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Heavenly Valley during Christmas 2013, how is it? [family, young kids, non-skiing parent]

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I am thinking of taking the family to Lake Tahoe to ski Heavenly from 12/22 thru 12/27 this year. We are Marriot timeshare owners and we would be staying at the Marriot Timber Lodge. I have 3 kids ages 7 (skiing since age 3 and can carve somewhat) and 4 1/2 twins (who are still trying learning to be on the snow) and I would like them in the ski school. I will cruise with my 7 year old and my wife does not ski. I have never skied California as we primarily ski New Jersey and Vermont, what can we expect in terms of snow, kids activities and the town in late December? Thanks.
post #2 of 9

You are thinking of Heavenly Mountain Resort, not Heavenly Valley.  Anyhow, here is the deal:

1) The Marriott has beautiful, newer, upscale lodging steps of the gondola (some of the Marrott's properties came from the failed ASC). .  You can walk to many food options, one of the movie theatres (the other is in a casino down the road), shops, etc.  Your kids will find the cookies at the Nestle Toll House Cafe and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory quickly enough (hey, it is a tourist location). You will likely walk across to the Safeway parking to eat at Blue Dog pizza because it is 1/2 price from what you will find next to the gondola.  They will want to ice skate (if cold enough at the base) and do the other stuff they see.  This ain't rocket science.

 

2) It will be crowded Christmas week, and not very crowded the week before.  Just make sure to make the ski school and rental (if necessary) reservations way ahead of time.  There are several ski shops dotted across the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, with the most expensive being on the mountain.  I find great food to be lacking in SLT, but then again I am a snob. 

 

3) Lake Tahoe is really a destination and not a resort.  In other words, you have your lodging and now you have to figure out what to do.  Since it is Christmas I'd plan well ahead of time for any of the usual tourist stuff, like doing a lunch or dinner cruise on the Tahoe Queen, dog sledding, seeing a magic show (suitable for the family) in a casino, or whatever.

 

4) South Lake Tahoe is not very pretty (IMHO) because of the casinos and the way it was built. Forget about the quaint European feel because it is not there.   The lake is absolutely beautiful, as are the mountains.  Taking a day off to snowshoe, X-country ski or  go tubing (and a brief scenic drive) at Sierra at Tahoe is not a bad idea.

 

5) Heavenly is massive, and is indeed "Heavenly" for intermediate skiers.  The kids will like the idea of skiing from state-to-state.  You will start out every day from the gondola, but don't be afraid to go elsewhere on the mountain as soon as you hit the snow in search of shorter lift lines.  As a major resort, they have the ski school thing figured out.  When my kids were little I always used the Boulder ski school location because it was less crowded and my kids (who were then advanced for their age) often times had no one else in their class.  At Christmas week it won't matter, so to to the ski school location closest to where you are staying.

 

6) Heavenly might have great snow or not...you cannot predict the weather. Usually, you should be fine. For example, last year it dumped and dumped the week before Christmas and that was about it for the year.  You just don't know.  Heavenly does have some of the best and largest snowmaking in the country, so you will always have a surface to ski on.  But you don't travel west of the Continental Divide to ski on hardpack, so make a small offering or prayer to Ullr.

 

7) Vail Resorts also owns Northstar and Kirkwood, within an easy drive.  It is likely possible to ski three areas on your vacation with one ticket, but I don't know how the Vail Resorts tickets work (I get a seasons pass).  Sierra at Tahoe is also close by.

 

8) The casinos are smoky (hey, it is Nevada) and not really for kids, but they can offer some fun options.  The buffet at Harrah's is fun for the kids and offers a great view (think food that middle-America loves but gourmands will find boring). The buffet at the Horizon should be avoided at all costs...dreadful.  The cinema at the Horizon is fine, though. Usually there is a magic show that is suitable for families.

 

9) Babysitting: Plan for it early since you are there at Christmas week.


Edited by quant2325 - 8/18/13 at 9:14am
post #3 of 9

Great write up quant.

The CA resorts are pricey if your not a season pass holder.  Of the large Tahoe resorts, Heavenly is about my least favorite, as I prefer wide open bowls over trails cut through trees unless it is dumping snow.  I am uncertain if there is a Marriot timeshare option for you in North Lake Tahoe, but if there is, that would be my preference, so I could more easily ski at Alpine Meadows or Squaw Valley.

 

If that was not an option, I would go to Utah as I know there are a bunch of Marriots there, the resorts are more my cup of tea and they are more reasonable (better deal for the buck spent) than I find Heavenly to be.

 

Just my 2 cents. YRMV.  Have fun regardless.

post #4 of 9

I think Quant pretty much covered most of what you need to know. The only thing I would add is I think for the most part the mountain will be not too busy on your dates. It's chill before/during Christmas and honestly with so many blacked out
Christmas week itself was slower (slightly) than I would have imagined last year. That may have to do with the fact that everything was open and skiing so well. Lets hope its not like December 2 years ago. Personally I would be a little hesitant to book in tahoe anytime before mid-jan

post #5 of 9

I stay above the Boulder Lift on the NV side for ski/in out. from the balcony.

