Beginners are well catered for with nursery slopes near the base lodges. First Timers normally meet for lessons at 10am at the California Lodge, the top of the gondola, or at the Boulder Base Lodge. Lessons include beginner area lift pass and rentals so everything is taken care of.
The main class is the 1-2-3 three-day program which starts daily and provides a thorough grounding in either skiing or boarding, enabling you to get out on the green circle easy ski runs and possibly the slightly steeper blue square intermediate trails through the remainder of your stay.
With one of the biggest ski areas in the US and a vertical of more than 1000 metres, nearly half of Heavenly’s terrain is graded intermediate. Ski runs are up to five-and-a-half miles long so it’s a great ski area or intermediate standard skiers. The lift network is also one of North America’s most comprehensive with plenty of high speed chairs and gondolas, and a capacity of more than 50,000 people per hour. Choose between long cruising runs, predominantly on the California side and generally steeper more technical trails on the Nevada side. Almost all are cut through the forested mountainside.
Heavenly has a reputation for its tree skiing and with virtually all of the slopes thickly forested, that’s not surprising. The famously mohicanned extreme skiing celebrity Glen Plake is a Heavenly regular and names the steep Gunbarrel run his favourite. It’s one of a good number of steep runs, sometimes mogulled, and chutes, such as those in the Killenbrew and Mott canyons that bring out the thrill-seeking side of Californian culture.
Beyond Heavenly’s own slopes, guided backcountry skiing is available in the region at nearby Round Top, Carson Pass and Mount Rose. Trips are also organised to local favourite Monument Peak which has a great trail to Gardnerville.
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
A world class destination for boarders, Heavenly has it all. There are the bowls, hopefully filled with Heavenly powder when you visit, a world class collection of terrain parks and pipes for all abilities, the high speed chair and gondola lifts to whisk you back up to the top of it all, and there is even the Californian boarding culture which is the perfect fit for the sport.
They’ve been boarding here since the sport's early years in the 1980s and the four terrain parks have grown in stature each year since, now ranging from the beginners' Groove Park up to the High Roller park for experts which has the resort’s superpipe located nearby.
For a ski resort that offers more than most others, it may be a surprise that there’s no cross country skiing at Heavenly itself. There are however cross country ski resorts in the area, with Spooner Lake (+1 (775) 749 5349), 12 miles away on the Nevada side, the closest. It offers 80km of well groomed trails suitable for classic or skating styles, divided up relatively evenly between beginner, intermediate and advanced standards. The beginner trails are some of the most attractive you’ll find anywhere. The centre has full facilities including rentals, tuition if required, and a cafe. As is the norm in North America but not in Europe, you’ll need to purchase a trail pass to be allowed on the tracks.
Average Snow And Weather Conditions
Heavenly’s ski slopes begin 2000m above sea level, which is where a lot of Austria’s famous ski areas reach their summit. In Heavenly’s case they rise another thousand plus metres to above 3,000m – a healthy altitude for reliable snow cover, and as the resort averages 12 metres of snowfall each winter it is rarely lacking.
However like most big ski areas the management try to play it safe with a huge investment in snowmaking too, which covers nearly three quarters of the key groomed runs so long as it’s cold enough for the machines to work.