Thursday, March 29, 2018

Platinum Pistes at Northstar Lake Tahoe

View over Lake Tahoe from Northstar California
One of the best aspects of a multi-centre Tahoe trip is having to drive around Lake Tahoe. It’s one of those instances in life when the journey is an integral inspirational part of the adventure as it is utterly beautiful, so unspoilt, and most of the road is sensationally scenic over the sapphire lake. Even the locals agree that it is an attraction in itself – one told me she had circumnavigated the 21.75 mile-long lake at least eight times since moving to the area a few months ago.

It was also fascinating to drive through King’s Beach, the sleepover scene of two trips back in 1991 when we stayed in an A-Frame overlooking the lake. I even recognized a corner pub which looked as though little had changed in 27 years.

We couldn’t remember much about Northstar - beyond a burning desire to return to the scene of our youthful Californian ski spree - as we only skied there a day in a whiteout and didn’t experience the village at all. But this visit, with all its premier platinum potential, was bound to yield enduring memories! One of the best things about blogging, apart from sharing travel tips with others, is that you have your own personal memoir of every trip. 

Nowadays, Northstar is all about effortless and luxurious ski holidays. With everything ski in/out, the ritzy resort works well for families, groups, and couples like us (ie no longer enjoy walking too far burdened with heavy skigear!) If there are any non-skiers or less enthusiastic members in a group, there’s masses to do right amongst all the accommodation, with a lovely skating rink right in the centre, a theatre, shops, cafés and restaurants with melodic music piped throughout the village. We had a wonderful two-storey apartment with great views over all these amenities and an easy stroll to the gondola. 

Elizabeth serving the Veuve at Northstar California

The a la carte Platinum experience at Northstar takes everything up a notch with options for lift priority (a lane to jump the queue, like the ski instructors get) both for Platinum season pass holders and Platinum day skiers; valet parkingclub membershipfirst tracks with a bountiful breakfast at Zephyr Lodge; private mountain guides; and, of course, the decadent Platinum Tōst which we just had to sample.

Every day at 2pm anyone can roll up to the tiny Tōst cabana and have a free glass of Prosecco standing at the high-top barrel tables or reclining on beanbags – that’s just the daily stellar style in which Northstar does things.

Tōst cabana at Northstar - Courtesy of Northstar California

However, with Platinum Tōst, you arrive in advance of the crowds, at 1pm and are ushered into a gated firepit area, provided with a picnic hamper, overflowing platters of cheese and charcuterie, complemented by a chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot poured by smiling sommelier, Elizabeth (who says she has the best job on the mountain, incidentally). The refined repast in this enchanted setting, lasts up to two hours, and is finished off with your own S’mores kit to roast over the fire, while languishing leisurely in the sun overlooking the mountainous Martis Valley. You cannot help but raise a glass to toast inquisitive skiers passing by! This is definitely the most decadent onhill hedonism I have ever experienced. 

If you just take the elite Tōst as an example, you can see how much having Platinum pleasures can enhance your ski day – especially when the sun is shining after a morning of gliding the groomers or ploughing the pow. If you’ve also taken advantage of Platinum parking, first tracks and all-day lift priority, you can just imagine how much vertical you can notch up, too. New next year will be Platinum Terrain, an exclusive trail only open to Platinum pass holders.

Free Prosecco every afternoon at Northstar California
So, back to the skiing. When we arrived in mid Feb, it had been a slow snow year for Tahoe – ironic after their record winter last year and the massive amounts they have since got during Miracle March 2018!! Although we didn’t get any powder while we were there (it arrived a few days after we got home!) we had a marvelous opportunity to ski what 75 percent of skiers prefer: the groomers. Now a lot of people ski groomers as if they are in the Winter Olympics, making the experience a race, a speed fix, a challenge, fast and furious. Yes, this has its adrenalin allure, but I discovered that my mountain mojo is much more melodic than that these days: a dance rather than a race. 

Under the tutelage of instructor and mountain guide, Debi Glovins, I got into a reverie of rhythm on the corduroy carvers, focusing on the subtleties of changing snow under foot. It felt like a graceful harmony of balance, gravity, ski technology and the body’s ability to read the mountain almost unconsciously. Some of my best mountain moments, over the past 44 seasons, have been ski symphonies like this, where every element is orchestrated into one entity of flow, enabling me to savour the sensations and the scenery. Having written a lot recently about mindful ski instruction, I realize that I actually ski mindfully, particularly when I am relaxed on blue groomers in bluebird sunshine – and that feeling, just like Tōst, is a platinum champagne experience itself!

