Take one of the largest ski resorts in the United States. Add jaw-dropping views of Lake Tahoe. Mix in a little casino action. Welcome to Heavenly -- California’s largest resort, with 4,800 skiable acres, a 3,500ft vertical drop, and 97 trails. Boasting a grab bag of trail styles (from tree-skiing and cruisers to double-black canyons and terrain parks), a crushing après schedule, and solid lineups of food, suds, and nightlife, Heavenly's a seductive mistress to which you just can’t say no.
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When to go: The Heavenly season usually begins mid-November, and runs through mid-April. This year, catch the High Roller Hold ’Em, a $50K big-air snowboard competition going down April 5th, complete with DJs, fireworks, and laser lights.
How to get around: Heavenly’s gondola is located in Heavenly Village, walking distance to most of the hotels and casinos. There's also a free shuttle that'll drop you between town and the resort’s four base lodges.
Three runs not to miss:
1. On the California side of Heavenly, Ridge Run, off the Sky Express, swoops down the mountain's Western periphery and is awesome for views.
2. Bump fans will love the classic Gunbarrel, also on the California side, although they’ll need to have their mogul skills down solid.
3. When the powder is fresh, hit Milky Way Bowl, which boasts some of the best snow at Heavenly.
Dining: From cafes and brewpubs to casino buffets and food from the Fatherland, there's plenty to plate-up. Blue Angel Cafe's a longtime local fave that slings solid sandwiches, pizza, and pasta. If you want to build your own burger (whilst sampling from 100 different microbrews), catch a game, or soak in some sweet views, on-mountain Booyah’s is the spot. Like fish tacos and "Wet Woody" frozen rum cocktails? Both are house specialties at lakeside Riva Grill off Ski Run Boulevard. And finally, pretend it's Oktoberfest all season at the Himmel Haus, near the California Lodge -- a German-themed bar/resto with communal tables stacked with brats, pretzels, and giant steins (not to mention 3L boots) of German suds.
Local brews: Speaking of suds, mere steps from the California/ Nevada border in Heavenly Village, Stateline Brewery boasts a solid selection of beers, including their White-Out Wit wheat brew, Darker Parker (a malty, strong ale), and the aforementioned 5.6% ABV Avalanche Ale (American-style pale ale). There's also the Brewery at Lake Tahoe, billed as "Lake Tahoe's original brewpub" (having opened in 1992). They pour $4 pints every day from 3-5p, including their Star Lake oatmeal stout and a strong signature brew, the 7.75% ABV Bad Ass Ale.
Après: You know how it’s smart to do some ski-focused workouts before you hit the slopes at the beginning of each season? It’s a good idea to do a little après prep before visiting Heavenly. Unbuckle at Tamarack, Lake Tahoe’s highest-elevation post-slope party, features music, drink specials, dancing, and the Heavenly Angels -- a group of no-nonsense go-go dancers. Shoot some stick while chilling to live tunes at McP’s Pub; or, if you prefer a little vino with your happy hour-priced apps, head over to Apres Wine Company.
Nightlife: There's three kinds of nightlife in South Lake Tahoe -- bars, casinos, and bars inside casinos. Kick the night off at Turn 3, a sweet dive with heavy pours, pool tables, and a juke box; then skip over to Whiskey Dick’s Saloon for some live tunes and cheap booze. From there, hit the ATM and settle in at one of the aforementioned establishments of gaming, where you can either channel your inner-Matt Damon from Rounders, or get your dance on at one of three Vegas-style nightclubs -- Cabo Wabo, PEEK at Harrah's, or Opal.
Other than skiing/ boarding?
Heli-tours: Give your legs a day off and soak in the snowcapped mountains from a different view; as in, right above 'em.
Snowshoe cocktail races: Get competitive by taking part in the once-monthly snowshoe cocktail races at Camp Richardson Resort’s Beacon Bar & Grill. Participants hold a tray of drinks and run through an obstacle course, while wearing snowshoes.
Snowmobiling: Mount your sled and cruise over 45mi of groomed trails as you head up to the top of 9,000ft Spooner Summit.
Where to stay: There are a ton of chain hotels lining the shore of South Lake Tahoe, and they often offer great ski-season deals. But for a stand-out go-to, book the Basecamp Hotel; it rocks an outdoorsy vibe and boasts both a cozy bar and hot tub/ fire pit. If Basecamp is full, 968 Park Hotel is another stylish but rustic spot just steps from Heavenly Ski Village. Prefer to ski during the day, and double down at night? Then MontBleu Resort, Casino & Spa is your best bet, as it offers a good opportunity to pay for the stay with your winnings.
