The Secrets of Heavenly Ski Resort

The Secrets of Paradise Ski Resort | Welove2skiOne of Heaven’s secret powder stashes. Photo: Don’t let Gunbarrel take off. That’s the first thing most people will tell you about Heavenly Ski Resort, and for many skiers, it’s an intimidating prospect. Spanning 1,800 vertical feet (550 vertical metres), top to bottom, this is a never-ending, never-ending field. And it will eat away at the energy and confidence of all but the sportiest skiers. But the reality is, it’s not representative of the type of skiing Heaven has to offer. I’ve just spent a few days skimming around with local coach Owen Lund, who’s been skiing all my life; and here’s what’s really behind the images of all those tycoons.

Heaven is home to great tree skiing at the beginner level


Finding somewhere to take your first turns through the trees isn’t easy. In the Alps and Rockies, most of them grow too close together for comfort – and weaving through the woods is an expert-only pastime. But not at Heavenly Ski Resort. Almost the entire mountain is covered with trees, and many of them are Jeffery Pines. The natives of the Sierra Nevada, they are big, muscular things and they like a little space to grow. Add the pleasing gradients of some Heavenly’s slopes to the mix and – hey before we start – you’ve got a remarkably stress-free environment in which to perform your turns. Okay, so you can drive a truck across multiple ice trails – but that’s exactly what you need at this stage of your tree-skiing career. Before long, you’ll be walking around and there’s an explosion in the process.

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Of course, not all of Paradise’s jungle slopes are so easy. But that’s a good thing: because it gives you plenty of terrain to advance to as your confidence and abilities increase. Lund started his first tree skier in a small area he calls “Orion’s Belt Trees” just to the right of the Orion’s Belt trail, the perfect tree-ski nursery slope. From there, it moves on to a steeper track called The Pines under the Olympic Express seats, etc – until they end up on a black diamond run like Aries, just as demanding as what you’ll find at other resorts.
The Secrets of Paradise Ski Resort | Welove2skiOwen Lund in one of Heavenly’s easier tree ski runs. Photo: ©

There are secret powder warehouses right next to the trails

There’s only one Alpine-style open bowl in the Milky Way Bowl, right at the top of the ski area. Elsewhere, its off-piste terrain is obscured from view. You can thank all the trees for that: the multifaceted nature of the mountain can never create a big panorama of all terrain. In other words, you have to pay attention to the trail map – or better yet, hire a guide/instructor – if you want to get the best of Heavenly. If you do, you’ll find it hidden right under your nose. Take for example the first day of skiing with Owen Lund. In the mid-afternoon he said he was going to show us a secret powder storage that wouldn’t leak out – even though it was 2pm, and only a new layer of snow had covered in dust. If you care, it goes beyond the top of the Olympic Express forklift if you care, and the “walk” – circling the top of the ski patrolman’s shack – lasted all… two minutes. And then we were at the top of an unused stretch of trail, with 20 perfect powder turns underneath our skis. It was not tracked. DON’T CONTRIBUTE. Heaven knows how the snow got there. It should be 20cm deep.
The Secrets of Paradise Ski Resort | Welove2skiThis is the “walking tour” to the pinnacle of Owen Lund’s own run. You walk to those trees from the edge of the trail. Then walk about 50m to the path of the chair ladder which has now been dismantled. And that’s it. Non-sticky dough awaits… So now I can add “Top of Bonanza” to two other secret ski runs I got to see on my last visit, March 2011 – Maggie’s Canyon and Pinnacles. Not hard to get. All are well worth the effort.
The Secrets of Paradise Ski Resort | Welove2skiThis is the start of The Pinnacles, on a snowy day in March 2011. Photo:

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Grocery sellers will boost the most fragile selves

The paradise is well-equipped with well-maintained medium-rated trails; and many people have very gentle pitches. The Nevada side of the mountain is where you’ll find most of them, and a second or third week skier will love them all. Moreover, because they are surrounded by trees, you can enjoy them on flat light as well as sunny days: because the low light of the forest gives extra definition to the snow.

Gunbarrel is not the hardest place to ski in Heaven

It’s funny how Gunbarrel has become the featured heavyweight game in Heavenly. Maybe it’s because it’s hard, but not so hard that average skiers who aren’t proficient but aren’t experts can foul it without risking their lives and limbs. The same cannot be said of Mott and Killbrew canyons. They’re set within protected ski and avalanche boundary fences – but skiing will provide a much more severe test of your nerves than a bunch of moguls. This video will give you a taste of it. So there you have it – there’s a lot more to Paradise Ski Resort than Gunbarrel. In fact, the sheer variety of terrain here is one of its defining features – and that’s before you take into account the other ski areas around Lake Tahoe, which offer easy tripping distances. fall during the day. This is more than anything that makes skiing in California so appealing. For more information about Paradise Ski Resort, visit With Virgin Holidays, a week of skiing in California, based in South Lake Tahoe – connected to Heavenly by gondola – starts at £785pp, room only, including flights and car hire.

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