Corduroy carver - Courtesy of Northstar California
When snow conditions are fresh and deep, I attribute these type of euphoric feelings to the powder, adding to my craving for new snowfalls all the time. But I have realized during this slower snow season that the same feelings are attainable in other conditions – particularly a blue-sky sunny day on consistent corduroy.

Dan Kwong, centre
Dan Kwong is lucky enough to work at Northstar year round as Senior Manager of Talent Development. We caught up with him for après ski drinks at Tavern 6330 (its altitude in feet) before heading to dinner at yummy Yamakai. Dan started off as a teaching assistant with the Children’s Ski & Snowboard School: “My first entry level job where I made tater tots and sugar cookies, took kids to the bathroom, served lunch and cleaned up the ski school space!” Over the next six seasons he progressed through kids’ instruction into supervision and management, all at the resort where he himself learned to ski in the 90s. “I am fortunate that I continue to work for Vail Resorts so getting my ski fix isn’t hard,” says Dan. “Even in my desk-oriented position, my office is found at the base of some amazing mountains. I frequently travel to Utah and Colorado to expand my ski legs. I’m looking forward to tackling Whistler Blackcomb as they fold into our family. Though we all work really hard, we find time to live our passion even during the work day. This might mean I ski an hour with a leader to consult on her team’s development on the chair lift. It could also look like skiing around the resort and connecting with front line staff to see what they need to be successful.”

Courtesy of Northstar California
Moguls at Northstar - Courtesy of Northstar California
We chatted a lot about Northstar’s topnotch customer service (and I’ll let you know about forthcoming articles on that when they’re published) – the result of ongoing training and education opportunities for all the staff throughout the season. Passionate about his job, Dan has the perfect work/lifestyle mix: “I love the village, tree skiing, mile long leg burning runs and the secret stashes at Lookout Mountain. Because I work for a ski company there are many perks including my Epic Pass, buddy tickets for friends and family and discounted food and retail. We all have things that we spend money on and I choose to spend it at Northstar - and other ski resorts - because it is my passion and I value the experience I get when I’m here on and off the clock.”

Zephyr Lodge Northstar California
No-one could indulge in Platinum’s afternoon Tōst two days in a row – especially after succulent steaks at Yamakai- so the next day, after another mindful morning, we lunched at the Zephyr Lodge on fabulous tomato bisque and chili – great self-service lodge with masses of wooden décor finishes (including old skis), huge panoramic windows, and comfortable wooden chairs. After an afternoon of notching up Epic Pass stats, we returned to the bar there, to check out its reputation for clever cocktails.
Ritz Carlton Northstar
Having settled into the five-star swing of things, a visit to the Ritz Carlton was a must. Set right on the slopes and linked to Northstar Village by the Highlands Gondola, the Ritz Carlton Northstar is an attraction in itself (a bit like being in Banff and having to make a voyeuristic visit to the iconic Banff Springs). Whether you go for the sensuous spa, a romantic dinner at Manzanita, the 4:30pm daily Marshmology celebration, an Easter brunch complete with chocolate eggs and bunnies, the Xmas Gingerbread Village, the Atelier Arts & Crafts program, or simply a glass of French champers at the Moët & Chandon Bar, there’s something for everyone.
Ski Valet at Ritz Carlton Northstar
My heli-ski friend, Brett Matik stayed at the Ritz Carlton when she skied Northstar a few years ago. "We went once as a family and my husband went back with friends and one of our kids," she told me. "We stayed at the Ritz which is fabulous - there is no better location. The ski valets are unreal. They put your skis on the mountain for you and when you are done they take them away. If you have little kids you can even have them come get them for ski school. They also have a place to eat on the mountain that literally gives you slippers to have lunch while your boots are on warmers. The entire place is like a country club for skiers." Brett also loved the Village skating area and restaurants which are all conveniently accessed by the Ritz's gondola. "We loved the area too," says Brett. "One day we were not skiing we drove around the lake and explored. My kids loved learning about the history. The Jax Diner is also a fun location to eat in Truckee." The Matiks buy the Epic Pass particularly when they plan to ski at least two Vail Resorts in the same season. And they all race each other using the Ski Tracks app: "So far the kids haven’t beat me but they are getting close." 

