Last week I was lucky enough to visit South Lake Tahoe, compliments of our partners at Vail Resorts. If like me, you’ve never been to Lake Tahoe, it is quite unlike other ski resort you’ll have ever visited. Here’s an account of my trip which I hope will provide you with a good insight to what lies on the shores of Lake Tahoe…
There are a couple of travel options for Heavenly – you can either fly with United Airlines to Reno, via San Francisco and then take a 1 hour bus transfer to Heavenly or you can fly to San Francisco with British Airways, and hire a car. The drive from San Francisco to Heavenly is about 3 ½ hours. To allow for maximum flexibility when in resort I opted for the latter option and hired a car. The drive was much easier than I had anticipated. When you leave the airport, heading north on the 101, you aim for the Bay Bridge, then keep on the I-80 East and that is all there is to it. Just keep an eye out for the signs/lanes for South Lake Tahoe and there you are. It was a very easy, and an enjoyable drive.
I arrived in Heavenly early evening and it instantly reminded me of “The Strip” in Las Vegas, with a fantastic mountain back drop. A strangely similar view to the ‘Hannenkalm’ run in Kitzbuhel, Austria.
I was staying at the Mont Bleu Resort & Casino, a great property typical of the casino hotels that you will find in Nevada. It is located only 5-7min walk from the Heavenly gondola, or if you’re feeling lazy you can take the hotel’s complimentary shuttle. No matter which way you go in or out of the hotel, you will always pass, or go through the casino to exit the hotel. It is the weirdest feeling walking through a casino all kitted up ready to go snowboarding. However this is the norm in Heavenly – nobody bats an eye lid!
The hotel rooms were very spacious, with plenty of room for two people for a week. Facilities at the hotel include 2 restaurants on site, shops, nightclub and a very large pool and spa. The Mont Bleu would suit couples or a group looking for casino/hotel style accommodation for their trip.
From the Mont Bleu you walk towards the Heavenly gondola, and within a block, you are at the Nevada/California state line. There is a significant difference in the building architecture between the two states. Whilst Nevada is home to Las Vegas style neon hotels, California has a much more relaxed feeling about it – amazing seeing as you are in the same town!
On the second day we hit the mountain. There are two ways to access the Heavenly ski area – by either taking the Heavenly gondola or via the cable car on the California side of the resort. If you were staying at the Inn by the Lake or the Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge this would be the easiest option. This is the main base area for Heavenly and is where the ski schools are located. At the top of the Heavenly gondola, you have a choice of skiing Nevada (go to the left) or skiing California (go to the right). We chose the Nevada side where there are long wide groomed runs to play about on. The ski area also has plenty of steep terrain if that’s what you’re looking for.
Later that day I had a look around some of the other properties which we feature in Heavenly. The Forest Suites Resort, a condo style accommodation, is in a great location only a couple of minutes walk to the Heavenly gondola (which just passes over the main building). This property does have various sizes of rooms that cater for couples/friends to larger groups or families and includes complimentary breakfast.
Just one block (3min walk) from the Heavenly gondola is the Embassy Suites. The Embassy Suites offers very comfortable and spacious rooms which come with either a king or two queen beds. Facilities at the Embassy Suites include an on-site restaurant, bar, pool & spacious lobby where they serve complimentary après drinks & snacks everyday between 5pm & 7pm – perfect! This is a great place to stay if you want to be close to the gondola.
We also feature several properties on the shores of Lake Tahoe – I had the oportunity to visit the Inn by the Lake & the Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge & Spa. The Inn by the Lake is located half way between the Heavenly gondola and the Californian cable car and ski lifts. It is a very pleasant and welcoming property and offers excellent value for money. The Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge & Spa has a superb location, on its own private beach and only a short drive to the Heavenly gondola & Californian ski lifts. The rooms are really cosy and most have a view onto the lake. The swimming pool and hot-tubs also looked very inviting! I would recommend having a car if you were staying at the Inn by the Lake or the Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge & Spa, to give you more flexibility and increased convenience however there are timetabled buses to the ski area.
On my second day up on the mountain we had the privilege to experience First Tracks which allows you to access the lifts 40min before everyone else. So headed up to make our own lines on those lovely groomed pistes and take advantage of any fresh snow that had fallen the night before. After we’d worked up a good appetite, we made our way over to the Lakeview Lodge for brunch, which is included in the Fresh Tracks package. Unfortunately, due to bad weather we had to call it a day after brunch and headed back to the base area, down ‘The Face’ and then ‘Hogsback’ which then led us onto the final ski run, the ‘Round-About’ – a good long run to finish off the day.
Typically, the next morning when I had to leave, two foot of fresh snow fell and it was a perfect ‘blue bird’ day! Next time I’ll get it…next time!
I really enjoyed Heavenly and would happily go back and spend a longer duration to explore the full area and the incredible off-piste potential that it has to offer. I think Heavenly has all the ingredients for a great ski/board trip. I have previously visited Las Vegas and I loved it, so when you mix up a Las Vegas/California style accommodation, nightlife, on and off snow activities with a stunning lake as a backdrop, and then throw in a ski area that has some brilliant terrain and a great snow record, well, for me that just ticks all the boxes!