Heavenly to break ground on summer additions
The Union news service
Summer recreation opportunities at the top of the Heavenly Gondola could become more diverse by fall.
Heavenly Mountain Resort plans to start construction on two ropes courses, a canopy tour and a zip line by mid-June. The offerings should be open to the public by the end of August or in time for the 2013-14 winter season, according to a press release.
“We’re throwing our muscle into summer right now because we feel its our biggest opportunity,” Heavenly General Manager Pete Sonntag said.
The resort hopes to keep the activities open year-round, weather permitting, according to the release. New hiking trails have also been proposed but won’t be built this summer, Sonntag said.
There’s discussion to replace the current rock climbing wall with a permanent, much larger structure by Tamarack Lodge, but Sonntag said the resort is still waiting for U.S. Forest Service approval. Climbing walls are not specifically mentioned in the 2011 Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, which permits year-round activities at ski areas.
The new 1,000-foot zip line will be about a third the size of the Heavenly Flyer, the resort’s existing zip line that closed indefinitely about four years ago.
In August 2009, Mark Dickson, 51, was riding the Tamarack Express chairlift down from the top of the adjacent Heavenly Flyer with his wife when the 3,100-foot zip line’s retrieval rope broke and became entangled in the chairlift, causing Dickson to fall approximately 50 feet. Dickson’s wife survived.
Heavenly was named as a defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from the incident, according to previous reports.
The new, four-line zip line center will run parallel to the Big Easy chairlift, and the landing platform will be located near Tamarack Lodge. There’s no connection between the new structure and the Flyer, Sonntag said.
A permanent outdoor amphitheater at the Mid-Station Observation Deck is also included in the summer additions. The new terrace will seat about 150 people for weddings, private parties and company meetings throughout the summer.
Sonntag wouldn’t say how much the Heavenly improvements will cost, but Vail Resorts Inc. posted a 30.5 percent increase in net income for the 2013 second quarter, and its capital expenditure plan for the year includes $25 million in spending for the first phase of its new summer operations.
“Strong visitation and increases in guest spending supported revenue growth in all our major lines of businesses,” according to the company’s second-quarter earnings release. “Ski school and dining revenues benefited from a 56.1 percent increase in skier visitation at our Tahoe resorts (including Kirkwood, which was acquired in April 2012), which experienced significantly better snowfall and weather conditions during the current year fiscal quarter compared to the same period in the prior year.”
The resort hasn’t yet posted prices for each of the summer actives, but Sonntag said the goal is to develop packages that could include lift tickets and access to the courses. This year’s gondola ticket, which includes access to the Tamarack Lift, costs $38 per adult.
“We’re sensitive to having our guests feel like they’re being nickel and dimed,” Sonntag said. “The package is our goal.”
“We’re the introduction of getting people into the forest,” he said.
Heavenly Spokesman Russ Pecoraro estimated the additions will add between 40 and 50 new jobs during the summer.
Axie Navas is a staff writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of The Union.
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