Marshmology magic at the Ritz Carlton Northstar
With S’mores becoming a daily devotion on our Tahoe trip, we popped along for Marshmology where we could choose between the usual white globular blobs to spear with our toasting forks or more inventive homemade marshmallows of the day. It was cherry flavour when we were there, a five-star Michelin of marshmallows! By the way, Marshmology is open to anyone, not just Ritz residents, and there are also free S’mores at 4pm every day by the ice rink in Northstar Village. And for astrology advocates, there’s a new Stars and S’mores program at the Ritz Carlton Fireside Terrace with science-based cosmos conversation, poetry reading and telescopic viewing.

Tree-like fireplace in the Living Room at the Ritz Carlton Northstar
Following pre-dinner drinks in the gorgeous fireside Living Room lounge, we sampled Manzanita’s mouthwatering menu on Feb 13 – a day early, I know, but we designated it our Valentine’s Dinner. From their incredible potato leek rolls, elk meatballs, artful salads, filet mignon with Dungeness crab and bouillabaisse (all shared), to the coffee and chocolate mousse it was a feast worthy of the film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (a 1989 Helen Mirren classic which I always think of when I over-eat).

Manzanita fine dining at the Ritz Carlton Northstar
Next morning, we celebrated Feb 14 in romantic style with a couple’s massage at the Ritz Carlton’s Highlands Spa. By the way, everyone makes suggestive jokes when you mention couple’s massages but I can assure you that any grunts or groans were the result of the pummeling palms of the professional massage therapists. Another glass of somewhat-early-in-the-day champagne later, and we stopped for copious carb consumption at Copperlane Café on our way out of town to our final Tahoe destination.
Highlands Spa at the Ritz Carlton Northstar
Other Northstar Novelties:

Her Mountain: Ski, rejuvenate and connect in a two-day getaway which brings women closer together by allowing them to enjoy a weekend away in the mountains in a like-minded group. This spectacular retreat includes personalized lessons with female coaches, restorative yoga, Platinum First Tracks AND Platinum Tōst. Learn more HERE. Her Mountain was inspired by Northstar California’s Vice President and General Manager, Nadia Guerriero, one of the only women running a resort in the ski industry and one of the youngest. The key to her success is infusing mindfulness into her work. Whether she is motivating teams through self-care and awareness or driving the business with calm clarity, Nadia is able to navigate through challenges with her team’s unwavering trust.

Her Mountain, a new winter experience at Northstar, is designed for women by women. The concept centers around the mountain environment, appreciating the Sierra setting, focusing on the physical bodies that allow us to explore, and making space for minds to be present. Her Mountain is a women’s retreat offered twice each winter, and again twice in the summer. The winter itinerary includes female-only ski and snowboard lessons designed to encourage confidence, be present on the mountain and lift up one-another; designated time to focus on mindfulness and health; and experiential connection time focusing on in-person contact with the other participants – all in a surreal alpine setting.

Mountain Table Dinners: A unique dining experience at 7,910'. Indulge in food with wine pairings and access to some of the most influential wine representatives from the California Wine Country. Learn more HERE

Additional activities and experiences: Including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, fat tire biking, star tours, yoga, and a full kids adventure zone that features fun facts about the local history and environment.

Courtesy of Northstar California
Mountain Stats:

Social Media:
Twitter: @SkiNorthstar

Getting There:

Flying into Reno is so easy! A smaller ‘boutique’ airport, it is seamless – the luggage carousel is just opposite the car rental desks, so one of us was able to wait for luggage (which was the quickest ever) while the other did the car rental business, halving the time and getting us on the road really speedily.
Run back down to the village past the Ritz Carlton Northstar - Courtesy of Northstar California

