area, a little-trafficked ski area within the resort that features a gentle, wide-open bowl for working on turns and skiing with the kids.
Heavenly Ski Resort also has multiple terrain parks designed to serve everyone from beginners to go-big huckers.
For first-timers and rookies, the progression park near the gondola offers low boxes and rails that are almost flush with the snow to eliminate the fear factor.
Groove Park is the most popular, offering smaller features for beginners and intermediates, though experienced boarders and jibbers often start here with some warm-up runs or to practice moves. Groove is set up like a skate park, with a lot of features packed into a small area.
Player’s Park (off Ridge Run) and Ante Up Park (beneath Tamarack Express) are classified as medium/intermediate terrain parks in terms of their features. Player’s Park has a line of triple jumps and progressive jibs. Ante Up’s claim to fame is a jib line featuring old water pipes and recycled scrap items that provide a unique vibe.
High Roller is where the fearless go to play, with expert-level hits and gaps that provide a show for people riding the Sky chair. High Roller terrain park has a 55-foot and a 65-foot jump as well as playful touches, such as tire stacks for clearing or tapping on the way by.
Heavenly offers tubing… and mini tubing! Located at the top of the gondola, their tubing hill is over 500 feet long and has a convenient magic carpet to take you and your tube back up to the top. Shorter riders and young children can enjoy the mini-tubing hill adjacent to the main hill in Adventure Peak.
For beautiful views of Lake Tahoe, you’ll want to head toward North of South Lake Tahoe’s “Y” intersection of Highway 50/89. On the lakeside, you’ll find the mostly-flat and short trails at Pope, Kiva, and Baldwin Beaches. West of the “Y,” you’ll find a number of easy-to-moderate trails along Lake Tahoe Boulevard, Tahoe Mountain Road, and North Upper Truckee Road. From the Echo Lakes/Johnson Pass Sno-Park, you can ski through Desolation Wilderness to Echo Lakes and Lake Aloha for some of the most stunning landscapes in the area.
Keep in mind, nearly all cross-country ski and snowshoe trails in South Lake Tahoe are on public lands, meaning they’re not groomed. Fortunately, many people ski at most locations so there are usually established tracks.
Visit one of the many cozy craft breweries and coffee shops in South Lake Tahoe.
Go ice skating at the Heavenly Village outdoor ice skating rink.
Book a snowy winter sleigh ride (complete with wool blankets and hot cocoa) at South Lake’s Camp Richardson Corral, which has been leading scenic trail rides since 1934.
Hit up the casino. Because if you went to Nevada and didn’t gamble, did you really even go? Four resorts dominate the South Lake Tahoe gambling scene: Harvey’s Resort and Casino, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and the MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa.
Experience some of the greatest views of Lake Tahoe with a 2.4-mile Scenic Gondola Ride. Hop on at Heavenly Village and stop at the Observation Deck at the top for panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Ride the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster. This gravity-powered alpine coaster is open in the winter (ski boots are permitted) and coasts through the forest and natural rock formations. Of course, the views are incredible. The coaster sleds fit up to two riders, so you can enjoy this activity with others.
Head to the top of the Gondola for a guided winter UTV tour. You’ll traverse over to Blue Sky Terrace, stopping at highlights along the way for interesting information about the area and beautiful views.
New Year’s Eve at Heavenly is an experience you won’t want to miss. The annual SnowGlobe Music Festival combines world-famous musicians with the world’s best snow conditions. Heavenly’s Gondola Ball Drop and fireworks start at 9:00 pm, in time for the midnight Ball Drop in New York City’s Time Square. The party continues into the night at one of the many casino nightclubs.
South Lake Tahoe’s Spring Loaded event brings together the best of spring and winter with live music, loud outfits, lodging specials, and restaurant deals for three weeks of sun and fun. Festivities include on-mountain events at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Mountain, Sierra-at-Tahoe, happy hour specials, mid-week entertainment, and live events and guest performers.
Heavenly offers lessons for children, teens, and adults. You can also choose from small group sessions, private guided experiences, and more to fit your needs.
Heavenly Day Care is a licensed child care center for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years, with an optional ski component for children ages 3-5 years. They provide a play-based, safe and fun-filled environment for your little one to enjoy so that your entire family can have an experience of a lifetime out on the snow.