1. Blue Angel Cafe1132 Ski Run Blvd, South Lake Tahoe
2. Booyah's3860 Saddle Rd, South Lake Tahoe
3. Riva Grill On the Lake900 Ski Run Blvd, Ste 3, South Lake Tahoe
4. Himmel Haus3819 Saddle Rd, South Lake Tahoe
5. Stateline Brewery & Restaurant4118 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe
6. The Brewery at Lake Tahoe3542 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe
7. Tamarack Lodge4080 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe
8. McP's Pub Tahoe4093 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe
9. Après Wine Company3668 Lake Tahoe Blvd, #G, South Lake Tahoe
10. Turn 32227 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe
11. Whiskey Dick's2660 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe
12. Cabo Wabo15 Highway 50, Stateline
13. Harrah's Lake Tahoe Resort & Casino15 Hwy 50, Stateline
14. Opal Ultra Nightclub55 Highway 50, Stateline
15. The Beacon Bar & Grill1900 Jameson Beach Rd., South Lake Tahoe
16. Basecamp Hotel4143 Cedar Ave, South Lake Tahoe
17. 968 Park Hotel968 Park Ave, South Lake Tahoe
18. MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa55 US 50, Stateline
Take a trip around the world at this restaurant, which features an eclectic menu ranging from good ol' pizzas and burgers to Asian and Indian fusion dishes.
This sports bar and restaurant distinguishes itself from the herd of burger joints with a menu featuring eight different burgers, as well as a long list of combo burgers, OR the option of creating your own burger by choosing between three sizes, seven breads, 22 sauces, 10 cheeses, 17 cold toppings, and 12 hot toppings. Booyah.
All mahogany mountain chic, Riva Grill has a heated deck with one of the best views of the lake.
Himmel Haus, meaning sky house in German, is a German restaurant and bierhaus with a solid selection of suds from the fatherland and German-inspired, sausage-heavy cuisine.
Soak up Statelin'es handcrafted brews -- a rotating selection which may or may not include White-Out Wit, Acclimator IPA, Avalanche Ale, and Darker Parker -- with their extensive menu of pub grub.
Despite its excellent brews, The Brewery at Lake Tahoe is now most famous for its pizzas, which're made with Bad Ass® Ale pizza dough.
This massive, nearly-15,000sqft lodge includes a large food court, comprising the Smokehouse Grill, artisan pizzas, a salad bar, chili station, and the fully-stocked Bar 9150.
Forget aprés shi-shi and head to this local fave for live music every night. Family friendly, with a full bar and a hefty food menu, this place also welcomes customers' dogs on its outdoor patio.
The Après Wine Company is exactly what it sounds like: a cozy wine bar with a sophisticated list of vinos from around the world. Their Enomatic wine-dispensing machines serve 50 wines daily by the taste, glass, or carafe.
Free peanuts, pool table, great Bloody Mary's, divey in all the right ways. You can even bring your own food!
Cheap beer, shuffleboard, pool table: this is what every dive bar should be like.
Cabo Wabo is a chain of nightclubs and Mexican restaurants founded by rock legend Sammy Hagar. The Lake Tahoe location's no exception, serving up tasty margs and tex-mex fare to locals and visitors alike.
Stop in at Harrah's for a bit of gambling, be it craps, roulette, poker, blackjack, or slots. There's more than just money-draining games of chance here, though; the casino has an indoor pool, a food court, and a video game arcade.
Located inside the Montbleu Casino Spa and Resort, this sexy club features go-go dancers galore and body art by renowned body painter Amber Hall.
One of Lake Tahoe’s few restaurants on the beach, locals flock here during the summer for their famous Rum Runner. In the winter, come enjoy live music and great American grub like killer mac and cheese.
As the name implies, this stylish, 50-room boutique hotel is the perfect basecamp for exploring Lake Tahoe Basin’s incredible lakes, trails and mountains -- it even claims to make guests instant locals.
968 Park Hotel is LEED Certified, famous for its attention to sustainability, and has the awards to show for it. The place offers its guests shuttles to all the major attractions in the area, although you could just as easily walk to most places.