Skiable Acres: 3,170
Vertical Drop: 2,280
Elevation (Summit): 8,610 feet
Elevation (Mid-mountain): 6,800 feet
Elevation (Village): 6,330 feet
Winter Season: Mid-Nov. to Mid-April
Average Annual Snowfall: 350 inches
Average Daytime High: 43 degrees F (Nov-April)
Average Overnight Low: 21 degrees F (Nov-April)
Snowmaking Coverage: 50% (largest snowmaking system in North Lake Tahoe)
Trails: 100
Beginner: 13%
Intermediate: 60%
Advanced: 27%
Longest Run: 1.4 Miles Logger’s Loop
Laded Tree Skiing: 7 Trails, 600+ Acres
Gate-Accessed Advanced Terrain: 374 Acres (Sawtooth Ridge, White Rabbit)
Lifts: 20
Gondolas: 2
Six-Pack Express: 1
Quad Express Chairs: 7
Quad Fixed-Grip Chairs: 1
Triples Chairs: 2
Tow/Surface Lifts: 2
Magic Carpets: 5
Uphill Capacity: 34,799 Skiers Per Hour
Telemark Skiing: Yes
Fat Biking: Yes
Snow Tubing: Lift-Accessed
Child Care: Licensed (ages 2+)
Overnight Ski/Board Check: Yes (complimentary)
Ski & Snowboard School: Yes
Tuning & Repairs: Yes
Cross Country Skiing: 23.7 Kilometers
Snowshoeing: 32.5 Kilometers

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Heavenly Hospitality

Heavenly Lake Tahoe - Credit: Vail Resorts
The heart-soaring combo of lake and mountain is something that has appealed to me for decades, ever since visiting Lake Geneva in Switzerland and Lake Annecy in France. That’s why I have been trying to get back to Lake Tahoe for many years. I first visited in 1991 when I managed a few days skiing at Northstar, Squaw Valley and Diamond Peak (then called Incline), staying at the delightfully rustic and hip King’s Beach in North Tahoe.

Twin Pines Lake & Ski House
credit Clear Creek Tahoe
Having decided to re-visit Tahoe at last – and catch up with an old friend who still lives there in the gentrifying town of Truckee – I was also keen to add South Lake Tahoe to the equation. Landing in Reno, I could see the pendant pistes and peaks of Mt Rose calling me to the slopes. But I had to make one stop off first at Clear Creek Tahoe, a five-star golf community currently in development. Not to play golf – although the Coore and Crenshaw greens were clear enough to get in a round – but to check out the progress on the 2136-acre scenic Sierra setting before moving on to Twin Pines, their private Lake & Ski House at South Lake Tahoe, five minutes from the 4,800 acres of Heavenly Mountain Resort.
S'mores at Clear Creek Tahoe
Attracting buyers from the Bay Area, around California, Texas, and as far afield as China and Japan, around 55 lots have already been snapped up, with another 236 on the master plan. Five huge homes are under construction with amazing views over the Sierra Nevadas and there are two cute cabins ready for guests to stay in. The current golf clubhouse has a pro shop, restaurant, patio, pub and outdoor grille which will eventually be supplanted by an even grander Clubhouse Campus with a spa, pool and wellness facility. Slated to open this summer is the Family Recreation Centre which will include tennis courts, basketball and pickleball court, pool and water slides. And golf will resume as usual in the spring.

Wow factors for Clear Creek Tahoe include five-star hotel hospitality care of Franck Savoy who is the son of famous French chef, Guy Savoy, owner of Guy Savoy Michelin star restaurants in Paris and Las Vegas. “I used to work for the Four Seasons in New York - and before that in Paris,” says Franck. “My background is in hospitality, hotels, and restaurants and I want to bring that here. I compare this place to a hotel, and I want it to be resort-style, private, with a hospitality focus.” He believes that golf clubs are no longer gentleman’s clubs and must have a broader appeal to the whole family.

Twin Pines Ski and Lake House designed by Julia Morgan - credit Clear Creek Tahoe
Amazing architecture at Twin Pines Ski and Lake House
- credit Clear Creek Tahoe
And, of course, the second wow factor is Twin Pines. Golf members and property owners get to use this gorgeous heritage house as a wintersports, social and dining base, with shuttles to nearby ski hills such as Heavenly and Kirkwood. “The Ski & Lake House means that members and lot owners have a piece of South Lake Tahoe,” says Franck. “They can park there and get ferried to Heavenly rather than fighting for parking.” In summer, the 1936 Julia Morgan mountain masterpiece right on the lakeshore becomes their watersports and beach base with its own boat buoys and jetty.
Twin Pines boat - coincidentally with my name on it! - credit Clear Creek Tahoe
Sunset from the dock at Twin Pines
credit Clear Creek Tahoe
I stayed at the Twin Pines guest house for two decadent nights, skiing Heavenly by day, watching the sunset over Lake Tahoe with a glass of pinot on the jetty early evening, and dining in the lake house by night. On Saturdays Twin Pines hosts live music (the talented Tammy Tam Tam when I was there) around the cozy fireplace from 2-6pm, along with après ski drinks and appetizers.

