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Heavenly vs. Vail/BC ?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
The wife and I are looking to change our March trip destination to Heavenly this year. Just wondering what to expect in terms of conditions, storms, spring break crowds? I have never been to Tahoe, and she has not been there for many years. We're limiting ourselves to Vail places since we have Epic passes. For travel: fly into Reno, rental car, and rent a house in South Tahoe. Any tips/recs would be greatly appreciated, thanks.
post #2 of 19
What levels of skiers are you? I wouldn't expect Motts to be open if you're an expert but thats just an assumption.
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
she's a former L3 instructor from Beavercreek. I try to keep up, but my level 8/9 abilities don't make it look as pretty. I had been looking @ Motts. I wouldn't have thought they would be closing terrain that early. We were looking at 3/7-3/14 this year.
post #4 of 19
I strongly disagree with the Mott comment. It's the early season where it's slow to get covered. Average opening is mid-to-late January. March it's probably open 90% of the time.
post #5 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
I strongly disagree with the Mott comment. It's the early season where it's slow to get covered. Average opening is mid-to-late January. March it's probably open 90% of the time.
I just assumed since it opens pretty late that it doesn't stay open too long. Gate 6 of the Canyon might not be open since it wasn't open except for one day when I went last year during half term (Feb 14-21) due to thin cover as it gets hit by the sun pretty hard and gets less snow than elsewhere on the mountain. Motts does have some 45-50 degree stuff on the opposite of the canyon (Gate 1 with a short traverse to the outer sides of the canyon). And Killebrew Canyon--the adjacent and more steep canyon with the bragging rights to the steepest stuff in Tahoe-- had thin cover when I went but don't know about March though. Heavenly's Mott and Killebrew Canyons are some good stuff though with moderately steep pitches (35 degrees) to some really sick stuff (55 degrees with mandatory cliffs) and probably has harder stuff than Vail.
post #6 of 19
Getting back on topic, March is the best ski month in the Sierra. Coverage reaches its maximum and the weather may be alternately sunny or stormy, but with the sun higher in the sky, the days are longer and the snow sweet and winter-like. We don't really see spring conditions kick in until April and even into May. Heavenly has a lot of hidden surprises to be found outside of Motts/Killebrew. North bowl trees and some hidden gates near Olympic could provide some interesting opportunities in March. The place is huge.

Where do you plan to stay? Accommodations range from condos on the hill at Boulder and Stagecoach to the casinos, Hyatt or suites in South Lake Tahoe. Keep in mind that if you want to take a break from skiing in March, that springtime will be in full swing in the California foothills and wine country a short drive away.
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info Cirquerider, that is just what I was looking for. I keep reading complaints about crowds, similar to complaints about Vail - although I rarely if ever have a problem there. Is there truly a problem, or are you able to do OK if you know how to move around the mountain? I have my eye on a couple of houses in South Tahoe, thinking it may be nice to stay somewhere low-key. Where is the best place to access the mountain if you're driving? Is the download on the Gondola at the end of the day terrible? Is it necessary to go over to the Nevada lodges? Thanks again.
post #8 of 19
There are lot of condos and houses along Kingsbury Grade (Nevada Side) that will have good access to Boulder and Stagecoach Lodges. Like Cirquerider said, there is much more to Heavenly than Mott & Killebrew. The tree skiing on the Nevada side is probably some of the best that you find in Tahoe. Avoid staying in Stateline (or So. Lake Tahoe) - unless you want to be close to the action, riding the Gondola - is basically a transportation lift - you will still want to take another lift or two to get to trails on CA side. Nevada lifts provide great access to skiing without going to the top of the mountain. There is great tree skiing right off the Stagecoach lift, which is a plus if it is a stormy day as you can still get in a lot of good skiiing without being at the top of the mountain. However, there is not much nightlife on Kingsbury grade.
post #9 of 19
I don't care to have anything to do with the Gondola unless its a download for lunch. I park at either the Tram/Gunbarrel lifts or at Stagecoach. They are reliable and less crowded. Stagecoach gets you t the best storm-day skiing. The trick to skiing either Nevada or California sides is knowing that its three lifts to the top. This mountain doesn't ski well top to bottom, choose an area and explore it, break for lunch and move to another area. Heavenly is basically four mountains.
Stagecoach/North Bowl/Olympia,
Comet/Dipper/Tamarack Express/Gondola and Mott/Killebrew
Powderhorn/Canyon/Summit
Gunbarrel/Face

Don't bother with Galaxy ever.

