For those of you who wage a bloody inner battle over hitting the sack early to chase powder or staying out late to enjoy skiing’s natural camaraderie, it’s probably best to stay away from Heavenly. The resort’s enviable combination of massive skiing and massive nightlife exerts an irresistible tug on both ends of your day. While the benefits of holding court in South Lake Tahoe are obvious (No. 4 Après-Ski, No. 5 in Off-Hill Activities), readers rave about Heavenly’s “terrain variety,” its “extensive lift capacity,” and the snow quality (“Never saw so much snow in my life”).
Indeed, the numbers are staggering: 4,800 acres straddling the California/Nevada border, 30 lifts (11 high speed) and more than 30 feet of annual snowfall. Those totals might be why some grumble about weekend crowds, as well as the on-mountain food and “pricey” lift tickets. The most common complaint regards the poling needed to get from one side of the resort to the other, but a re-grading of the Skyline Trail this past summer should help.
When it dumps (and several three-footers fell last year), tree runs like Ski Ways Glades and Nevada Woods are “the best in North America,” says one fan, and springtime at Heavenly may well be “skiing at its best.” Just make time for photos; the view from the top of the Sky Express is a good place to start. Warren Miller always said it only snows at night at places like Heavenly. With one reader lauding the 300 days of annual sunshine, you wonder if Warren isn’t telling the truth after all.
What’s new: Two new runs in Ski Ways Glades for intermediates, plus one new run off Powderbowl; the East Peak Lodge gets an enclosed upper deck that adds 90 indoor seats.
Local secret: Little Dipper, under the Comet Express Quad, offers the perfect pitch to learn to ski spring bumps.
Mandatory run: Gunbarrel. You’ve heard about it…seen Glen Plake ski it on 225s…now come and get it.
If mountain towns draw two types of visitors—those in search of great terrain and those who go for, well, everything else—Mammoth has both markets cornered. Some readers simply call it a “skier’s mountain,” but it’s more accurately described as a resort with “everything you want and a great mountain to do it on.” Each year, readers accurately point out that Mammoth is “a big mountain in the middle of nowhere” and that “stormy weather” can close some lifts. Yet, the throngs keep coming, mostly because those storms dump thigh-deep powder on some of North America’s most spectacular lift-serviced terrain…and then the sun comes out. No. 1 in lifts and No. 3 in terrain/variety, Mammoth’s more than 3,500 skiable acres are home to enormous bowls, miles of beginner runs, long cruisers through Christmas tree pines, and “give you nightmare” chutes. Then there’s the terrain park (No. 1), where many of the world’s best are seen regularly. An attentive and courteous staff—right down to the smiling lifties—make Mammoth that rare “personal, family-friendly resort with mega-resort efficiency.” In recent years, The Village at Mammoth has forged a raucous identity with myriad bars and eateries, and the town of Mammoth Lakes piles on from there. So what have we learned about this “underrated,” “can’t miss” resort with “Vail and Whistler quality skiing?” If you haven’t been, go.
What’s New: In addition to air service from LAX (twice daily) and San Jose via Horizon Air, United will now offer daily nonstops from San Francisco to Mammoth Yosemite Airport. Plus, a mobile food option debuts in the form of a snow cat traversing the mountain with easy grab-and-go snacks and meals ideal for the chairlift.
Mandatory Run: Experts rejoice in day-old powder laps on Dragon’s Back or in Chair 22’s trees. Families, rise early for smooth corduroy off the Stump Alley Express chair.
Don’t Miss: A late-afternoon beer on the deck of The Yodler by the Main Lodge or in the sun outside the Mill Lodge. The sundeck at Main Lodge offers a view of local pros launching the showcase kicker at the bottom of the terrain park.
Local Tip: Leave the car at home and hop on one of the free shuttles that run throughout town. Get off at The Village and take the free Village Gondola to Canyon Lodge.