Lots at Clear Creek Tahoe start at $225,000 and it is in Nevada so taxes, building costs, maintenance, and living overheads are much lower than in California. And there are significant tax benefits, too. Golf membership costs around $40,000 initial buy-in and then approximately $7000 per year in dues.

If you want to stay right on the lake next time you visit Tahoe – but can’t afford to buy a property at Clear Creek Tahoe or a membership at the golf club – there’s Edgewood, right next door to Twin Pines. I scouted it out one morning for coffee and would recommend it for its incredibly beautiful lakeside position and sumptuous mountain-modern architecture. Surrounded by its own golf course, the setting is really tranquil with what locals – including my ski instructor - told me is a great restaurant, bar, and bistro. There’s also an outdoor heated pool, hot tub and firepits overlooking the lake.

Owen and Sam with glorious Lake Tahoe in the background - love the bright suits!
Always on the lookout for colourful ski outfits, I bumped into Owen Nitka and friends who were celebrating a 30th birthday on the slopes at Heavenly. “This is the weekend of ‘South Lake Sammy’s’ birthday,” Owen told me. “We do the same trip with 15-20 people every year, but this year is Sam’s 30th!” Their San Francisco-based ‘ski squad’ are mostly Epic Pass holders who ski Heavenly around seven days per season and also love the snow and terrain at Kirkwood. “It’s a three and a half hour drive from San Francisco and we had a few surprise visits from Sam’s Chicago and Minneapolis crew,” said Owen. The group alternates between rental houses, gondola-friendly Heavenly hotels or the casinos just over the Nevada border: “The casinos are one of the best deals. Cheap, clean rooms, next to the village and free parking.”

Heavenly DJ Cat - Courtesy of Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe
Fireside beer bevvies - courtesy of
Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe
Owen’s favourite runs are on the Nevada side of the resort: “Long runs with great pitch and some big bowls. For bluebird days, like this past weekend, you can tour the whole mountain on the blue cruisers. Ridge Run is the most impressive view in all of Tahoe. Lots of people stopping to take photos.” Après ski revolves around Tamarack Lodge, at the top of the gondola, which has a fun Happy Hour. “Outdoor food, drink and DJ playing out of the back of a snowcat,” Owen describes. “On a sunny day, it gets to be a pretty raucous time.” It’s called Unbuckle and features fun games as well as dancing. Every day at 3pm TAP is another on-snow après attraction just nearby, with free craft beer samples from local breweries and vouchers for discounted refills and appies at the lodge. When Owen’s troupe makes it back down to base they gravitate to the Village for a variety of food options and live music, Tahoe Brewery for pizza and craft beer, and to the casinos for later entertainment. Maximizing their Epic Pass advantages, they also ski other Vail Resorts in Utah or Colorado every winter and, this year, are trying out Whistler in a group of 20 for a long weekend.

How to combine business with pleasure at the Tahoe Mountain Lab - credit: Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe

Greg leading the way and matching the sapphire lake in the background!
I was skiing that day with Greg Lyons who is an instructor with a long list of carving credits: PSIA Level 3 Alpine, Level 2 Telemark, Children’s Specialist Level 2, President PSIA Western Division, Staff Trainer for Heavenly. He’s also been there for 30 years since driving a friend there back in 1987 and opting to stay himself (although the friend didn’t)! Along with George Fish, a fellow Brit and the GM of Heavenly Adult Ski School, we skied around heavenly groomers in brilliant sunshine, checking out the glades of the Milky Way in the afternoon: think black pitch with undulating topography over a wide basin with well-spaced trees. Another fave area was the bump-blessed Sam’s run – named for the 97-year-old who died recently but who spent his life clearing brush voluntarily in the glades, continuing well into his 90s. Greg also pointed out Maggie’s, a locals’ secret stash which stays pristine long after powder is tracked out elsewhere – urging me not to tell anyone! Shush!! Lunch was fabulous that day at Booyah’s, at the top of the Tram on the California side, which has wonderful views, great soups, salads and sandwiches, and a surprising, high altitude co-working space right in the lodge, called Tahoe Mountain Lab. Pretty cushy place for an office at 8250 ft with ‘board’ meetings on the chairlift I presume.

