- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2003

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Buoyed by a hefty infusion of cash from its new owner, Heavenly Ski Resort wants to climb into the top 10 of the nation’s ski areas, becoming a destination resort instead of a day-use facility.

“We know we’ve got a winner on our hands,” Vail Resorts Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron told a recent gathering at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in neighboring Lake Tahoe (formerly Stateline), Nev.

“There are 700 ski resorts in North America and 500 in the United States,” he said. “All five of ours are in the top 15.”

The October issue of Ski magazine ranked Heavenly 13th, up four spots from last year’s list.

“The bear that’s Heavenly has been in semi-hibernation, but the grizzly is awakening and stretching its limbs again,” the magazine said.

Vail Resorts, based in Vail, Colo., bought Heavenly in May 2002 from financially struggling American Skiing Co., now of Park City, Utah.

Vail since has spent more than $16 million to add and upgrade restaurants, improve snow making and build a high-speed detachable quad chairlift. When it bought the resort, Vail said it would spend about $40 million over five years to improve Heavenly.

“This year, we’ll continue improving our food and beverage operations, the on-mountain infrastructure and our guest service, all of which should help to continue propelling us to a higher level in the eyes of our guests,” says Blaise Carrig, Heavenly’s chief operating officer.

“We need to work harder on the people side to get where we are going,” he says.

Heavenly’s partnership with the exclusive Marriott Grand Residence Club time shares in South Lake Tahoe and the upscale shops and restaurants in nearby Heavenly Village are helping solidify its goal of becoming a destination resort, Mr. Aron says.

Next on the improvements list is the aging California Lodge, which is scheduled to be replaced with upgraded facilities, possibly in a village concept mirroring the Marriott property.

Eating areas also are targeted for improvement.

“Some of the restaurants were a little bit tired, and we’re giving three of them a face-lift,” Mr. Aron says.

Heavenly, which straddles the Nevada-California line, soars about 3,000 feet above Lake Tahoe, whose surface elevation is 6,225 feet above sea level. (Heavenly receives about 360 inches of snow each year and already has seen almost two feet of new snow.)

Heavenly operates 29 lifts and a gondola with eight-passenger cabins that takes skiers 2.4 miles from just west of the casino area in less than 12 minutes. The gondola base is between the Marriott Grand Residences and Marriott’s Timber Lodge on U.S. Route 50, just west of the California-Nevada line.

It is Vail’s first resort outside Colorado. The others are Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone.

• • •

Information about Heavenly Ski Resort is available at www.skiheavenly.com or by calling 800/2-HEAVEN. A restricted season pass with blackout dates around Thanksgiving weekend, Christmas week and Presidents Day week, costs $299 if purchased before Nov. 30; unrestricted costs $499 before Nov. 30 and $899 after that. More information about Vail Resorts is available from www.vailresorts.com or by calling 970/845-2500.

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