Beyond the Beauty: Discover Adventure at Heavenly

 
By: VALERIE WILSON
Author, Trusted Travel Girl blog
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It's a random Tuesday in early March and I am standing at the top of a snow-covered trail at Heavenly, purposefully lost in the trees. I stop for a moment, not because my legs are burning from a late start to my ski season, but because I want to take this moment in. It is mid-week but I am still surprised no one is around; the mountain is completely silent except for the gentle sound of the snow falling on the trail.
 
Snow-covered pines and a blanket of white are all I can see in any direction. I look behind and see the impression of two skis—they are my own tracks. I can't remember the last time I had fresh powder under my skis and not another skier in sight. The adrenaline in my body is pumping and I feel like a ski junkie that needs another fix. I kick my ski out and face down the mountain. I’m off!
 
Every skier has memorable days on the mountain, special days that are too few and far in-between. The kind of ski days that you share with strangers on chairlift rides for years to come. Today is one of those days.
 
A day like today is the reason skiers face the cold days, carry around our obnoxiously heavy equipment, and push ourselves hard. We seek out days like today when our personal best aligns with the best conditions a mountain has to offer.

A beast of a mountain

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A day earlier, I had made my way to Heavenly and was excited for the stunning views from the top and some relaxing runs. Skiing Heavenly is like skiing in a postcard and it’s easy to see where this mountain earned its name—it truly is heavenly. What I was not expecting, however, was the beast this mountain really is. In addition to its striking panoramic, it has an abundance of challenging terrain, if you know where to look.
 
The snow in South Lake Tahoe is unbelievable and I am thrilled to be experiencing it. I haven't seen fresh powder on the trails in a long time. In years’ past, I’ve experienced conditions of all kinds. And although those seasons are the very last thing on my mind in this moment, it does make this day with the snow falling so much sweeter.
 
As I drop in and pass the gate at Killebrew, the fat flakes hit my goggles. I quickly wipe them clean with my gloves without missing a beat and a smile unknowingly forms on my face. Heavenly's terrain is more exciting than I ever imagined and I live for the adventure that I feel in this moment.
 
With 29 lifts and 4,800 acres, Heavenly has a substantial amount of terrain and is Tahoe’s largest ski resort. Everyone knows that Heavenly is the gem of West Coast skiing, and with its scenic backdrop of Lake Tahoe, it could easily be mistaken for a Hollywood green screen. Although Heavenly is a great all-around family mountain, the best-kept secret is that it is a mountain that will make you earn your turns, if that’s what you’re looking for, and that was exactly what I was looking for. Simply put, Heavenly delivers one heck of an adventure. I mean, where else can you ski across the border of two states?

 

The best powder days of my life

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Heavenly is an adventurer’s mountain and the best part is that some of the most thrilling areas of the mountain are without crowds. The mountain is so vast that in certain places, it is empty of other skiers. Heavenly has nearly 100 trails and 35% of the terrain is for advanced and expert skiers. Every ski enthusiast knows that each mountain has its own hidden gems that often only the locals know about.

At Heavenly, there is always a great spot to ski. No matter the weather, or the time of year, at Heavenly you are able to escape the crowds and find some memorable ski runs. If you know where to go for the good stuff (Motts, Killebrew, The Burn), Heavenly will easily offer up some of the best powder days of your life.

Shockingly, I found it easy to get off the beaten path of the groomers and head into Heavenly’s fantastic bowls, which provide some of the best tree skiing I have ever seen. Trees are generally widely spaced, giving lots of room for the areas to fill up with snow on a powder day.

Killebrew Canyon and Mott Canyon quickly became two of my favorite runs. They are considered expert terrain, and are definitely challenging, but result in a complete day of fun, and a good leg burn from the steep terrain.

The sign at the top of Killebrew is intimidating enough to keep many skiers out of the area, leaving fresh tracks for the thrill-seekers. This area of the mountain is exceptional for inbound skiing when it dumps. Killebrew can be accessed by three gates off a traverse from the top of the Milky Way Bowl, located on the Nevada side of the mountain. This area is steep, and when the snow is flying at Heavenly, Killebrew is the first place to go.

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Compared to most ski resorts in the States, I found the amount of ungroomed terrain at Heavenly enormous. This made it easy for me to poke around and find places with literally no other skiers on them, including a local favorite, The Burn.
 
The Burn is unique terrain, as it is named for a fire that swept through and burned up many of the trees in this area of the mountain. This gives the steep run a few unique characteristics to look at while skiing some of the most exciting terrain on the mountain.
 
If you are an adventure junkie, Heavenly is the place to be. Heavenly has proved to me on this trip that it has more to offer than just postcard-perfect skiing. As my ski day comes to a close, so does my trip.
 
In the car on the way back to the airport, I quickly turn around and my heart sinks as the mountains fade from view.
 
On the plane, I toss my ski boots into the overhead bin and the man sitting next to me asks about the ski conditions. I realize that today has been one of those special ski days.
 
Heavenly is a snow-covered adventurer’s paradise, and because of that, today has been one of those days I will talk about on chairlifts (and planes) for years to come.

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