Heavenly Ski Resort: How We Put Together a Last-Minute Trip

Tuesday. Our friend Tyler gets wind of a massive storm on OpenSnow heading toward Lake Tahoe. The question: Do we ‘all’ want to drive to Tahoe Friday after work to hit some powder?

‘All’ means six adults, two huskies, and a one-year-old. How in the world are we going to make this work? Kenon gets on Google and starts searching for cheap hotels and Airbnb’s. Hotels are out on account of the massive huskies accompanying us. He defers to Danae, Tyler’s wife and Airbnb master, to complete the search. She finds us an adorable little house just outside of Carson City, Nevada. It will cost each couple $80. Housing established, we all commit to making this trip happen!

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With three couples, a trip like this can be so cheap. We drove the 8.5 hours from Salt Lake City to Carson City, splitting the gas with my brother-in-law and my best friend- who just happen to be dating. Tyler and Danae drove separately so they would have space for their toddler and dogs. The three of us girls sat down and figured out a meal plan so everyone could be fed good food on a budget. We only ate out on our way home and every couple spent less than $50 in food. Since we all had EPIC passes (Vail Resort Season Passes), skiing would be “free” for us. We already paid for the passes, so it was not costing anything extra to decide to use them at Tahoe.

We all spent Wednesday and Thursday packing. Let me just say – four adults plus their ski stuff makes for one packed hybrid hatchback! We have a roof rack for the skis and snowboards, which frees up space inside. Then we all packed our toiletries, wore our pajamas in the car, and packed only one extra pair of lounge clothes to save on space.

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Summary:

Travel:
We have a little Hyundai Ioniq, which is Hyundai’s version of a hybrid. We got the hatchback to make it easier to fit stuff in the trunk. We pack it to the max with people, gear, and necessities. The amount of stuff we like to fit in it, it is a wonder we do not use a bigger vehicle. We stick with the Ioniq as often as possible because it is reliable and incredibly gas efficient. When you split it between 4 adults, the gas cost for a weekend trip is negligible.

Housing:
We stayed at an Airbnb. It is located just outside of Carson City, Nevada, on the Flying BK Ranch. This put us a little over an hour away from both Kirkwood and Heavenly Resort. This sounds like a long drive, but we were right in between both resorts and loved saving money on the place.

This is a guest house on a larger property. The property butts up against a state park. This was perfect for Danae and her daughter because they were not planning on going skiing. The state park offers hiking and snowshoeing trails. Since you could cross the property on foot to access the park, we did not have to leave a vehicle at the house for Danae.

The host was so incredibly friendly! I would recommend this place just for that reason (but there are so many reasons!). He came over and checked on us and even offered to take the dogs out for a walk on Saturday since no one was planning on staying at the house. My husband had a flu during the trip and our host brought over multiple cold medicines to try and help my husband have the best trip possible. He gave a lot of tips on how to make the most of Tahoe.

The house has two bedrooms and one bathroom. The first one could be called the “master.” This one is set further back from the main section, has one queen bed, and a little privacy. The second bedroom is really just a large open space that looks like a converted garage. There are two beds and an air mattress set up with space for two or three more air mattresses, depending on how cozy you want to get. Kenon, Atley, Amanda, and I are used to sharing rooms while traveling so the spaciousness of this room was actually an upgrade. There was plenty of space for us all to spread our stuff out.

The kitchen has a stove, oven, microwave, fridge, dishwasher, and a 5-cup coffee maker. Four of us adults could be in there at one time, sharing the space to cook dinner or get snacks. There are a few pans, cooking utensils, and enough plates/cups for everyone. The kitchen is not fully stocked so we did have to get creative with our use of the pans and utensils. We also brought with a crockpot which is a great way to cook a big meal without wasting time.

Recreation:
Tahoe has so much to offer. The best thing about a location like this is that you can bring a diverse group of people and everyone will have something to do. Lake Tahoe is a 50-minute drive from where we stayed, but there are plenty of options to stay closer. The drive is really easy, though, and has amazing views the whole way.

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Near our Airbnb and around the lake, there is plenty of hiking even in the winter. The town itself is fun to walk around in. There are a lot of fun shops and restaurants. Lake Tahoe offers boot tours of varying lengths. Or you can just sit on the beach and enjoy the waves. And of course, there is skiing.

The Resort:

Our goal was to get in some slope time at the ski resorts. On Saturday, three of us drove to Heavenly Ski Resort. We had a late start to the day which is a big no-no if you are serious about hitting the powder. By the time we got to the resort, it was packed! Heavenly has three free parking areas: California Lodge, Stagecoach Lodge, and Boulder Lodge. These all offer easy access to the resort. On a busy day, you must arrive early to park in one of these lots.

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Since we arrived late, we went to Heavenly’s fourth, off-site, free parking option. Hardrock Hotel & Casino has a free parking garage. The Tahoe Transportation District offers FREE shuttles from the parking garage to the Gondola and Stagecoach Lodge. These run every 10 minutes until 10 am and every 20 minutes afterward.

The resort itself is filled with amazing sights and long, scenic runs. The blue squares are true blues: easy, sloping, and exciting. They do not get easily skied out and moguled. The black diamonds are challenging and abundant. This resort truly caters to all levels of skiers and snowboarders.

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This was the weekend all of us needed. Skiing has been kind of lame in Utah this year so to get to a resort that finally had snow was an exhilarating experience! Our home for the weekend was the perfect get-a-way. As Danae put it – it was nice to get to be in a home we didn’t have to clean! All in all, this impromptu trip was above par!

Tips:
1.  If you decide to visit Lake Tahoe ski resorts on a powder day, be prepared for crowds. There was an 8 – 15 minute wait at Every. Single. Lift. Talking to locals we found out this is not the typical scenario. It’s just that you are not the only one who heard the words “powder day” and thought of Lake Tahoe.

2.  Traffic was sketchy. Again, a lot of people hurried to Lake Tahoe to find the best runs. This means that roads were packed most of the time. Also, remember that a massive winter storm causes the best powder days. If this is the case for your trip, expect roads to be closed. We never did make it to Kirkwood because the routes between Kirkwood and Heavenly were frequently closed due to winter conditions or avalanche control. One thing you can do to avoid this is get housing as close to your destination resort as possible.

3.  Parking. Per Tip 1 & 2, Heavenly was BUSY. By the time we got to the resort, the main lots were full. We looked on their website and found FREE parking at Hardrock Hotel and Casino parking garage. There is a FREE shuttle that picks up just outside of the parking garage. This shuttle picks up ever 10 minutes until 10:00 am, and then every 20 minutes after that. If you do not want to wait, the main Gondola is only a 10-minute walk from the hotel.

Gear of the Trip:

Thule Ski/Snowboard Carrier. There is no way we could have fit the weekend belongings and ski gear of four grown adults into our little hatchback without this piece of equipment. It fits six skis or four snowboards – or two skis and two snowboards, which was our load. It is easy to install, easy to take off, and easy to put back on. It depletes our gas mileage a lot, which is why it is so important that it is easy to put on and take off. Kenon takes it off during the week so that he gets optimum gas mileage on the way to work.

Biggest Take-A-Way:

This trip proved that it is surprisingly easy to put a quick weekend trip together. The idea that travel is too expensive is easily fixed by finding the proper resources and going with a group. Dogs? Babies? Again, the right group makes traveling with your family within reach.

And honestly, it does not even take that much time. We planned this trip in three days, while all of us continued to work full-time jobs. Travel is accessible. Get out there!

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