Heavenly January 2016
Started by LOTA in USA 14-Jan-2016 - 2 Replies
LOTA posted Jan-2016
Booking a trip last July was something of a risk, given the continuing drought in California and three or four very poor seasons for the Lake Tahoe resorts. But the weather systems resulting from the El Nino phenomenon have delivered in big style with almost daily snowfall since November. Conditions around the lake are fantastic and there's more to come say the met men! Heavenly itself was 100 per cent open with fresh, deep snow everywhere. The only lift closed was the old North Bowl two-man chairlift - one of the chairs had fallen off the cable the previous week!
After a couple of days in Los Angeles, we flew into Reno, a quiet, efficient airport just an hour by regular coach shuttle from South Lake Tahoe. We stayed in the Station House Inn, a Best Western, reasonably close to the main Heavenly 'village' complex, gondola and the casinos across the Nevada border in Stateline. It was clean and comfortable and had the huge bonus of breakfast included in the price of £490 (including tax) for eight nights for two. You can get cheaper as there are hundreds of typical US roadside motels in South Lake Tahoe, but location is important and the quality is variable. You can also pay for upmarket accommodation if you budget can stretch to it! The hotel was served by a free shuttle bus to the gondola which runs from 8am to 6pm and it links with buses that go to the two other main lift access points at the California Lodge and the Stagecoach Lodge. The only ski-to-door here is from the expensive and remote Ridge Resort at Stagecoach.
I last went to Tahoe more than 10 years ago. Little has changed although the Heavenly 'village' complex is now much more developed with a number of shops, lively bars and restaurants. Good to see McP's bar survived demolition and has relocated to a new complex just inside California near to Harvey's casino hotel. There's a massive choice of places to eat and drink including the casinos inside Nevada where an all-you-can-eat buffet costs $27 including tax. We especially enjoyed the atmosphere and food in Azul, a Mexican-style restaurant. The biggest drawback is the constantly busy Interstate 50 with traffic thundering through the town all day and night.
Heavenly itself is a much bigger ski area than the piste map would suggest and spreads from the California side to Nevada and is blessed with fantastic views of the spectacular lake itself. The skiing caters for all grades with some particularly steep and ungroomed terrain in Killebrew and Mott Canyons and under the cable car (tram) above California Lodge. Many of the plentiful blue (European red) runs are left ungroomed for an additional challenge. I particularly liked the almost deserted runs off the old Galaxy chairlift (the ungroomed Outlaw was a delight) and the Olympic downhill, wide and inviting long, fast turns. The real glory of Heavenly is the ability to go anywhere through the trees in the plentiful in-bounds off-piste areas. Great fun. Probably best to have the right sort of skis for the job - some old Line Prophet 90s were just about perfect. There were very few lift queues anywhere apart from the Saturday; it would appear San Francisco and Sacramento skiers pour into town on Friday night, ski Saturday and go home after breakfast on Sunday! Perhaps they find the lift pass price to be too expensive; $119 a day is a lot (but you do get a lot of bang for your buck!). The most economic ticket was a local season-long pass which paid for itself after four days. However, if you ski fast, recklessly or dangerously, you can lose your pass. Yellow-jacketed patrollers crack-down hard on those deemed to be stupid or out of control, particularly in the designated slow skiing areas. Helmet wearing is almost universal, by the way. Prices for food and drink on the mountain are steep; all of the outlets are, of course, controlled by the owners, Vail resorts.
Worth shopping around on the internet for ski hire. I don't normally hire but American Airlines charge $100 for a pair of skis per flight which would have amounted to $400 all told. The two biggest operations, Heavenly Sports and Powderhouse, are very expensive. I found Shoreline of Tahoe to be the best value and friendliest of options.
As a trip to mark a special occasion, this was a holiday that was hard to beat. I hope it's not 10 years before I return.
Some pictures: https://www.facebook.com/andrew.wise.5855/media_set?set=a.10154016089249873.1073741832.610069872&type=3
reply to 'Heavenly January 2016' posted Jan-2016
I couldn't agree more with your report.
We were in Heavenly over the Christmas period and stayed in the same hotel as you. We didn't catch the bus from the hotel because there was a direct footpath from the car park that went straight to the gondola (5mins). Even using traffic lights to cross the I-50.
We did lose out to a reduced ski area on two days due to the high winds, but when we did ski it was fabulous. I have to say I preferred the Nevada side with the Galaxy runs and the Pines through the trees is a fun route. Although my hired skis made for a more interesting adventure.
I found that the lift pass cost was a lot more than Europe but there did seem a lot more employees, guides and patrollers than in Europe. Or maybe they are more 'in your face'.
Glad you enjoyed it.
reply to 'Heavenly January 2016' posted Jan-2016
Topic last updated on 28-January-2016 at 14:19