Any movement between those areas involves some kind of road that many people call a traverse. Some are better than others. You can spend your whole day going from one area to the next, and if you do, your review of heavenly will be its a borig flat mountain with tons of traverses. Stick to the best of the four areas and you can stay entertained for weeks.
post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider View Post
I don't care to have anything to do with the Gondola unless its a download for lunch. I park at either the Tram/Gunbarrel lifts or at Stagecoach. They are reliable and less crowded. Stagecoach gets you t the best storm-day skiing. The trick to skiing either Nevada or California sides is knowing that its three lifts to the top. This mountain doesn't ski well top to bottom, choose an area and explore it, break for lunch and move to another area. Heavenly is basically four mountains.
Stagecoach/North Bowl/Olympia,
Comet/Dipper/Tamarack Express/Gondola and Mott/Killebrew
Powderhorn/Canyon/Summit
Gunbarrel/Face

Don't bother with Galaxy ever.

Any movement between those areas involves some kind of road that many people call a traverse. Some are better than others. You can spend your whole day going from one area to the next, and if you do, your review of heavenly will be its a borig flat mountain with tons of traverses. Stick to the best of the four areas and you can stay entertained for weeks.
Some great advice right here but Galaxy is getting upgraded soon with a high speed lift so it's great intermediate terrain will actually be skied. Parking at Stagecoach is probably the best decision. I was staying at the Ridge Tahoe which has a gondola connecting to the Stagecoach lifts so I always start and end the day here which I thought was GREAT! Amazing tree skiing and cruisers and some of the best runs on the mountain. The Gondola is supposedly horrible, Boulder isn't too great with two slow lifts just to get to Stagecoach/Olympic area. The California base is dangerous to park at because you either:
1) take the cat track of Roundabout down-- a long hike to and a long flat run down.
2) take the Tram/Gunbarrel Express lift down-- probably the best way
3) take the 1.7k vertical feet double black Gunbarrel mogul run down which has lead to TONS of injuries. Highly not recommended.

So, you probably want to park at Stagecoach.
post #11 of 19
Cirquerider knows his stuff about how to ski Heavenly.

Quote:
Getting back on topic, March is the best ski month in the Sierra.
This is an overgeneralization. March and later can be well predicted by altitude/exposure. The steeper and more north facing, the better for preserving snow well into spring. Mott proper should be a good example. Killebrew is more open and some of it gets morning sun, as does the traverse back to the Mott chair.

Squaw/Alpine are lower and have a wide range of exposures. On warm days the skiing can be great by following the sun around, but if you want winter conditions, it's better to ski those places in January/February.

The upper sectors of Heavenly are a decent bet to still have winter snow in March, while Kirkwood and particularly Mammoth are most reliable in that regard.
post #12 of 19
I would advice you to ski Vail rather than Heavenly in March based on the snow records for Heavenly the last few years. From what i can remember - there has been little to no snow fall in sierra starting March 1st the last few years.

So yes - you will have coverage. But if you are looking for "higher percentage of fresh snow" - I would not choose Heavenly.

Just this morning - i read an article in San jose mercury news about the La Nina effects this year - and how "it might" be similar to last few years with no snow fall in march/april.

