Heavenly Resort Guide
Insider tips from our team
The Ski Area - Heavenly itself is the second largest resort in the USA. It is an intermediate's paradise with loads of great groomed runs on both the California and Nevada sides of the resort. Make sure you take Ridge Run which has fabulous views of Lake Tahoe all the way down. The beginner area is at the top of the Gondola which means everyone can enjoy the fantastic views and feel like they are really skiing the mountain from day one.
Tip - To get the best of the sun and the skiing conditions, ski the Nevada side in the morning and California in the afternoon.
Advanced Skiers and Snowboarders - There are huge areas of advanced terrain through the trees in Mott and Killibrew Canyons, Milky Way Bowl and Galaxy Bowl just waiting to be discovered. Within the resort boundary absolutely everything can be skied so on a powder day, hire a guide and you will find a side to the resort you never knew existed.
Trees! - Heavenly is also one of the great tree skiing destinations. You can drop off a trail at any point and try your technique in the trees. If you have not done this before, it is an experience not to be missed and the resort has runs suitable for intermediates and up. Galaxy Woods in Nevada is well worth a visit as are Powder Bowl Woods in California.
Bumps! - The signature run at Heavenly is Gunbarrel. This is a steep mogul field that drops down to the California base. The pressure is increased by the fact that you are watched all the way down by people riding the Gunbarrel Express just above you.
Ski School - Not just aimed at teaching people the basics of skiing, the ski school in Heavenly is also concerned with improving the technique of skiers and boarders throughout every level of their development. For that reason there are a range of speciality programmes to meet every individual need. Why not take a lesson to improve your technique in powder, tackle bumps or test your courage on the steeps. There are also speciality programmes for women skiers and a full adaptive programme.
Children’s Ski School - Kid’s lessons start at 4 years for skiers and 7 years for boarders. They can be left in complete safety as a full day lesson includes lunch.
Heavenly now features a 2,022 square foot kids ski and ride school facility at the top of the Heavenly Gondola. There is also a kid’s adventure zone called Black Bear Hollow and an adjacent entry-level progression park featuring small rails, gentle jumps and boxes designed to help youngsters explore.
Weather - Lake Tahoe’s temperature is tempered by the Pacific, so this area is not prone to the freezing temperatures that you can get in Alberta or Colorado. March is a fantastic time to go and traditionally when the area receives the best snowfall. Tahoe also gets 300 days of sunshine a year and has one the latest seasons in North America (generally until May). The spring skiing is awesome with quiet slopes and good snow late into the day.
Facilities & Services
Transportation - There is an excellent shuttle service to the Heavenly ski area and around town but most visitors have a car and so can drive to whichever resort they fancy skiing each day. This allows you to ski a lot more terrain and actually often means you walk less with all your gear.
Supermarket - There is a huge Safeway Supermarket in South Lake Tahoe. Anyone can become a member of Safeway and get a discount card. This gives a 20-40% discount on at least one of every product!
Childcare Facilities - Heavenly Childcare and Nursery provides day-care from 6 weeks to 6 years with full day or half day options available. Care for children of 3-5 years is dependent on the amount of time you wish your child to ski but again comes in the form of full or half day care.
The Casinos - The main attraction of the casinos is obviously the gaming. You can play roulette, black jack, craps, poker and an endless choice of slot machines. If you do not know the rules of any game, the croupiers are on hand to offer advice and will actually help you to make the right decisions.
Tip - If you are a novice do not choose the busiest times of day or the weekends as the action is generally fast and furious. Also at weekends the price of the minimum bet does increase.
Whatever you play - even if it is a $0.05 slot machine - you will get free drinks. Remember to tip your server ($1 will do) or you may find the next drinks a long time coming.
You do not have to gamble in the casinos. You can just have a drink, or enjoy some live entertainment or maybe visit the cinema or a show. Drinks and food are reasonably priced as the casinos want you in their premises to gamble.
Bars and Restaurants
Keep an eye out for leaflets in your hotel lobby for restaurants, apres ski and activities - they often have discounts. Also pick up a local paper (eg. Lake Tahoe Action) when you arrive for a list of events going on over the week so you can plan ahead.
Restaurants - A large number of the eateries are in the Casinos with a range of restaurants from all-you-can-eat buffets to fine dining. The local, smaller restaurants are scattered throughout the town. Here are a few we have tried and loved:
- Hard Rock Café in Harveys Casino - steaks, ribs and burgers. Huge portions, great value and atmosphere.
- Orchids Thai restaurant - very popular with the locals as such good value so make reservations!
- Harrah’s Buffet - located in the casino and a superb feast for around $30.
- Fire & Ice - near the bottom of the gondola - lively aprés ski and good food. Very popular and you're not able to book so get there early, especially if you're a big group.
- Lakeside Inn Casino - the local's casino with a less glitzy, more relaxed feel. The food is fantastic and cheap and drinks are only $2 (free if you're gambling).
- The Stateline Brewery - a great pub with locally brewed beers and enormous pizzas. Great value.
For a full list of restaurants please see the Heavenly Dining Guide.
Après Ski - Heavenly is a pretty serious party town with non-stop action 24/7. Nightlife is really focused around the Casinos which have a range of bars, night clubs and shows. Just at the Nevada border are four large casinos: Harrahs, Harveys, the Horizon and the MontBleu (formerly Caesars). It is definitely worth looking at the casinos' websites a few weeks before you go as there can be some great live acts - for example, the MontBleu. Our recommendation - Harrah's Club Vex on Thursday nights - $20 to get in and then $1 drinks all night for anything!
Most of the bars will have an Après Ski happy hour, but on sunny days you will find the bar at the base of the Gondola to have the best atmosphere.
If you look under 40 - take your passport. Bouncers for entry into the casino nightclubs are strict.
- Take a trip out on Lake Tahoe - afternoon and evening cruises are available which will take in a visit to the spectacular Emerald Bay.
- Tubing & mini tubing - the main tubing hill is over 500 feet long, with the mini hill next to it.
- Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster - a gravity-powered alpine coaster - great fun!
- Rent a Lake Tahoe snowmobile - take a scenic tour of Lake Tahoe from the top of the rim and experience the incredible views.
- Scenic Helicopter tours - view Lake Tahoe from the skies.
- Guided UTV tours - traverse from the top of the gondola to Blue Sky Terrace, stopping along the way for info and photo ops.
The best way to get to the Lake Tahoe resorts is to fly direct into San Francisco. Served by nearly all the big airlines, there is usually good availability and great prices. It is then an easy 4 hour drive to the resorts. To take the pressure off you can easily spend the first night in San Francisco or even en route, at Vacaville. It won't affect your ski time as you will be up early with jet lag and so can still be on the slopes by 10 am.
The alternative option is to take a one-stop flight into Reno Airport. This is not necessarily any cheaper or any quicker but is a valid alternative if you are not keen on driving that initial distance.
Hiring a car is really the only way to access all 7 resorts around Lake Tahoe. The resorts are all within an hour's very easy drive of Heavenly and the views around the Lake as you go are just stunning.