At 8:30 this morning, the ski season opens in South Lake Tahoe. With snow-making in full gear, Heavenly Mountain Resort has officially opened its runs to this season’s avid skiers and snow boarders.
Lake Tahoe, which lies 6,225 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada, is about a four-hour drive from the Bay Area. The lake’s location — between California and Nevada — in many ways reflects its split personality.
The South Shore is bustling, pedestrian-friendly and home to Heavenly Mountain (and a cluster of casinos, hotels, restaurants and night clubs on the Nevada boarder); the North Shore, in contrast, is dotted with small towns (Tahoe City, Truckee to name a few), ski resorts (Squaw, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Alpine Meadows) and a pristine national forest.
South Shore makes room for a chateau
This year, expect some major changes to the South Shore — both on the slopes and along its main drag, U.S. Highway 50.
As you drive into South Lake Tahoe, the first thing you will notice is that all of the souvenir shops that lined the street across from the Heavenly Gondola are gone. Yes, gone —no more dream-catcher earrings or “South Lake Tahoe for Obama” T-shirts.
Make room for the Chateau at Heavenly Village, an 11.53-acre redevelopment that will include two luxury condo-hotels, a 16,000-square-foot destination spa, a 50,000-square-foot conference and events center, a 1.5-acre outdoor park, a collection of shops and restaurants, underground valet parking (under construction) — oh, and great lake views.
Did I mention location? The Chateau will sit within 50 yards of Heavenly Village. An elevated walkway from the Chateau has been proposed to provide guests access to the Heavenly gondola. In addition, the new luxury resort will be just another few yards to Harveys and Harrah’s hotel casinos.
The $420 million project, scheduled to be completed by the 2009 winter season, will be operated by Vail Resorts’ subsidiary RockResorts, which also operates several luxury resorts in Colorado, including the Hotel Jerome in Aspen; the Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek ; Keystone Lodge & Spa in Keystone; the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in the Vail Valley; the Lodge at Vail in Vail.
In terms of design, I was told that the Chateau will feature modern touches over rustic materials to create an alpine feel with a modern twist.
For more information, visit www.chateauheavenlyvillage.com.
A new lift at Heavenly: Olympic Express
South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Mountain Resort, which began construction on its new Olympic Express high-speed quad chairlift in July, is complete and ready for ski season — enabling skiers and snow boarders to have high-speed access to underutilized, mid-mountain Nevada terrain.
The new 79-chair lift will provide visitors with access to the Olympic Downhill trail — as well as four new trails and Nevada Woods, one of the best tree-skiing areas in North America.
The lift, which will move at1,000 feet per minute with a 2,400 person capacity per hour, will also provide a much faster way to access East Peak Lodge from both Nevada base areas — Stagecoach and Boulder lodges.
In terms of travel time, visitors are looking at a three-and-a-half minute ride to the slopes — compared to the former two-person Olympic chair lift, which took 11 minutes to reach the same destination. Bottom line: more ski time, less time spent on a slow-moving chair.
The four new trails to look for are Cloud Nine, an intermediate level groomed trail that is perfect for wide-open cruising; The Pines, a groomed, intermediate-level trail that allows skiers and riders to cruise around islands of Western White Pines; Bohemian Grove, an advanced, gladed run that is steeper, ungroomed and offers a more natural tree-skiing feel; and Nova, an intermediate-level trail that will run along the Dipper Express chair line to connect Orion to the base of Dipper Express.
Although not new, Nevada Woods is the all-natural, full-tilt tree skiing run that made this area legendary. Nevada Woods is only for the expert skier or rider.
Lake Tahoe’s first zip line to open mid-December
Alas, it’s here. Heavenly Mountain Resort will be opening the Heavenly Flyer ZipRider, an elevated zip line cable ride that will take guests on a 50-mile-an-hour thrill from the top of Tamarack Express to the top of the Gondola — with a vertical drop of 525 feet.
Located at the resort’s Adventure Peak, the Heavenly Flyer will be the longest ZipRider in the lower 48 U.S. states — and will be opened year-round. The resort expects it to be fully operational by the middle of next month.
For more information on the new lift and the zip line cable ride, visit www.skiheavenly.com.
What: Season pass at Heavenly Mountain Resort
How much: $369, before Dec. 16
Why: If you ski more than a few times, this pass will pay for itself. In addition to being valid seven days per week during the 2007-08 season. Note: there are blackout dates. For more information, visit www.skiheavenly.com.
IF MONEY IS NO OBJECT
What: Women’s adventure clinics at Heavenly Mountain Resort
How much: $545 for a three-day clinic (with lift ticket)
Why: Women’s workshops at Heavenly are led and organized by Lauren Thomaselli, one of Ski Magazine’s top 100 pros. Lauren is a PSIA level 3 instructor and a resort pro staff trainer who has put together a team of Lake Tahoe’s top female ski and snowboard instructors to provide women with the most enjoyable experience on snow. With a ratio of five students to one pro, the program features four hours of on-snow training, video analysis, an après-ski wine and cheese party, and an evening “tech talk.” For more information, call (775) 586-4400.
IF YOU GO
WHERE TO SKI OR SNOWBOARD: Heavenly Mountain Resort; for opening day information and snow reports, visit www.skiheavenly.com.
WHETHER YOU SKI OR NOT: A view of spectacular Lake Tahoe from the Heavenly gondola is always a thrill. The 138 eightpassenger cars travel from the middle of downtown South Lake Tahoe straight up the mountain.
FOR A NEW ADVENTURE: Visit Heavenly Mountain’s Adventure Peak. Here, visitors can choose from several outdoor activities. For more information, visit www.skiheavenly.com/mountain/adventure_peak.
WHERE TO EAT ORGANIC: Last month, Heavenly Mountain Resort announced that it would be going organic. For the 2007-08 ski season, expect to see natural, hormone-free meats and poultry and organic dairy products in its seven on-mountain restaurants.