Heavenly, California: Rank 25 West, 1997

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Heavenly, like many things immense, is a series of splendid oxymorons. The resort is tough to look at, incredible to look from. Unless you're 30,000 feet in the air, you see little of its nine peaks and 20 square miles ofskiing. "Lake, mountain and desert views are awesome," says a reader. With 3,000 feet of vertical and every imaginable pitch and exposure, there's terrain and snow for both languid cruisers and alpine extremists. With light slanting in, runningHeavenly's vast glades is like skiing inside a cathedral. Exploring Heavenly in one day is fruitless. You'll spend all your time "getting there." Instead, see this bi-state giant as five areas in one: Upper, Middle and Lower California and Upper and Lower Nevada. Choose one and ski it for the day. You'll never cross your tracks. For all of its magnificence, Heavenly doesn't have a ski-town feel. South Lake Tahoe, a city of 35,000, is a mini-Las Vegas. Shopping, gaming, dining and entertainment make après-ski elbow-rubbing varied and fun. Less than half the winter guests in town are there to ski. Obviously they don't know what they're missing.

What's New The American Skiing Company's purchase of the resort, with plans for resort improvements not yet clear; the 3,564-foot, six-passenger, detatchable Tamarak Express, which is Phase I of a master plan that includes a gondola to whisk visitors directly out of the downtown hotel/casino core.
A Good Deal All-you-can-eat gourmet buffets at Harrah's and Caesar's Tahoe.
Don't Miss Outdoor barbecues on the mountain. To find one follow your nose. Buy burgers, steak or chicken and grill it yourself. Or bring your own fixin's. Heavenly provides the fire.
Medals Gold Apres-Ski , Off-Hill Activities; Silver Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Lifts Weather, Accessibility, Lodging.
High/Low Rank Apres-Ski (4); Value (63).
Reader Remarks "Great tree skiing, mogul runs¿a slice of heaven." "Expensive and crowded. Needs more Needs more high-speed quads."