Touched by a Heavenly Angel

A lesson in après from skiing's first go-go dancers

Heavenly's Angels are no 1994 TV drama. PHOTO: Heavenly Ski Resort
Heavenly’s Angels. Not the 1994 TV drama. PHOTO: Heavenly Ski Resort

Shannon Malmstedt started dancing in 2011 to pay for her nursing degree at University of Nevada at Reno. But, before we take that trip down Cliché Lane, let’s just say that this story is different—well, sort of. There is definitely some go-go involved, but Malmstedt, 34, doesn’t moonlight clubs in the Biggest Little City. Instead, the entertainer’s talents brought her up the hill to South Lake Tahoe, where she became a member of the most unique attraction in après skiing, Heavenly Resort’s Heavenly Angels. Now in their third season, the Angels are a group of dancing snow bunnies that bring the crowds (Comet Cats and Face Rats not included) to Unbuckle Lounge, a mid-mountain dance club that operates from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. every weekend in the winter. That’s right—Après. Dance. Club. Skiers by day, groove machines by twilight, the Angels are the keystone of a growing après push that, among other things, features a Snowcat DJ booth (dubbed the DJ Kat). At a resort where entertainment is truly king, Malmstedt is hard at work turning night moves into the unlikeliest of ski careers.

How does a Tahoe local get involved in something like this?
Well I moved here in 2005, so I guess you could call me a Tahoe local now. Angels creator Jess Broyles and I had done some work with her production company and she approached me when the first season started to be a part of it. We did the Warren Miller movies that year, and it took off from there.

So were there tryouts for this gig?
This season was actually the first year that we held auditions. Before it was just local girls that had worked at some of the local clubs, but this year we had auditions because we added an outdoor stage, so we needed a few more girls. They were actually a lot of fun.

I’m picturing girls dancing in ski boots, am I totally off here?
Ah, well the Angels aren’t—we wear furry white boots and wings—but there’s a lot of ski boots on the dance floor. Once you hear the music and the vibe going on, you just get after it.

Are there any tips to dancing in hard shell plastic?
Just lean forward! No, but seriously, it’s all about letting loose and just going with the flow of the music.

From what I’m gathering, people are into this.
You can’t go to another mountain resort that does this. It’s an aspect some people are looking for. We get a ton of bachelor parties, lots of international guests. There’s also a bunch of Texans—those guys are a good time.

Are there a lot of Angels?
At any one time there’s three Angels dancers inside, three outside, and three promo girls, but there’s a pretty solid rotation of girls.

Now in addition to the dancing aspect, you’re all billed as ‘ripping skiers.’ What’s your ski background?
My mom was really into skiing, so she would take my sister and me out of school and play hooky to go to Lee Canyon (currently Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort outside of Sin City). There’s just a freedom associated with skiing, you can really get places and enjoy a day on the hill.

Fill in the blank: When Shannon’s not partying at Unbuckled, you can find her…
You can find me at Mott or Killebrew Canyon. That’s are our steep and deep. When you’re back there it’s quiet and there is so much to explore.

Are you out there shredding in Angels gear?
Nope, nope, that’s just on weekends. I do have a pink Angels jacket though.

Do people recognize you out on the hill?
Yeah, I even have people down in town stopping me. I had a girl the other day asking me if I was an Angel, and then telling me how much fun she had at Unbuckle. Our reputation is definitely starting to make us more recognizable. We get people that come up here every weekend, and know that we’re growing. They definitely keep an eye out.

I’m noticing a lack in male participation, are there any Dude Angels?
We actually hired on one male this year. He’s a break dancer.

Hmm, definitely room for more. When are tryouts again?
September or October, usually right before the season.

So, see you in October?
Sounds good!