 

 

Heavenly (and Nstar) has the best snowmaking in Tahoe so don't worry.

 

You might look at swapping into the Ridge at Tahoe next to Stagecoach. There's onsite parking of courrse, and a pool there. It's right next to the Chair.  but I don't think it has a full kitchen. They have their own shutle - a 2 minute ride that saves walking - to/from the Day Lodge called Stagecoach .

 

If staying near the casinos or towards the NV side, for convenience with armfuls of kids' gear, I'd drive to the Boulder Lift carpark with the extensive snowmaking, adjacent ski school, ski patrol, day lodge, ticket office (no lines!!!!), ski hire, shop for gloves your kids lose, magic carpet, beginner run and extensive snowmaking.

 

These buildings are right there near the car. There's no steps (except at the day lodge) and no steep walks for you and the kids. The carpark doesn't get as full as carparks do on the CA side. It's served by the Bluego shuttle.

 

Boulder is sheltered from the weather as it sits in between 2 ridges. when tired of it, make your way on the chair to Olympic or head over to the cruisy flatish areas called Dipper and Comet which are flat but with a good pitch for a bit of speed if you want. There's a day lodge there too.

 

If driving, do a 100% stop at Stop signs coz the cops have nothing better to do all day, and they've got all day to do it.

 

The Epiclocal Season pass works at Kirkwood and Northstar as well as Heavenly, but check blackout dates because the pass has different b/out dates depending on which hill you're on.

 

Dining: for fine dining, try Chart House for steaks or the qaint old timber Lakeside casino for a very surprisingly good place with $12 steak dinners. There's Red Hut, Heidi's, Ihop, 'all you can eat sushi'.and heaps of variety.

 

And get a room with a view, nice and high for amazing sunsets..

post #6 of 9

As quant said, if you plan ahead and make reservations for ski school and a few non-skiing attractions, Heavenly is a reasonable choice for using your Marriott timeshare.  Are you thinking of eating in the unit most of the time?  What does your wife like to do while the rest of the family is skiing?

 

Given that the kids are pretty young, are you thinking that going out west during Christmas would mean better snow conditions than the northeast?  Have you considered spring break instead?  Typically not as crowded.  Of course, from a skiing standpoint extending a long weekend in Jan or Feb is a better option.  Assuming you can get a timeshare unit.

 

Where else does Marriott have near ski resorts?

post #7 of 9

I think it's a great choice with a non-skiing wife.  There is plenty of shopping and activity to occupy her time while the family skis.  Likewise the intermediate focus of the mountain is good for the 7yr old and you can have a great time skiing with him/her on big wide open runs.  As or the resort, my experience with kids is that they are thrilled to lay in bed and watch TV/movies.  If the resort has a heated pool as well that's a huge plus with kids. Quant pretty much said it all.  I always enjoyed skiing heavenly when I was an intermediate skier because there was so much accessible terrain.

post #8 of 9
Quote:
Heavenly (and Nstar) has the best snowmaking in Tahoe so don't worry.

Heavenly was 4% open during Christmas week in 2011-12.  While that's a worst case scenario, it demonstrates that Heavenly snowmaking is more limited than people assume.  Heavenly is also a mountain that does not handle crowds well.  Fortunately that should not be an issue before Dec. 26.

Quote:

Given that the kids are pretty young, are you thinking that going out west during Christmas would mean better snow conditions than the northeast?  Have you considered spring break instead?  Typically not as crowded.  Of course, from a skiing standpoint extending a long weekend in Jan or Feb is a better option.  Assuming you can get a timeshare unit.

 

Where else does Marriott have near ski resorts?

Given the ages of your kids, surely it's better to go when conditions are better mid-winter.   Why battle the high airfares, lodging costs, crowds and riskier snow conditions of Christmas Week when you don't have to. 5-10 years from now you'll be forced to use their school breaks (and as noted spring is still better than Christmas in more places) so why not go for optimal ski season this time?  I do agree South Tahoe is an excellent choice for the non-skiing wife.

post #9 of 9

I agree with Tony that there are much better weeks to choose.  However, it may be a good week for discounted rates? or possibly revolving around school vacation?  I am a teacher and I constantly get the "why do you go then?" question.  I go then because I can.  2011/2012 is pretty much worst case scenario.  The whole mountain probably won't be open but you will be skiing with a 7yr old and, theoretically, are seeking a good family experience as much as anything else.  My son was little, I had as much fun watching him "bomb" a run as I did skiing myself.  You could always choose Mammoth.  More often than not, there will be more snow but your wife will be bored.  Alternatively, I ran our middle school ski club for years.  We always went to Salt Lake City the week after Christmas and, more often than not, there was plenty of snow and plenty of variety of mountains.  The problem for you would be trucking 3 small kids up to the mountains by yourself.  With 3 young ones, Tahoe is a good choice.

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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Family Skiing Discussions › Heavenly Valley during Christmas 2013, how is it? [family, young kids, non-skiing parent]