A trip to Lake Tahoe will prove Heavenly for skiers
After spending a weekend in San Francisco (travel feature here), I set off to explore some of California’s most beautiful ski slopes. The car journey to Heavenly Ski Resort took approximately three and a half hours, with the highway providing a quick and easy route to the mountains.
The resort is situated in the area of South Lake Tahoe and straddles the state line between California and Nevada, which presents an interesting contrast in state protocol. The traditional Californian village is right next door to some towering casinos that offer guests the chance to enjoy a spot of gambling, for which Nevada is so famous.
Arriving at the Marriott Grand Residence, you are greeted by a beautiful, wooden chalet-style building that boasts all the luxuries of a top class hotel. The large fireplaces in the lobby are welcoming and the staff are incredibly friendly. The rooms are spacious, with the private suites offering the most luxurious accommodation. These are expansive and comprise a dining room, lounge area and private library, among other luxurious facilities. The hotel also offers Jacuzzi baths in every room and these are a more private alternative to the warm outdoor pool and hot tubs that guests enjoy sharing after a hard day of skiing.
The spa offers a list of appealing treatments, with many favouring the massage selection. Personally, I enjoyed one of the best anti-aging facials I have ever experienced and I genuinely felt – and looked – several years younger afterwards. The oxygen-infusing treatment also encompassed a pumpkin peel, which nurtured my skin in the dry atmosphere.
The Marriott Grand Residence is ideally located within the resort to provide easy access to the slopes. The Gondola is only a few metres from the hotel and is the main way of accessing the runs. As you take the journey up the mountain you must sit facing Lake Tahoe as the views become more and more spectacular the higher you climb. Clear blue skies are common and the lake appears serenely calm, whilst framed by the jagged white peaks of the surrounding mountain ranges.
The snowfall is very reliable and at times the resort will offer some of the best powder in the world. When you arrive at the top of the Gondola there are a number of intermediate skiing routes that will allow you access to tougher runs. However, beginners are relatively limited and would be advised to join ski school or hire a private instructor. The runs are framed by trees, which set this resort apart from Europe in an aesthetic context; however, it can prove more challenging to navigate at times.
Whilst Heavenly is not necessarily renowned for providing the most demanding skiing, it is universally respected by advanced skiers as one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. This is evident at the top of the ‘California Trail’, where stunning views of Lake Tahoe feature on the left hand side of the run and these are contrasted by a dramatic panorama of the Nevada desert to your right. Whilst there is a good amount of skiing on offer, the resort also allows access to Northstar and Kirkwood, which are both a short drive away. Squaw Valley, which previously hosted the Winter Olympics, is also within the locality.
Weekend skiing is a popular hobby in America, largely due to the close vicinity of a number of major cities such as San Francisco and Sacramento. This means the slopes are wonderfully peaceful during the weekdays. The volume of skiers increases hugely over the weekend, but the resort would seem no busier than Europe’s most popular destinations; however, you should prepare yourself for longer queues at the lifts.
Whilst vin chaud stops are sparse in California, the Umbrella Bar at Steins is located in a sun spot that is protected from any gusts of wind. It has an energetic atmosphere and provides an ideal place to enjoy a hotdog with a beer. Lakeside Mountain Lodge is located nearby and provides the best dining location on the piste. American cuisine will fill you up before an afternoon on the slopes and the views from the gallery section of the restaurant are second to none. The Unbuckle Apres Ski Party is Heavenly’s closest attempt to replicate the wild antics of Folie Douce in Val d’Isere. However, the attempt is pretty poor and the semi-clad ‘Heavenly Angels’ lower the tone, which is disappointing as the concept could work well with some more dynamic entertainment.
Apres Ski is much better at the base of the mountain and the Marriott’s resident bar Fire and Ice, which is located a few steps away from the hotel, is one of the best places to relax. There are a number of fire baskets on the patio outside that will keep you warm and mean you will not have the trouble of moving inside in your ski gear. Base Camp is a pizzeria that is close-by and boasts live entertainment outside and a good opportunity to catch up on the basketball within the bar itself. The pizzas are very good but this is a place to avoid during popular times as the waiting list for a table can be in excess of two hours long.
If you want to enjoy a sophisticated meal, then Kalani’s is the best restaurant within the village. The Asian fusion menu offers wonderful sushi, as well as great cooked fish dishes. The upmarket restaurant also has a stylish cocktail bar. For those wanting to party around the clock, I suggest sampling some local brews in the Stateline Brewery, before crossing over to Nevada and venturing into either Hurrah’s or Harveys casino. Drinks are complimentary for all those who are actively gambling and it remains legal to smoke inside.
Heavenly presents a surprising number of fashion boutiques and many stock high-end products, with longs fur coats and chunky leather belts a popular sight. The supermarket provides a vast array of very good quality food and dining at your residence is an appealing option to many, considering the high standard of produce.
All in all, Heavenly Ski Resort presents guests with some of the most beautiful skiing in the world and the atmosphere is also very friendly. The Marriott Grand Residence is ideal for the luxury traveller and a trip to South Lake Tahoe can be easily incorporated into a broader visit to the West Coast of America.
Make a reservation at the Marriott Grand Residence here.