Ski Day Basics for Heavenly Lake Tahoe

Heavenly Gondola with Lake Tahoe in the background

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to naming the ‘best’ Lake Tahoe ski resort. But if you’re seeking the whole experience over heavy powder stashes, there’s really only one place to go–Heavenly at Tahoe! 

For most occasional skiers, an epic ski trip is less about the actual sport than it is about the full experience. We’re talking selfies on the ski lift, painfully memorable face plants and aprés ski around the fire pit. 

Opting for a ski pass at Heavenly grants you all of this and then some. With incredible views, user-friendly groomers and dozens of restaurants and accommodation options within walking distance to the lift, Heavenly is an easy choice for your Lake Tahoe ski trip. 

Getting up the mountain 

Heavenly Gondola with Lake Tahoe in the background
Image from Heavenly

While there’s parking for Heavenly on both the California and Nevada sides, we suggest opting for a ride up the Gondola. Departing from the Heavenly Village, the Gondola offers a scenic 15-minute ride up the face of the mountain, dropping you right next to the Tamarack Lodge. 

If you’re not already staying within walking distance of the Gondola, you’ll need to pay for parking. Your best options here are:

  • The paid lot behind the adjacent Raley’s grocery store
  • The parking garage directly next to the Gondola
  • Hunting for free street parking nearby and making the trek in. 

Although parking is free at Heavenly’s other lodges, a ride up the Gondola is almost priceless. Purchase your ski passes at the base of the Gondola, grab some mini-donuts (they’ll smell too good not to) then grab a spot in line. The lift scales 2.4-miles up the mountain with panoramic views of the lake below every inch of the way. 

Bonus: The Gondola views are so insane that they’d set you back $50 per person if you weren’t heading up to ski! With the price of the Gondola ride included in your ski pass, it’ll help take a little of the sting out of the overall cost. (But it’s still gonna hurt. ) 

Where to begin 

Tamarack Lodge at the base of Heavenly at Tahoe
Image from Heavenly

Spanning across two states, Heavenly Tahoe is an expansive mountain with four lodges, dozens of groomers and fantastic tree runs. At the heart of it all is the Tamarack Lodge, a cozy ski stopover surrounded by intermediate runs. Conveniently, the Gondola drops you off at its doors.

From here, you can access the entirety of Heavenly through a maze of ski lifts and runs. Although this area is generally the most crowded, it’s also the perfect hub for anyone just getting introduced to the mountain. 

On the mountain

Groomed ski run at Heavenly at Tahoe with Lake Tahoe in the background
Image from Heavenly

Now that you’re up the mountain, it’s time to ski! Only 5% of the entire Heavenly mountain qualifies as a true beginner run. That said, almost half of the mountain is intermediate, marked by the blue square. 

You can access more than a day’s worth of intermediate skiing between the Tamarack, Dipper and Comet lifts. These three lifts all have the added bonus of being just a short distance from the Gondola, meaning when you’re through skiing, the exit is nearby. 

While there’s nothing wrong with running laps on Orion, you can uncover the web of runs that is Heavenly Mountain on the EpicMix app. From the app, you have the option to create a ‘guide’ for your day on the mountain. Add in information like what lodge you’re starting from, your skill level, and the amount of time you’ll be skiing for. They’ll map out your day with lifts and runs and more lifts and more runs so you can focus on the fun stuff.   

If you’re feeling adventurous, try taking the California trail to the other side of the mountain. Here, you can take either the Canyon Express or Sky Express to Ridge Run. Boasting some of the most epic views across the entire resort, this wide, slopey groomer is one of Heavenly Tahoe’s best. 

Bonus: Once on the other side of the mountain, you can weave back to the Gondola by taking the Skyline Trail. If you’re exhausted, you can also ride the chairlift down to the California Lodge and catch the shuttle back to the Heavenly Village. 

Eat and drink

Aprés Ski at Tamarack Lodge on the Heavenly Ski Mountain
Image from Heavenly

If you’re aiming to get first chair—or rather, an after breakfast chair—Driftwood Cafe boasts a giant breakfast menu with everything from french toast to eggs benedict. If you’re looking for a little quicker option, check out Heavenly’s Little Cafe. This order-at-the-counter spot offers tons of breakfast classics, plus coffee and pastries that you can easily grab and go. 

Food and beverage on the mountain are equal parts fun and expensive. Until, that is, happy hour begins. All of Heavenly’s lodges (Tamarack, California, Stagecoach and Boulder) host a happy hour with half-priced drinks from 3pm-5pm.

We especially love this deal at the Tamarack Lodge, because it allows you to begin the aprés events before you head down the mountain on the Gondola. 

Fireside drinks at Fire and ice in the Lake Tahoe Heavenly Village
Image from

Of course, once you do make it down the mountain, the Heavenly Village will be there, awaiting your arrival. Not by chance, the mountain’s closure coincides with happy hour in the village. The best of which is at Fire + Ice, where you can circle around an outdoor fireplace, sip $5, 20oz Bud Lights and reminisce on your best turns over some chips and guac. Happy hour lasts from 3pm-6pm

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance option near the Heavenly Village, head across the street to Maya’s Mexican Grill. This order-at-the-counter spot serves up tasty Mexican dishes, with cheap tacos and an excellent salsa bar. Be prepared—it’s cash only. 

Where to stay

Image from Marriott Timber Lodge

For convenience, it’s tough to beat a stay at the Marriott Timber Lodge or Grand Residences by Marriott. Both resorts sit just steps away from the Gondola, making an early morning start or post-ski hot tub soak about as easy as it gets. 

If you’re willing to entertain a brief walk in your gear, there are truly endless hotel options fit for any budget or travel style. Within a five-minute walk, you’ll find excellent accommodations like Blackjack Inn, Forest Suites Resort or Bluelake Inn—all (usually) for less than $150 a night. 

Bonus: Looking for a pet-friendly hotel? Check out our list of hotels in South Lake Tahoe where your four-legged friend is welcome to stay.

Bottom Line

Friends standing looking over Lake Tahoe at the edge of Heavenly Ski Mountain
Image from Heavenly

There’s really nothing quite like a ski day at Heavenly Tahoe. The views are priceless, and if you’re lucky enough to snag a hotel stay near the Gondola, you’ll have the entire ski experience within steps of your front door. 

Bonus: If you’ve managed to make it to the bottom of this article, you deserve the real local’s tip. Stuff a few beers in your pockets before heading up the mountain. Find a quiet spot in the trees with an epic view. Slurp ‘em down. Ahhhh. 

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