My last night at South Lake Tahoe was spent right at the base of Heavenly Village where the Marriott rules the roost, running the ski rentals, with two hotels sandwiching all the amenities. I stayed at the Grand Residences, which was perfectly poised in the centre of town and had lovely, luxurious and large rooms and great hot tub. Right next door, I discovered the cutest driftwood-decorated diner - called Driftwood Café - with great salads, wraps, service and a remarkable price:portion ratio – always a good thing to discover in a ski resort!

Tabletop S'mores at the The Loft, in Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe (credit: The Loft)
Noteworthy nightlife at Heavenly includes The Loft, a magical mix of lively lounge bar, Italian restaurant and live theatre. Just had dinner there, but would love to check out the adult-oriented Magic Fusion show another time. Menu includes wonderful tomato bisque served in shot glasses with grilled cheese dippers, wild boar cannelloni, steak gorgonzola and a really unique tabletop S’mores dessert complete with small fire, toasting forks and all the ingredients. Also Base Camp, where we had pre-dinner cocktails, looked a fun place to eat – you can book a table under the heated awning outside to enjoy live music while you feast on pizza.
Central ice skating rink - credit: Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe

Credit: Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe
Atmospherically, Heavenly Village has it all – everything kids want including huge outdoor central skating rink with music, bungies, cinema – and masses of après for adults, from casinos and nightclubs to fine dining and shopping. And, with so many choices, rather than missing out on all the best venues and activities, you can book a VIP Private Guide – not just for the skiing, but also for après!

As well as local breweries - spawned from the very first one, Sierra Nevada, which was founded three hours away in Chico where we used to go for craft beer-battered fish and chips in 1991! - Tahoe is famous for moonshine. In the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on the California side of the lake, is the home of Tahoe Moonshine Distillery. Located at 6,200 feet, a unique blend of quality ingredients and high altitude adds tantalizing tastes to each tipple. Rachelle Atherton, who introduced me to Loft, recommends their distilled gin - it makes delicious Grey Hounds!
Incomparable view and groomer at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe
Heavenly 2017-2018 Winter News

'Miracle March' is in full effect at Tahoe with 13 inches of fresh in the last 24 hours and a total of 247 inches snowfall so far this season. 

Video Ski and Ride School Lesson
Heavenly takes ski and ride school to a whole new level! Guests will be toured around the mountain by a ski and ride school instructor while learning how to use a portable video camera to capture first-person video and photography of Heavenly’s secret stashes, powder pockets and stunning views. Guests will get to keep their memory card full of their day’s footage after the lesson has ended.

LAT 38 – The California Rooftop Bar
California Lodge’s new roof top bar, LAT 38, is the ultimate posh happy hour scene. With a mountain-modern feel, stringed café lights, a unique warm drink menu, cozy fire pits and acoustic live bands, this is the best place in South Lake to enjoy an après drink (i.e. the “Dirty Snowman”) and appetizer after a day on the mountain.

Scenic Tram at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe
Surprise and Delight Moments
Get energized in the tram to pop-up live music, sample wines and local brews while watching the sun set at Lakeview Lodge or participate in the Heavenly Winter Olympics-themed activities…there’s something for everyone during the Surprise and Delight moments taking place throughout the season.

Cross State Lines
The only ski resort in North America, to span across two states, Heavenly allows skiers and riders to experience the absolute best of both California and Nevada terrain. Guests can snap photos next to the new “Welcome to California” and “Welcome to Nevada” signs that boast this feat.

Pink Heavenly
On March 24, the first annual Pink Heavenly takes place in collaboration with the Barton Wellness Foundation, where participants are encouraged to dress in pink and raise funds for the Cancer Wellness Center by asking family and friends to sponsor their ski day. The event culminates with a party at California Lodge from 2-4 p.m. featuring live music, food and drinks, games, prizes and giveaways.

With so many choices, skiers and riders are a short hop away from non-stop fun. You can find Reno-Tahoe International Airport’s flight tool here. With nine airlines now providing air service, this is truly the Gateway to Tahoe.

