"Under New Management," reads a figurative sign in front of this massive resort astride the California/Nevada state line at Lake Tahoe. Last spring, Vail Resorts, Inc., acquired Heavenly. That comes as a relief to many Heavenly devotees. One complains that "lack of cash has hurt the quality of operations." Indeed, the last owners siphoned off profits to capitalize other resorts. Vail, however, plans to improve Heavenly-to the tune of $40 million over five years-and will bring capital and energy to one of the most varied and scenic ski complexes on Earth. "Heavenly was worth the trip, if only to stand at the summit and look at the lake," says one awed reader. "Great terrain and plenty to do after skiing." Some whine, though, about getting around the huge resort. "Take your map," advises a reader, "because it's big" (3,500 acres). Snow at Heavenly "gets measured in feet, not inches," while mild weather and wide groomed runs make Heavenly an ideal place to improve your technique. Several of SKI's Top 100 Instructors reside here. Proximity to the downtown casino core permits 24-hour entertainment, shopping and dining, and the list of activities is all but endless. The bear that's Heavenly has been in semi-hibernation, but the grizzly is awakening and stretching its limbs again. -S.C.
WHAT'S NEW The $250 million Heavenly Village finally makes its debut in December, featuring 800 rooms in two Marriotts, specialty shops, a multiplex theater, skating rink and gaslit brick walking paths.
A GOOD DEAL As a reader sagely advises: "Eat cheap and party cheap at the Vegas-like casinos."
MEDALS GOLD Challenge, Access, Après, Off-Hill Activities, Scenery; Silver Snow, Grooming, Terrain, Weather, Lodging, Dining, Family Programs.
HIGH/LOW RANK Scenery (3), Off-Hill Activities (4), Après (5); Lifts (44), Value (45), Service (45).
DON'T MISS Even nonskiers can ride the 2.4-mile gondola up to the heart of Heavenly in less than 12 minutes. The view is unrivaled.
READER REMARKS (+) "Great mountain, great snow, great vistas." "Even the workers seem to be happy." (-) "Crummy on-mountain lodges." "Easy to get lost." "Too crowded on weekends."
Great Lodging Deals here.