The Best Ski Resorts in North America: 13. Heavenly Ski Resort

South Lake Tahoe, California

Heavenly Ski Resort.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Heavenly got its first dusting on October 12, a flurry the managers at this veritable convention center of skiing hope is a sign of a higher-than-average snowfall year—though the average is a quite respectable 360 inches.

Its school claims to have the faculty with the highest number of PSIA-AASI national team members, who teach learners of all levels on the resort’s 4,800 skiable acres. Thirty lifts—tickets to which are reasonably priced—drop off at 91 named trails covering 3,500 vertical feet. And since this is snowboard-crazy Tahoe, four progressive terrain parks make for sick sliding and grinding—new this year is an 18-foot halfpipe.

The big numbers spill into the après scene too: The more than 100 area restaurants include 19 Kitchen Bar (it’s atop Harvey’s Casino so it’s got good views), Steins, Edgewood, Friday’s Station, and the Sage Room. South Lake’s also got great shops, party joints, and places to gamble. As for hotels, we recommend the modern Tamarack Lodge (it’s LEED-certified and ski-in/ski-out) and the Marriott Grand Residence Club, which is less than 100 yards from the lift. Definitely bring the kids: There’s an entire lodge dedicated to them, and nannies take care of children as young as six weeks old.

Even though Vail Resorts-owned Heavenly is notorious for being where Sonny Bono died after colliding with a tree—it took at least two hours to find his body—the ski patrol here remains insignificant. However, a hospital is within five miles and the 24-hour emergency service enlists an onsite physician and a full-time risk manager.

Off the hill, recreational options abound: an ice skating rink, a tube park, a bowling alley, a movie theater, spas, and sleigh rides through the beautiful Northern California forest.

Heavenly loves its open spaces so much that it partnered with the Tahoe Fund to raise money to help protect them. However, the resort does plan to encroach onto land that’s currently wild habitat: Four new trails will turn more than 20 previously untouched acres into groomed runs. Managers atone by LEED-certifying all new buildings, retrofitting water-flow systems, reducing energy consumption, and recycling two-thirds of what would have ended up in landfills.

It’s not all angelic in Heavenly, though: Partiers converge on Friday and Saturday afternoons for Unbuckle, a sinful event at 9,150 feet (gotta take the gondola) that features sexy dancers (female ones—sorry, half the population that appreciates the male body), international-circuit DJs, and free-flowing liquor to heat things up.

CONTACT: (800) 220-1593, skiheavenly.com
SEASON: Mid-November to mid-April
TICKETS: General: $63 (discounted for military personnel; reduced-price half-day tickets available), children ages 5 to 12: $37, ages 13 to 18, and 65 and older: $48, ages 4 and younger: free

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