·      Coast-to-Coast
East Coast outdoor enthusiasts will now spend less time in transit and more time enjoying the scenic views of the Sierra Nevada. JetBlue Airways offers the only daily non-stop service between John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

·      Chicago-to-Tahoe
Chicago O’Hare offers twice a week non-stop service in Late December until the beginning of April via United Airlines.

·      Denver-to-Tahoe
Frontier Airlines begins new non-stop service three times a week in late November.

·      SoCal-to-NorCal
SoCal skiers and riders can now take advantage of 10 daily non-stop flights out of Orange County, Long Beach and LAX:

o   Alaska Airlines is offering service between Orange County, CA and Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
o   Jet Blue is offering service between Long Beach, CA and Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
o   America, Southwest and United Airlines offer a combined eight daily flights between Los Angles (LAX) and Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

·      Dallas-to-Tahoe
With Southwest Airlines, guests are now able to fly from Dallas Love Field into Reno-Tahoe International Airport. The service is offered weekly.

·      Atlanta-to-Tahoe
Southerners are now able to access Lake Tahoe’s variety of activities with ease. Delta Airlines offers daily non-stop service between Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport and Reno-Tahoe International Airport from December 21 – January 7. Then the service will be offered weekly, on Saturdays only, between January 13, 2018 and March 25, 2018.

·      Texas-to-Tahoe
American and Southwest airlines offer service to Reno-Tahoe from both Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) and Dallas Love Field (DAL).

Ski School at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe
Customized On-Demand Ski and Ride School Lessons
Ever wish you could request a ski and ride coach on the fly? Guests can now find an on-demand ski and ride school kiosk up on the mountain at the base of East Peak Lodge. Request a coach for one hour and evaluate if a second would be worthwhile.

Heavenly Holidays at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe
Heavenly Holidays
Every December, Heavenly Holidays transforms the Heavenly Village into a holiday winter wonderland with lights, decorations, music, ice sculpting and more. It all cumulates on New Year’s Eve, with a live band and brightly-lit Gondola that descends over the crowd, signaling the start of the New Year and a festive fireworks show. 

Heavenly is all about après – from first chair to last call, our guests truly go all in. This season, there are more après options than ever before! Every day beginning in December, themed après parties and happy hour will take place from 3:30-5:30 p.m. with Booyah Grill’s 96 microbrew selection, California Bar’s tequila and tacos, LAT 38’s rooftop bar and warm drink menu, Stagecoach’s  local vibes and Boulder Lodge’s family feel.

South Lake Tahoe’s Spring Loaded Celebration
Heavenly and Tahoe South are coming together to bring guests and the community a loaded two-week lineup of spring events including live music, loud outfits and various sun-fun filled festivities from March 23 through April 1. Spring Loaded kicks off with Pink Heavenly, a two-day cancer awareness event. It continues with Gunbarrel 25 on March 31, an Easter egg hunt on the mountain, pond skimming, specials during college basketball finals, a live karaoke contest, food and bartending contests, a snowboard rodeo and more!

The ultimate downhill disco - credit: Heavenly Lake Tahoe
Heavenly upped the ante in December 2013 by partnering with Aaron Hagar to retrofit a retired grooming machine into a custom-built mobile DJ station, complete with 52 high-output speakers, provided by Kicker Audio, and 1,200 watts of power. The DJ CAT will be bringing the party to the mountain every Friday and Saturday at East Peak Lodge all season long.

Gunbarrel 25 moguls course at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe
The Gunbarrel 25
If endurance is your pursuit, don’t miss out on the 14th annual Gunbarrel 25 on March 31! Taking place on Heavenly’s famous mogul run, The Face, this long-time tradition challenges participants to lap the run 25 times. Those who chose to up the ante can compete for the quickest finishing time and earn their name on the famous Gunbarrel 25 plaque that hangs in the neighboring California Lodge.