However - if you are ok with or enjoy spring skiing - then ignore my post.
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty View Post
I would advice you to ski Vail rather than Heavenly in March based on the snow records for Heavenly the last few years. From what i can remember - there has been little to no snow fall in sierra starting March 1st the last few years.
Uhhh...It snowed EVERY day in March in 2006. An extreme case but Feb/March can be huge months for the Sierras.
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Again, thanks for the info everyone. Does the Stagecoach parking lot ever fill up on weekends?
post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by discobean7 View Post
Again, thanks for the info everyone. Does the Stagecoach parking lot ever fill up on weekends?
If you're not there by 9, 9:30 at the latest you can forget it. You can always park at Boulder and take the bus over. Boulder chair is brutally slow and long.
post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnus_CA View Post
If you're not there by 9, 9:30 at the latest you can forget it. You can always park at Boulder and take the bus over. Boulder chair is brutally slow and long.
Also, Heavenly starts loading the lifts at 8:30 on the weekends so there is no down side to getting there early.
post #17 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by bullhorn View Post
Also, Heavenly starts loading the lifts at 8:30 on the weekends so there is no down side to getting there early.
Getting to the mountain at 8:30 is hard stuff though. But it's better than the 10 o clock opening of JH!
post #18 of 19
Getting to the mountain at 8:30 is hard stuff though. But it's better than the 10 o clock opening of JH!



Are you saying here that Jackson Hole opens at 10am??


OR,..... is the mountain doing this lately because of snow conditions??
post #19 of 19

Killebrew @ Heavenly has some of the steepest and most technical in-bounds couloirs I've ever skied: and that includes Vail, Beaver, Copper, Breck, Steamboat, Taos, Jackson, Sun Valley, Squaw, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood, Wolf Creek, Deer Valley, Snowbird, Alta, &c.

 

 I'm not saying it's the best, only the most challenging. People say Gunbarrel at Heavenly is the most challenging double black in the US. That's hugely untrue. It's long, it gets bumped out and alternates between slush and glaze on the fronts and backs .... but it's hardly worth mentioning. Except to say it's the most direct line down to the base at the end of the day.

 

back to killebrew. I don't know the sequence of gates or the names of the routes unless I look at a map, but most involve a modest cornice drop 2-4 feet into a 12 meter wide chute -- so you better link your first three turns after either an aerial drop or very commited slip drop. I usually do an exageratted pedal hop turn drop and then assess the next 3 turns. I don't have a clineometer, but I'm willing to guess everything in Killebrew is 40° or more. Motts is less, and gets closed a lot making me think it's nearer the 38° magical avalanche number.

 

as far as resorts go, it's hard to get over the views you can get at Heavenly with Lake Tahoe gleaming 4000' below. As far as the skiing: it's just so so. The traversing all over the mountain to chase the sun or the untracked snow will drive you insane. As will the ridiculous lifts and the sense of entitlement novice/intermediate/and advanced skiers seem to aquire as soon as they swoop in front of you (or under a rope) to get on the chair.

 

If you like glades or bowls or really off-piste adventure skiing I would recommend Jackson or Vail or Breck (Snow White and Imperial bowl access is now lift accessible w/o a hike). if you want perfect groomers all day long go to Deer Valley.

 

Squaw is like a little European style piste with not a single named route. Big wide open groomers. Not much super steep stuff. Nice open runs.

 

Alpine Meadows has some of the most enjoyable couloirs I've ever skied -- they are blue in difficulty but rated double black inexplicably; probably because if you can't link a turn you'll run into a 20 foot vertical granite face.

 

my 2 cents. 

 

-- f9a

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by skiking4 View Post

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
I strongly disagree with the Mott comment. It's the early season where it's slow to get covered. Average opening is mid-to-late January. March it's probably open 90% of the time.
I just assumed since it opens pretty late that it doesn't stay open too long. Gate 6 of the Canyon might not be open since it wasn't open except for one day when I went last year during half term (Feb 14-21) due to thin cover as it gets hit by the sun pretty hard and gets less snow than elsewhere on the mountain. Motts does have some 45-50 degree stuff on the opposite of the canyon (Gate 1 with a short traverse to the outer sides of the canyon). And Killebrew Canyon--the adjacent and more steep canyon with the bragging rights to the steepest stuff in Tahoe-- had thin cover when I went but don't know about March though. Heavenly's Mott and Killebrew Canyons are some good stuff though with moderately steep pitches (35 degrees) to some really sick stuff (55 degrees with mandatory cliffs) and probably has harder stuff than Vail.

 

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