By Amy Whitley
You’ve been the planner extraordinaire of your family’s ski trip to Heavenly, from the moment of its conception.
You were the one to check into the ski condo, you planned the evening meal that’s simmering in the slow cooker, and against all odds, you found that missing ski glove (on the roof of the car, just before you departed).
Now you’re here, and it’s time to hit the slopes.
Think it’ll take you all day to gather gear, get the kids outfitted, and get on the snow?
Not on my watch.
You’ve earned an epic ski day.
Here’s how it’s going down: The kids have lessons to get to, but if you drop them off at the Heavenly Village location at the base of the gondola, you’re bound to get sidetracked by shops, food, and crowds.
Instead, make your ski school reservations for the California Lodge location, where the Ski and Ride School is much less congested.
Plus, the California Lodge is home to Heavenly’s Child Care and Nursery, so you can drop off everyone at once if you’ve got little ones not taking lessons.
Ski school begins at 10 a.m. with a 9:30 a.m. drop-off deadline at the California Lodge location, but guess what?
The doors open at 8 a.m. on weekends (8:30 on weekdays), and kids have a blast playing inside before lessons start.
What this means for Mom: You can be in line when lifts start turning.
If you’re a beginner, opt for a half-day lesson of your own, which will end in time for lunch with your spouse or a friend at Tamarack Lodge.
Located at the top of the gondola, Tamarack is beautiful inside; take a spin through the gourmet salad bar, or fuel up with the lodge’s tasty tri-tip sandwich.
Want to chill out by yourself?
Follow signs to the Nevada side, where the quietest eatery on the mountain, Boulder Lodge, is located.
Intermediate skiers will want to make their way up from the California Lodge to Canyon Express and Sky Express, where long, quick groomers flank each side of the High Roller terrain park.
From there, take the scenic Skyline Trail over to the top of Dipper Express for an even bigger selection of intermediate runs.
You can ski for hours here without moving off blue squares.
If you’re an expert skier, you may want to stay on the California side and play on Gunbarrel Express or Sky Express (the latter offers nice intermediate/advanced variety if you’re skiing with a partner who’s not quite in sync with you).
If you’re drawn to the gates over at Mott Canyon, head there right away; it will take about an hour to traverse the mountain and gates close daily at 3 pm.
In this case, plan to break for lunch at East Peak Lodge at the base of Comet and Dipper chairs.
East Peak makes for a great rendezvous point if adult family members will be getting out of lessons at lunchtime; it’s easy to access from multiple points at mid-mountain.
This is where you’ll find your classic ski fare: soups in bread bowls, steaming hot chili, and classic barbecue.
East Peak also serves as a great mid-afternoon break location; grab an Adirondack chair on a sunny day, put your boots up, and watch the skiers and riders while sipping a hot chocolate or coffee.
If the kids are in full-day lessons, they’ll enjoy lunch with their instructors, and you’ll be free to stop for an après-ski drink before pick-up time at 4 p.m. Ski to Stein’s at the top of Patsy’s chair for a cold beer.
No need to try to get a glimpse of the kids’ lessons; with Vail Resorts’ mobile app, EpicMix, you can log into EpicMix Academy where all their stats, including where they went on the mountain, will be accessible to you online.
Tip: Perusing EpicMix photos and ‘awards’ on your phone is a fun after-dinner family activity.
From Stein’s, simply ski down to the California Lodge via Round-A-Bout if you need an intermediate run, or take double-black diamond Face or Pistol if your legs can still take it (you rock star!).
If you’re not on the California side by at least 2:30 p.m., make sure to give yourself plenty of time to traverse over before ski school pick up.
You’ll want to avoid the gondola at end-of-day, as it will take you to the Village instead of your ski school pick up location, and wait times can stretch an hour or more as the crowds off-load from the mountain.
After liberating the kids from ski school, it’s an easy commute back to your ski condo or vacation home, thanks to Heavenly’s close proximity to South Lake Tahoe.
Hint: Have your partner go get the car while you treat the kids to hot chocolate at the California Bar.
You can meet up curbside at the loading zone.
Don’t feel like cooking after your epic day?
Stop at Base Camp Pizza in Heavenly Village with the family.
Congratulate yourself on taking time for yourself, getting in some epic turns, and enjoying the lively ski ambiance of Heavenly.
Now, get ready to do it again tomorrow!