Heavenly Ski Resort is known for its superlatives.
Comprising 4,800 skiable acres—over 20 square miles--on and around the
slopes of mighty Monument Peak, this is California’s largest resort.
Heavenly is so big that it doesn’t contain itself to California—much of
it spills into Nevada, so you can ski from one state to another and back
Heavenly also has the highest summit elevation of any resort around
Lake Tahoe (10,067 feet), and a greatest vertical drop of 3,500 feet,
one of the most extreme on the West Coast. The resort’s longest run
covers a prodigious 5.5 miles. Servicing Heavenly’s 94 runs requires
running 30 chairlifts and a two-mile-long gondola.
This megaresort is also notorious for having the highest ticket
prices of any ski hill in the Tahoe basin—even higher than Squaw Valley.
What you are paying for is Heavenly’s ultra-convenient location smack
in the middle of the South Shore. Most skiers access the resort from the
base of its gondola on Highway 50 in South Lake Tahoe, which is flanked
by upscale Marriott properties on both sides. Dozens more hotels,
motels, and restaurants are within walking distance, plus a passel of
casinos, nightclubs, and cinemas. You can park your car at your lodging
and lose your keys for a couple days.
If you aren’t a city slicker, forego the gondola and the downtown
bustle and access Heavenly from one of its more sedate entrance points.
Heavenly’s California Lodge offers the easiest access and parking. You
can also get to the slopes from the Nevada side (good for morning sun),
at Boulder or Stagecoach Lodge.
Heavenly isn't the best place for beginners to try out their first
pair of sticks, but it's tons of fun for intermediate and advanced
skiers. One-third of the mountain is for experts (try the mogul-studded
precipice known as Gunbarrel, or the famous World Cup run), nearly half
is intermediate terrain, and beginners get the scraps: a mere 20 percent
of the mountain. From a ridge near the top of Heavenly’s Olympic chair,
three gates access the backcountry for daredevils who want fresh lines,
offering a route to two infamous runs: Palisades and Fire Break. These
two backcountry canyons are now as popular, or more so, than Mott
Canyon, Heavenly’s equally famous in-bounds expert area. Beginners are
best staying close to the neatly groomed corduroy near the Boulder Lodge
learning center. On Heavenly’s California side, the lake views are
outstanding from almost every run. On the Nevada side, skiers look down
on the Carson Valley and the desert beyond.
The resort typically sees 360 inches of snow per season, and they
have abundant snowmaking equipment, so there's usually plenty of white
stuff from December to March. If Heavenly has one shortcoming, it's that
its season usually ends a bit early. Annual snowfall at other Tahoe
resorts is typically much greater.
Heavenly was purchased by Vail Resorts, Inc. in the spring of 2002
and a blizzard of success has fallen upon it since. The resort has been
posting record seasons and is consistently rated one of the Top 20 Ski
Resorts in North America by Ski Magazine, both for “overall best resort”
and for “off-hill activities.” All these accolades mean big crowds,
especially on weekends and holidays.
Part of the reason for Heavenly's good fortune is its $23 million
gondola, built in 2001. Traveling 2.4 miles in about 12 minutes, the
gondola is California's longest, and its 138 cabins ferrying eight
passengers apiece give it the most uphill carrying capacity of any
gondola in the state. Plenty of non-skiers ride it, too, just for the
chance to enjoy the winsome Lake Tahoe views.
Whether you are buying an adult ticket, child’s ticket, or half-day
ticket, expect to pay about 20 bucks more to ski here than you would at
Kirkwood, Squaw, Northstar, Sugar Bowl, or Alpine Meadows. The best
values are available by purchasing multiple-day tickets at least a week
in advance (click here for deals on skiresorts.com).
If you are staying on the South Shore, there’s no need to drive and
hassle with parking near Heavenly’s gondola. Instead, take the free
Heavenly Shuttle, which is operated by BlueGO (www.bluego.org), and stops at all major casinos and hotels in town.
*all photos courtesy of Heavenly Ski Resort
For those who choose to arrive by car, lush forests, scenic mountains, and Lake Tahoe's pristine beauty highlight the trip to Heavenly. Highway 50 provides direct, all-weather access...
From Reno (1.25 hours): Follow U.S. Highway 395 S to Carson City. Through Carson City to the junction of Highway 395 & U.S. Highway 50. Follow right-hand bend on Highway 50 up Spooner Summit. Continue on Highway 50 to the Nevada / California state line. California access is at the gondola in Heavenly Village on Highway 50 and also via Ski Run Blvd. to the California Base Lodge.
From Sacramento (2 hours): Follow U.S. Highway 50 East to junction of U.S. Highway 89 North. Continue on Highway 50 making right hand turn, following the bend in the road. Drive approximately 5 miles to Ski Run Blvd. Turn right and follow the signs to Heavenly!
From San Francisco (3.5 hours): Follow Interstate 80 East to Sacramento. Continue on I-80 until the junction of U.S. Highway 50 East. Follow U.S. Highway 50 East to the junction of Highway 50 and U.S. Highway 89 N. Continue on Highway 50 making a right hand turn, following the bend in the road. Drive approximately 5 miles to Ski Run Boulevard. Turn right and follow the signs to Heavenly!
From San Jose (3.5 hours): Follow Interstate 680 North to Interstate 580 East towards Oakland and Stockton until Interstate 205. Take Interstate 205 exit towards Tracy and Stockton. Drive approximately 12.5 miles and take the Interstate 5 North exit. Take I-80 BR/US 50/CA 99 RAMP towards San Francisco and South Lake Tahoe. Stay straight on Highway 50 E until intersection of Highway 89 North. Continue on Highway 50 making a right hand turn, following the bend in the road. Drive approximately 5 miles to Ski Run Boulevard. Turn right and follow the signs to Heavenly!
From Los Angeles (8 hours): Follow U.S. Highway 395 North to Bishop, CA and then to Minden, NV. At the intersection of State Route 207 (Kingsbury Grade), turn left. At the top of Kingsbury turn left on Tram Way Drive and drive approximately 2 miles to Stagecoach Lodge. Or, after starting the descent on Kingsbury Grade, turn left on South Benjamin and drive approximately 1 mile to Boulder Lodge or continue on Kingsbury Grade to the Intersection of U.S. Highway 50 West. California access is at the gondola in Heavenly Village on Highway 50 and also via Ski Run Blvd. to the California Base Lodge.
South Tahoe Express provides shuttle service between Reno-Tahoe International Airport South Lake Tahoe Resort Casinos. Multiple daily departures are offered each way with service to MontBleu, Embassy Suites, Harrah's, Harveys, Horizon, and Lakeside Inn.
Cost: • $26.00 per person, one way • $46.50 per person, round trip • $13.50 per child (4-12) one way • $24.85 per child (4-12) round trip
*The above information is subject to change at any time without notice. Contact South Tahoe Express for the most up-to-date pricing and schedule, 1-866-89-TAHOE.
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Saddle Rd. & Wildwood Ave., South Lake Tahoe, 96150 Phone: 775-586-7000
Heavenly and Lake Tahoe are conveniently located to four major international airports...Reno-Tahoe International (RNO) is the closest, followed by Sacramento International (SMF), Oakland International (OAK) and then San Francisco International (SFO). Follow the driving directions below to get to Northstar from any of the four...