Giving Back – Heavenly’s Epic Promise

Vail Resorts commits to a zero net operating footprint by 2030. This includes zero net emissions, zero waste to landfill and zero net operating impact on forests and habitat. Heavenly plans to achieve net zero emissions through the following initiatives:

·      Recycling: Goal is to increase recycling diversion and optimize capture with enhanced signage and employee training program
o   Examples:
§  1000+ gallons of fryer grease per year are recycled with Reno Rendering
§  Recycle 30-50 tons of scrap metal annually
§  Recycle pine needles to create erosion-fighting soil cover
·      Snowmaking: Making snowmaking investments in low-energy technology, fan gun technology
o   Example: Heavenly has already invested several hundred-thousand dollars in more efficient snowmaking equipment and technology upgrades over the last six years
·      Community Outreach: Working with Tahoe community members to be successful
o   Examples:
§  The Tahoe Fund – ski pass $1 donations have raised over $208,000 since inception which go to assist environmental improvement projects around Tahoe
§  Sponsor Earth Day Celebration for the past 10 years
§  Tahoe Transportation District: Free ski shuttles to all four base areas with 300,000 riders annually reduces emissions
·      Other
o   Lighting audits
o   Infiltrating storm water runoff
o   Reporting erosion hot-spots

Me (in my favourite Alchemy of Ride jacket) at Heavenly Lake Tahoe in Feb
For everyone renting ski or snowboard equipment in Lake Tahoe, Ski Butlers ski rental delivery service is a must. For the same price or less than most resort ski shops, Ski Butlers makes renting ski and snowboard equipment hassle-free. Packages include delivery of boots, skis, snowboards, poles and a personalized fitting by a ski technician. Helmets and other accessories are available too. It's a great way to avoid long lines at busy ski shops, allowing more quality time on the slopes and less money spent on airline luggage fees. Based on customer reviews, Ski Butlers has earned the coveted TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for providing personalized service at North Lake Tahoe (including Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Northstar and Sugarbowl) and South Lake Tahoe (including Heavenly, Kirkwood and Sierra at Tahoe). 

Season Passes
These are no longer just for locals - they are also cost-effective for ski tourists who notch up several ski trips per season at a variety of resorts. Newest resorts to join the Epic Pass collective include Telluride, Crested Butte, Okemo, Mt Sunapee, Kicking Horse, Fernie, Kimberley Alpine Resort, Nakiska, Mont Sainte Anne, and Stoneham. For the latest information on resorts, pricing, pass deadlines or to purchase season passes, visit

·      Epic Local Pass: Epic Local pass holders can ski the best of Tahoe with limited restrictions and receive a total of 10 days at Whistler Blackcomb, Vail, Beaver Creek, and Stowe with holiday restrictions. The Epic Local provides guests with unlimited, unrestricted skiing or riding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Wilmot, Mt. Brighton, Afton Alps and Arapahoe Basin with limited restrictions at Park City Mountain, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood. The Epic Local Pass pays for itself in just over three days. Epic Local passes for children and college students are also available.

Terrain Park at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe
Tahoe Local™: The best way to access Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood seven days a week, the Tahoe Local Pass includes Saturday access at all three resorts with limited holiday restrictions and pays for itself in just under three days. The Tahoe Local Pass also includes five total days of skiing and snowboarding at Utah’s Park City, the largest ski resort in the U.S., and Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin with holiday restrictions. Lift tickets for pass holders are available for purchase at a discounted rate during blackout dates at Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood.

·      Tahoe Value™: Ski or snowboard seven days a week at Heavenly and six days a week at Northstar and Kirkwood. The Tahoe Value Pass has holiday restrictions at Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, with Saturdays excluded at Northstar and Kirkwood. Pass holders can purchase discounted lift tickets valid at Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood Resorts on restricted days. 
Kirkwood, Feb 19 2018 - courtesy of Vail Resorts

·      Epic Pass™: Ski unlimited and unrestricted from opening day to closing day. The Epic Pass pays for itself in just over four days of skiing or snowboarding. Enjoy full access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado (and now also Telluride); Park City in Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; Stowe Mountain in Vermont; Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin; Whistler Blackcomb in Canada; and Perisher in Australia for the 2017-2018 season. The Epic Pass grants limited access to Arlberg in Austria; Les 3 Vallées, Paradiski and Tignes-Val D’Isère in France; Skirama Dolomiti in Italy and 4 Vallées in Switzerland. No restricted dates. Check out my Globe and Mail article on this at:
Fun Facts

·      At 4,800 acres, Heavenly has the most skiable acreage in California
·      The 2016-2017 winter season was the deepest on record with a season-to-date total of 659”
·      Heavenly is the only resort in North America to span across two states

Social Media Tags

·      Facebook: Heavenly Mountain
·      Instagram: @skiheavenly
·      Twitter: @skiheavenly

·      Hashtags: #skiheavenly #heavenlysnow
Tamarack Lodge - credit: Heavenly Lake Tahoe