Not everyone skis or snowboards. Some are too young, some are too old and some just don’t like to. There’s no crime in being in this demographic, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the snow at Lake Tahoe.
Heavenly Mountain Resort — Lake Tahoe’s largest ski and snowboarding resort, which covers terrain that straddles California and Nevada — has figured out how to not only make this group welcome, but it has created a fun-for-all-ages experience: tubing, sledding and hanging out midmountain on a hill of Adirondack chairs.
Heavenly’s gondola — located in the center of South Lake Tahoe within walking distance of several hotels, lodges and resorts — is the starting point for those wishing to go tubing, sledding or hanging out midmountain to take in a perfect view of the lake.
Located a half-block west of the California and Nevada state line, the Gondola takes guests in eight-passenger cabins 2.4 miles up the mountain in 12 minutes. Visitors can choose to stop at the observation deck — a 14,000-square-foot midstation observation platform for views of the Carson Valley, Desolation Wilderness and shore-to-shore views of Lake Tahoe — or continue to Adventure Peak, where the resort’s tubing-and-sledding areas are. Also in this area is the resort’s new LEED-certified Tamarack Lodge — which has an impressive food court as well as a full bar — and the Adventure Peak ticket office, a small hut near the hills that issue tubing and sledding times.
Here, you can reserve time slot and purchase a tubing pass ($30 per hour, for anyone more than 42 inches tall) or a sledding pass ($10 per hour, for kids 6 years old and under). For all others, no additional tickets are required, and the resort has set up dozens of brightly colored, plastic Adirondack chairs, from which you can watch the tubing and sledding.
For those wishing to tube, the requirement is that you must be more than 42 inches tall, and you must be able to tube by yourself. Also, you should dress like you are going to go skiing or riding — snow pants, waterproof winter coat, warm ski socks and waterproof winter boots. Tubing in jeans is fine, too; however, midmountain is colder than base elevation at the gondola. Heavenly provides the use of an inflated snow tube.
When it’s your time to tube, you’ll be instructed to pick out a tube, and getting in line to board the covered tubing lift — technically not a tow, but a magic carpet — that will transport you and your tube to the top of the tubing hill, which has a 65-foot vertical drop and four tubing lanes that are 500 feet long. On the day I went a few weeks ago, it took about 10 minutes for me to get from the bottom of the tubing hill to the top and wait my turn; riding down the tubing hill is very fast — with speedbumps toward the end to slow you down — and probably took about 10 seconds.
Note: Guests can only tube during their designated time, and during popular times — such as spring break or holiday weekends — tubing tickets will sell out early in the day. During these times, it is highly advised to arrive early. Heavenly requires riders must be more than 42 inches tall to tube — and from experiencing it firsthand — this experience is very fast and thrilling, and not meant for little kids who can’t tube by themselves. For those under 6, the sledding hill adjacent to the tubing hill is perfect.
Like tubing, sledding at Heavenly also requires a time-stamped ticket for the rider. The sledding hill — located directly next to the tubing hill — has two sledding lanes, and Heavenly providers riders use of a sledding saucer. Like tubing, dress as if you planned to go skiing. Unlike tubing, the lines here go very quickly — and within an hour’s time, a sled rider could easily glide down the hill more than 20 times. Also, there is no sledding lift here; all riders must walk the hill. The sledding run is fast — not as slick as the tubing hill — and with the slightest spin of the saucer, the rider can spin all the way down the hill.
Happy hour and a spectacular view of Lake Tahoe
Tamarack Lodge — Heavenly Mountain Resort’s newest 14,720-square-foot restaurant and lodge at the top of the Gondola — is offering a happy hour daily from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. with half-price food and drinks as well as live music. For more information, visit www.skiheavenly.com/the-mountain/adventurepeakwinter.aspx.
A great meal — and view — in South Lake Tahoe
$25 to $40 per entree
Located on the 19th floor of Harvey’s hotel, 19 Kitchen + Bar opened in 2005, and recently launched a new menu. Offering dramatic views of the lake, the restaurant serves dinner nightly. Note: Make reservations. For more information, visit www.harveystahoe.com/casinos/harveys-lake-tahoe/restaurants-dining/19-kitchen-bar-detail.html.
— Kathleen Jay
If You Go
South Lake Tahoe is located approximately 180 miles from the Bay Area. The area is most-easily accessed by car, but taking a bus or flying into Reno, where you can take an airport shuttle is also an option.
Where to stay
The following accommodations are within walking distance to Heavenly’s gondola, which will transport you to midmountain, the location of the tubing and sledding hills, as well as the resort’s new Tamarack Lodge.
Marriot Timberlodge: www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/rnotl-marriotts-timber-lodge
Embassy Suites South Lake Tahoe: embassysuites.hilton.com/LakeTahoe
Harvey’s Lake Tahoe: www.harveystahoe.com
Harrah’s Hotel and Casino: www.harrahslaketahoe.com
Riding Heavenly’s gondola: adults $34, seniors and teens $28, children (5-12) $21, kids 4 and under are free
Tubing: $30 per hour; riders must be at least 42 inches to tube
Sledding: $10 per hour (6 years old and under)