While Spring officially begins in March, that doesn’t mean your ski season has to be over. While the snow had long melted in the Carolinas, where my husband and I call home, we weren’t quite ready to put our skis away for the season. We decided to head west to Lake Tahoe for one last ski trip. We decided to book our trip for the weekend of April 9, the second-to-last week of the season for most resorts, although some resorts extended their seasons.
Heavenly Ski Resort
Our first stop was Heavenly Ski Resort on the border of Nevada and California. We chose Heavenly because the resort is large, offering plenty of diverse terrain to keep us entertained for multiple days of skiing. We also liked the idea of skiing in both Nevada and California. As solid intermediate skiers, we need resorts that have a lot of blue terrain, since expert terrain isn’t exactly in our wheelhouse just yet. We decided to take a lesson on our first day of skiing to get a feel for the mountain and learn how to be more efficient skiers, with the hope of hitting a few black diamond runs by the end of our trip.
Having never taken a professional ski lesson, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I’m glad we did! In addition to learning some valuable tips that made skiing way less exhausting, we also learned strategies for dealing with the slightly slushy late season snow and got a general sense of some good runs to try. Ask any Heavenly guide and they’ll tell you that their intermediate runs are “true blue,” which means they are truly intermediate runs and neither on the easier or harder side. We found this to be the case, which was refreshing, as we never second-guessed which slope to do because we felt confident on all of them. The best part was that pretty much no matter which run you chose, you were treated to some incredible views of Lake Tahoe!
We found that the snow was easiest to navigate in the morning, even if it was a little icy, compared to the slushy conditions in the afternoon. The best part of late season skiing was that none of the runs were ever crowded, and we virtually never waited for more than a few minutes for a lift. This made us more confident in attempting some black diamond runs, so we asked a guide for their recommendations and set off to conquer our second, third, and fourth black diamonds ever.
Heavenly is a great resort if you’re looking for the “big resort” experience. There are numerous dining options located all over the mountain, plus a wide variety of lifts and terrain. Finding lodging is easy in South Lake Tahoe, and you’ll have access to plenty of après ski options (a very important part of any ski trip, of course). However, after a couple of days, my husband and I decided to venture north to Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, the “Spring Skiing Capital” and home to one of the longest ski seasons in the United States.
Squaw Valley & Alpine Meadows
Squaw Valley was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics and remains an important training ground for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team. The resort is home to a massive gondola that takes you up and over a mountain to access beginner and intermediate terrain, of which there is plenty. The intermediate runs at Squaw Valley are more advanced than those at Heavenly, but one huge plus about Squaw Valley is that the resort has created a guide for skiers who are new to the resort and want to ensure that they are choosing runs suited to their abilities. The guide offers several different “programs” that bring the skier through a series of runs that gradually progress in difficulty so that you can ensure you’re ready for the next step. Of all of the many different runs we tried, our favorites by far were the multitude of trails in the Shirley Lake area on the back side of Squaw. Although popular, the trails never felt crowded, and as was the case at Heavenly, the lift lines were short.
Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows isn’t known for its beginner and intermediate terrain, although there is plenty. These resorts boast some of the most challenging expert terrain in the Lake Tahoe area, making it prime training ground for the best of the best. Don’t be surprised if you spot Olympians, as Squaw Valley is one of the main training spots for the U.S. Olympic Team. The resort has a decidedly less corporate feel than Heavenly, although it’s still well run. It feels, in the best possible way, a bit more like your local ski resort than a destination for international travelers. The weather was warm on the day we visited, and many people skied in short sleeves, tank tops, or even less, taking advantage of the warm weather. Although the resort closed on May 16 for the 2020-2021 season, previous years have seen the lifts stay open until July!
If you’re looking for mild temperatures with incredible scenery and diverse terrain, you can’t choose a better spring skiing destination than Lake Tahoe. While some runs and lifts at both resorts were closed by the time we made the trip in mid-April, we got more than our fair share of skiing.
What to Wear
I was completely comfortable in my KÜHL AKKOMPLICE KREW base layer and a tank top at Squaw Valley, while in Heavenly I wore my AKKOMPLICE KREW base layer and DEFLEKTR HYBRID SHELL. Make sure you dress in layers, bring your sunscreen, and enjoy the final weeks of the season!
Danielle Cemprola is a freelance writer, marathoner x 52 and world traveler. Danielle and her husband, AJ, love to hike, travel, and eat their way across the planet. She’s a self-described carry-on enthusiast who loves challenging herself to pack for any trip, no matter the length or destination, in a carry-on bag. When Danielle’s not flying the friendly skies, you’re likely to find her working at her day job as an environmental scientist – hey, someone needs to pay for all those plane tickets!