As the name suggests, Heavenly Ski Resort has a real “wow” factor about it that is highly irresistible. Sitting pretty above the landscape of Lake Tahoe, it sits a little more than two hours away from Sacramento. This ski enthusiast oasis is a place that has incredible skiing and even more fun off the mountain. It’s rare to find a resort quite like Heavenly, which offers an abundance of tantalizing entertainment for its guests. Also imagine a ski destination where you can witness fantastic views of the mountains, a pristine lake below, and an abundance of forest on one side. Then on the other, there are incredible views of a magnificent arid desert landscape.
Heavenly is definitely hard to ignore, but what makes its location even more special is the abundance of off-mountain fun there is. Sure, there’s excellent shopping, dining, and entertainment options. But there are also countless ways to continue quenching your adrenaline thirst like going on guided snowmobile tours, trying out an escape rooms or hitting up the casinos. The casinos within the town of South Lake Tahoe are the closest to the resort and easily accessible. Quite a few people find that they’re eager to try out their luck because taking big risks isn’t just for skiing!
For many, hitting the slots after an exhilarating day on the slopes is exactly the right combination. Especially since SLT is known for their excellent dining and casino options. From the base of Heavenly Ski Resort on highway 50, guests can make the quick 5-minute drive while passing by the lake. Once there, it’s easy to navigate around whether you choose to go on foot or utilize transportation. In total, there are about 15 casinos spread across the city.
In the beginning, SLT experienced slow growth but that changed once people discovered a safe way to wind through the Sierra Nevada Range and into the basin. The northern part of the lake became a winter mecca for excited sportsman and sightseers alike, slowly making its mark around the entire perimeter.
The concept of casinos and gambling was brought to South Lake Tahoe via Harvey’s Wagon Wheel Saloon and Gambling Hall in 1944. Once it arrived, it became one of Nevada’s first gaming establishments. Soon after, competition began to spring up, bringing more people to the area. The increase in population, combined with the success the casinos prompted the need to build accommodations for those seeking permanent residency and beyond. SLT’s growth also saw a massive change after the 1960s winter Olympics. After the games were over, SLT earned a solidified spot on the map and the rest is history. Today, you can see how the area has changed over the years and what makes the trip to Heavenly so unique.
After a few years of the entertainment boom from casinos, visionaries sought to extend that success. They wanted to expand their dreams towards the mountains close by. Which is exactly how Heavenly came to be what it is now. In 1957, Martin Hollay, an accomplished Nordic skier from Hungary, came to Lake Tahoe to participate in the California cross country championships. The event was to take place in a new ski area called Heavenly Valley, an underdeveloped but extraordinary location with a lot of potential in it.
After the race, Hollay realized where he wanted to take his life. He began his quest to make skiing and glove making an integral part of his life. He planted his roots there and in 1958 (3 years after Heavenly Valley opened) he was offered a job at Ski Run Lodge. The current owners at the time were Trudy and Rudy Gersick. The Gersicks almost fell into owning what was then known as Bijou Ski Run. Over the course of the next decade, Hollay helped shape some of the most crucial parts about Heavenly. This included cutting down the forest for ski runs. In truth, his contribution is part of the reason why Heavenly has some of the best tree skiing in the world. Much of Heavenly’s success also came from Chris and Dorothy Kuraisa, George Canon, Philip Musso, Trudy and Rudy Gersick, and San Francisco attorney Hugh Killebrew.
This group shaped the development of Heavenly for years, especially Killebrew. By 1964, he owned more than 60 percent of the resort after buying out the Kuraisas and Gersicks. Though he wasn’t much of a skier, he made sure Heavenly stayed on the map. He followed his vision to grow the resort and it paid off in the end. He added lifts and extended the overall area towards the Nevada side, which is why it straddles both states.
In 1977 Killebrew, unfortunately, died in a plane crash which left the future of the resort in the hands of his son Bill. Bill, only 23 at the time, quickly took the reigns with ease. He was able to build the resort up, keep it out of debt and in 1990 sold it under its original name. After it sold the name changed to Heavenly. Since then, its popularity grew exponentially thanks to continued improvements in infrastructure, snowmaking, trails, accommodations, and entertainment. The dedication and determination of early entrepreneurs shaped Heavenly into what it is today. Had it not been for the tireless efforts of the original group and Bill Killebrew, the resort might have ended up looking very different.
Heavenly is unlike many resorts in the area for two reasons. The first is that the powder there offers a different kind of ski experience. This is because it doesn’t have the typically Sierra “cement snow.” Instead, the snow at Heavenly is much drier and is extremely light, making for some truly epic conditions. And even though they see less snow than their counterparts in the area, people are able to enjoy great cruising!
It also doesn’t hurt that the resort has the most powerful snowmaking system on the west coast to counteract their low snowfall. Their system allows them to cover 73% of the entirety of the terrain. They also have the addition of their famous grooming team to set them up for success.
With 97 trails, 4,630 skiable acres of terrain, and an elevation of 10,067 feet, this resort can’t stop offering up outrageously fun vibes! There are wide-open cruisers for intermediate skiers. But there are also 1,600-foot plunges in their double-black diamond canyons for those who want more of a thrill.
Expert-level skiers and locals alike are all used to big risks, which is why they also enjoy running Mott Canyon and Killebrew. Not to mention that for those itching for the gnarliest and steepest slopes can find comfort in the Gunbarrel trail, which comes with its own warning label. It’s hard to count the ways that make Heavenly a dream come true, but you can try anyway! This resort is the best play to ski and play in more ways than one. So it’s time for you to set up your own trip to be a part of the excitement.