A Perfect Day at Heavenly Mountain

Heavenly is a fun mountain with “heavenly” views and some amazing terrain. But, it can also be packed on holiday weekends. Some of the best terrain requires a lot of traversing to get there. Here are a couple pointers for skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels to make their day a bit more heavenly.

First and foremost is to realistically address everyone in your group and what type of terrain they’re comfortable riding. There’s a little bit of everything at Heavenly. And, if you know where to look, then you really can find your own piece of Heaven.

Second is to figure out where everyone wants to start and finish. Heavenly is huge. The mountain crosses over the state line of California and Nevada. There are four main base areas – Cal Base, The Gondola, Boulder, & Stagecoach. There may not be enough time to tackle each and every area, so pick your area appropriately.

Finally, what type of amenities are your group looking for? Is quiet and quaint more your style? Or is your group looking to get down and cut loose as they want to apres-ski all day long? There’s a good mix for families seeking quality time together, as well as rowdy activities for young adults looking to live it up.

California Lodge and Base Area

One of my favorite zones is on the California side. I could actually spend all day hot lapping The Face. But this run is not for everyone. It’s steep, can be fast & firm, and is almost always covered with moguls. If bumps aren’t your thing, then dip below Booyah’s and to the rider’s right of the tram. The trees there can conceal powder stashes well after storms.

If you have beginners, then start off on First Chair. It’s an all-beginner run and the “bunny hill”. The Cal Base is home to one of three ski schools. Sign up for a lesson if you need a little help or aren’t up for tackling the job of teaching your friends, family members or loved ones.

Once you’re acquainted with the California base, take Gunbarrel or the Tram up and head down to Patsy’s, Groove, & Powderbowl. As people get more comfortable, start exploring Mombo off Powderbowl, then head over to Sky & Canyon to test your obstacle course skills on Ridge Run. Advanced riders can enjoy Powderbowl Woods, Ski Way Glades, The Pinnacles and even Milky Way Bowl heading over into Nevada. Coming back you can dip into Maggie’s Canyon. There are also two terrain parks to play in on the California side. One is off Groove. It’s a beginner zone and a nice introductory park. The bigger lines are off Canyon. There’s even a halfpipe to work on your trick ditch moves.

The Gondola

If starting at the Gondola, then expect things to be a bit more rowdy and catered to the casino scene. Tamarack Lodge has their Unbuckled apres-ski party each afternoon. It’s definitely not for the kiddos. But there is a ropes course and a great beginner ski and ride area right next to the lodge complete with another ski school location. Non-skiers can also use the gondola to visit the observation deck and take in the views of Lake Tahoe below.

At the top of the gondola the Tamarack chair accesses the terrain park with intermediate and advanced features. It also lets you cut over to the Nevada side to Comet and Dipper. These chairs cater to intermediates. The runs are longer, intermediate runs that are great for the family to explore. Galaxy may not be the fastest chair, but the terrain is great for families looking to get away from the crowds surrounding East Peak Lodge at the base of Comet and Dipper.

Advanced riders can show off with the Comet Cats ripping bump lines or they can sneak off into Aries Woods. From here, you can also adventure over to Mott Canyon and Killebrew Canyon if your group is adventurous and looking to test their skills. Be prepared; these areas aren’t for the faint of heart. And, Killebrew requires a long, flat, & unforgiving traverse out to get back to the Mott Canyon chairlift. Or, you could simply traverse over to Boulder and Stagecoach for some more Nevada exploring.

Nevada Base Areas- Boulder & Stagecoach Lodges

Boulder and Stagecoach areas don’t have the same amenities as the gondola but there’s some awesome terrain off Olympic, Stagecoach, North Bowl, and Boulder. Boulder is another area for beginners and it has another ski school for those interested. The runs off Olympic and Stagecoach let the speed demons come out to play. As always, look out for yellow jacket ski patrollers ready to cite you for excessive speed or out of control riding.

There are also a few gates where skilled backcountry travelers can go beyond the ski area boundary ropes and get their fix away from the crowds. Be very careful. The newspaper is filled with stories of careless visitors that got in over their head.

You could spend an entire week exploring Heavenly and still not cover the entire mountain. I still find stashes that I’ve yet to explore. But, for easy access from South Lake Tahoe and a mountain that has a little something for everyone, Heavenly does a great job of appealing to the masses.

Ski and ride safely and enjoy your visit to Heavenly Mountain Resort and Lake Tahoe! Don’t forget to contact Black Tie Ski Rentals for premier ski and snowboard rentals delivered right to you in the comfort of your hotel or rental home!

Adam M.

Special guest blogger, longtime South Tahoe local and die-hard mountain man