For the past two years, we have visited Lake Tahoe for a spring ski trip in April. As much as we love Tahoe and Heavenly Resort, both years were not as memorable as our other ski trips. Looking back, there are several things we would do differently to make our experience more epic. Hopefully, we’ll get it right the third time.
So where did we go wrong? The timing of our trips and our accommodations made the biggest impact on our experience.
Mistake #1: Not Booking a Vail Resorts Property
Last year, we opted to rent a house in South Lake Tahoe since we were spending time with my mom and my husband’s family. It was great to have everyone under one roof, but there were a few downsides. First of all, short term rentals in South Lake are extremely regulated. As someone who lives in an area where STRs are problematic due to a lack of regulations, I completely understand why the rules are incredibly strict. But as a traveler, it was uncomfortable. The rules from parking, to the number of vehicles allowed, to the inability to use the private hot tub after 8 PM made us feel like we were walking on eggshells. It was made clear to us that if we happened to break a rule or get a complaint from a neighbor, we could be fined a minimum of $1000. We ended up spending most of our time out of the house which made us realize, we should have stayed closer to the resort and out of the local neighborhoods.
This year, we decided to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel which was close to the Heavenly gondola yet situated amongst the other casinos on the Nevada side of Tahoe. Since we were meeting with friends and family, we thought it would be fun to reserve several rooms next to each other and assumed the vicinity to the casinos would be fun for everyone. The night we arrived, it was clear that we made a terrible mistake. I rarely complain about accommodations because I believe that you get what you pay for, but this was awful. First of all, our beds had no sheets! I spoke with housekeeping to let them know that our beds had no fitted sheets and the response was “we ran out of sheets”. What the hell? What kind of hotel runs out of sheets?? When we made the complaint to the front desk, they sent up a very irritated housekeeper who then made our beds with king-sized flat sheets. Again, what kind of hotel runs out of sheets?
In addition to the bedding issue, there were several maintenance issues. The latch on the window that was supposed to stop the window from completely opening was broken. My 8-year-old was able to open our window all the way and scared the crap out of me since we were on the 8th floor. There was a constant noise coming out of the walls that continued to wake us up in the middle of the night (I later learned it was due to our proximity to the elevator). The lights flickered in the bathroom and the wall around the shower head was so cracked that the shower head looked like it was about to burst out of the wall.
In addition to the maintenance issues, the hotel was not friendly for skiers. There was a ski shop located in the hotel that was supposed to open at 7:30 AM yet didn’t open until 9:30. We wanted to get our boards waxed since the snow was super slushy and we ended up waiting for 2 hours for the shop to open. To add insult to injury, I purchased a small Herschel bag when I paid for my wax. After I left the shop, the cashier mentioned to my mother in law that she didn’t think I paid for the bag. I was so offended that I went back to the shop and showed the girl my receipt. In addition to the issues with the ski shop, the valet refused to hold all of our ski gear for us. I found that to be so odd because that’s never an issue for other places. At the end of our trip, it was hard to justify paying a $35/night resort fee for all the issues and no amenities.
I thought back to our time at Beaver Creek Resort and our amazing stay at The Pines Lodge which is a part of Vail Resorts. Not only was the hotel amazing, but the partnership with Vail created a very accommodating and comfortable experience for us. I couldn’t help but think that if we had stayed at a hotel associated with Heavenly, we would have had a better time.
Mistake #2: Visiting Late in the Season
The next issue was our timing. Last year, we took our trip around April when there was a significant drought in both California and Colorado. It was a pretty terrible winter for everyone so we didn’t think much of the lack of snow during our first visit. This year, we had an incredible winter in Colorado that Tahoe slipped our minds and we ended up booking late in April. Although it was also a great winter for California and Nevada, by the time we visited, the California side of the mountain was already closed. Next time, we will definitely book in the middle of winter to enjoy all that Heavenly has to offer. The runs that were available were awesome and the views are fantastic up there, but it was definitely a bummer not being able to see the entire resort.
Lesson learned! Next year, we’ll be visiting in early winter and we will definitely stay at a Vail Resort Property. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.