From the mid-mountain observation deck of Heavenly's new gondola, you can scan Lake Tahoe and see all this summer paradise has to offer: world-class boating and fishing, equally outstanding golfing at Edgewood Country Club, mountain biking on backcountry trails and hiking in the Sierra Nevada.
While the populous South Shore of Lake Tahoe is frequently panned for its high-rise casinos and wall-to-wall neon, this is the gateway to a remarkable network of hiking trails in Desolation Wilderness. Here you'll find 63,475 acres of pine forests, granite peaks and glacier-carved valleys, some as spectacular as those in Yosemite National Park.
But Heavenly's trump card is indisputably the lake. Board a "water taxi" at Echo Lake Marina, and scoot across to the Pacific Crest Trail. As you climb, a stunning panorama of alpine lakes surrounds you. On the summit is massive Lake Aloha, a vast crescent of granite-rimmed pools (bring your swimsuit!) surrounded by several peaks reaching up to 10,000 feet. You'll think you have hiked to heaven.
DON'T MISSMountain biking on the historic Flume Trail, which parallels Tahoe high atop a series of cliffs. At Spooner Lake, trail founder Max Jones (775-749-5349) rents bikes and runs a return shuttle from the trail terminus at Incline Village.
BEST DEALl Get two nights' lodging, a scenic gondola ride and a choice of one activity, such as a half-day bike rental, a paddle-wheeler cruise to Emerald Bay or a one-hour kayak rental. Prices start at $99 per person, double occupancy. Call 800-243-2836, or visit www.skiheavenly.com.