Heavenly Lifts & Terrain


Heavenly Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
  • Open Heavenly Trail Map
  • Elevation (ft)
    6,567 – 10,067 (3,500)
  • Average Snow Fall
    360 inches
  • Lifts (28)
    1 Gondola
    1 Tramway
    2 X 6-packs
    7 High speed quads
  • Ski Season
    Mid Nov to mid April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 97
    Longest run – 5.3mi
    Beginner - 20%
    Intermediate - 45%
    Advanced - 35%

Heavenly Mountain Resort Review

Heavenly Mountain Resort is huge with 4,800 acres (1,942 hectares) of skiable terrain that is spread across California and Nevada. The two states provide diversity with desert on one side, and forest and lake views on the other. Added to this is a very complex set of mountains and hills that make up the ski resort. The Heavenly Ski Resort terrain is generally made up of well spaced trees, a multitude of easy going cut ski runs, two canyon areas with challenging chutes (Mott and Killebrew) and one true alpine bowl (Milky Way). You could never say that Heavenly is a boring place!

The Heavenly ski area terrain map can be a bit deceiving and requires close attention to both it and the resort signage to minimise the amount of cat track traversing and to ensure ‘geographical embarrassment’ doesn’t occur. Let’s face it, take a wrong turn at the Heavenly Mountain Resort or miss the closing time of the last lift, and you’ll end up in another state! The majority of the on-piste runs at the Heavenly Ski Area are geared toward the intermediate level, with the trees being for advanced skiers. There are also some gladed areas ideal for intermediates.

Heavenly does have the odd dangerous high ski traffic area, one of which is particularly noteworthy. The bottom of Ridge Run/Maggies heading into the base of the Canyon Express is diabolical. It doesn’t matter how good a skier or boarder you may be, you can’t control the actions of others – you have been warned!

Snowboarders will also need to be wary of some long flat traverses.


The lifts at the Heavenly Mountain Resort are generally modern and efficient. Lots of express quads and fast six packs form the backbone of the lift system, with a smattering of older double and triple chairs in the less trafficked and beginner areas.

A modern gondola extends nearly 3,000 vertical feet from the centre of town to the heart of the Heavenly ski area. The Heavenly Gondola is essentially an access lift and is also used by lots of pedestrians and tubers, so lift queues can be problematic. The Heavenly Gondola provides lovely views though.

An Aerial Tramway in the Gunbarrel area serves no real purpose other than that of a historic relic (the adjacent chair lift is significantly faster).

The express lifts provide very efficient transport, and they need to, because when the sun shines, the lift lines extend a long way back. Lines can be avoided of course. The busiest areas from around 10am in California are around the Sky Deck at the base of the Sky and Canyon Express chairs, and in Nevada near East Peak Lodge at the base of the Dipper and Comet Express chairs. Avoid these areas until lunch and you’ll be fine. Getting the gondola back down to the Heavenly Village can also take some time.

Heavenly Lift Tickets

Single day lift tickets prices are very high but the multi-day or season Epic Pass can provide decent value for money. The Pass is valid at Heavenly as well as Kirkwood and Northstar (and a host of Colorado ski resorts and many others).

Heavenly Snow

This is Lake Tahoe and when it snows it pukes – sometimes for days. An annual snowfall of 360 inches (9.1m) is nothing to be sneezed at, but it can be so damn inconsistent. There are also long periods where it doesn’t snow and the sun turns nature’s goodness into Sierra Cement. The powder is heavier with more moisture content than powder in Utah and Colorado, and it’s sometimes akin to the snow in Australia or New Zealand. Nonetheless there are oodles of powder stashes to be devoured when the systems roll through.

A visit in January, February and early March should guarantee some form of powder hit. If the natural stuff doesn’t fall, conditions will still be reasonable as a massive 60% of the trails are covered with man-made snow, and in some places they do twice daily grooming.

Heavenly Ski Area for the Beginner

Heavenly Mountain Resort is just OK for day trippers who start at the California Lodge base area, but there’s not a whole lot on offer for beginners at the top of the gondola up from Heavenly Village (where most people stay) and very little over at the Kingsbury bases.

Even though the majority of the cut ski runs are rated intermediate, well balanced beginners will be able to easily tackle many of them.

Intermediate Skiing Heavenly

Heavenly is an intermediates’ paradise, and as most of the skiing and boarding population in the world are intermediates, that’s a good thing. All of the lifts except Gunbarrel and Mott canyon have truckloads of super groomed blue runs for your thigh burning pleasure.

Terrain Parks

Heavenly Mountain Resort has pulled back on its terrain park offerings so there are now less opportunities to go forth and break bones!

Heavenly Skiing - Advanced

Very few of the cut ski runs are for the advanced skier. Much of the black diamond runs are more like high end intermediate runs, with a few exceptions like Waterfall and West Bowl. The real advanced skiing here is in the trees. Heavenly has loads of superb gladed terrain (ie widely spaced trees) in beautiful old growth pines.

The only real alpine bowl at Heavenly is the Milky Way Bowl which is marked advanced, but in reality is pretty tame and it’s generally severely tracked with traverses.

Expert Skiing and Snowboarding

There really isn’t too much specifically for the expert at Heavenly. On the Nevada side the Mott and Killebrew Canyon areas have some nicely pitched lines, but it gets tracked quite quickly. On the California side, you’ll want to have your mogul skiing style down pat for a few steep runs down the classic Gunbarrel (which isn’t that steep). Elsewhere there are trees dotted all over the hill, but nothing too steep or challenging.

For the Powder Hound

Trees, trees, trees. The tree skiing at Heavenly on a powder day is glorious. In fresh conditions you can ski anywhere, but remember that the terrain is complex and geographical embarrassment is a possibility.

After a powder day, take note of where the sun hasn’t been shining and that’s where you’ll find the POW. Generally it will be amongst the north facing trees.

Some of the best ski terrain is out of bounds and for all to see. It’s located in and around the Gondola lift line. Get off at The Deck (a ‘mid’ station high up on the hill), and more or less head down the line - either side doesn’t matter. You’ll find some very tasty lines indeed. You’ll end up skiing into town with a 10 minute walk back to your accommodation.

Take heed that in some areas beyond the resort boundaries, consequences can include fines and a misdemeanour.