As the Bull Wheel Turns | Checking out Heavenly and Northstar
Special to the Tribune
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Vail & Associates hosted a special double-whammy media tour March 12 that featured skiing and riding snow at both resorts on one day.
The tour started by meeting at the Heavenly Gondola at 7:30 a.m. to ride up for First Tracks. I was able to join the tour, after completing my radio ski report, on the mountain where conditions were in great shape with all lifts turning and the entire mountain open on plenty of snow from 99 inches to 132 inches. Guides from Heavenly’s Pro Ski & Snowboard School lead skiers and riders to runs on both sides of the mountain with the advance group also skiing in Mott Canyon.
We were treated to snow tubing as well at Adventure Peak at the top of the Heavenly Gondola.
The snow tubing hill features a unique covered moving carpet lift leading to some hooting and hollering snow-tubing lanes. We were also treated a great lunch presented by Heavenly’s Food and Beverage Director, Steve Turner that included their signature “Epic Burgers,” gourmet pizzas and paninis, plus corn chowder, garlic fries and more, all served up in the Tamarack Lodge, their newest on-mountain lodge.
Heavenly’s general manager, Pete Sonntag, addressed the group with upcoming plans for Heavenly’s mountain, which included building a permanent Ski School Facility Building, replacing the yurts at Adventure Peak and cutting a couple of new trails down Galaxy. But replacement of the Galaxy lifts is still in the works in the next couple of years.
Russ Pecoraro, director of communications for Heavenly Mountain Resort, announced Vail’s line up of season pass offers for next season, including the Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass and Tahoe Value Pass, with more options in pricing and with some restrictions. Go to SkiHeavenly.com for the options.
After lunch, a Northstar bus was waiting at the bottom of the Gondola to take media guests to Northstar-at-Tahoe. If you haven’t been to Northstar in the past few years, you will be blown away with all that has been done. The village includes ski and clothing shops, a variety of different restaurants, gift shops and an ice rink surrounded by lounges and fire-pits, and a variety of condominium and lodging resort accommodations above it all.
We rode their Gondola to the Big Springs Lodge facility on the mid-mountain and were totally amazed at the number of guests that were in this very popular mid-mountain base.
I hung out and skied with old-time media friends Chris Larson (meteorologist for KOLO 8 TV news), Pat Hambright (KOLO 8 TV news anchor) and KTVN Channel 2 early-morning meteorologist Ron Percivalle.
We were met by Northstar’s Public Relations Manager, Jessica Van Pernis, along with COO/Vice President of Planning Bill Rock, Vice President of Operations Tim Beck and John Loomis. We were led up the Zephyr Lift to the site where Vail plans to build a new on-mountain lodge, “The Zephyr Lodge,” from the same mold of Heavenly’s Tamarack Lodge. This is all part of Vail’s commitment to invest $30 million into Northstar for 2011-’12 season. From the top of the Zephyr Express, one can access both the Back Side via the Back Door Run or Lookout Mountain via the Lookout Link and all the way down to Martis Camp.
We skied down the Back Side on Drifter, a wide groomed run to a ski pod area at the bottom of their planned Express Lift that will service this popular Back Side. Two new runs will also be cut down the Back Side to add more capacity for skiers and riders. This side also has some great glade – tree skiing where traditionally, powder lines are still found several days after storms.
We rode back up the Back Side Express and were led back to view the area where these two new runs would be cut between Drifter and Promise Land Runs. We toured the Lookout Mountain exposure after that and came down a traverse that had to be a quarter mile long, and had copious powder – tree shots with 1,700-1,500 feet of vertical to the bottom of the Martis Camp Express. This was all new for me and I was blown away at the advanced terrain that was offered off Lookout Mountain.
We finished the ski day with an apres ski reception in Baxter’s in the Northstar Village. A great selection of California wines and scrumptious appetizers from crab cakes to rack of lamb chops. The Northstar Village really has a nice resort village vibe with skiers, riders, families, and others walking through the cobblestone walkways, visiting the variety of business or shops or accessing the variety of accommodations offered above. The ice rink had lots of skaters enjoying the end of the day and folks were enjoying apres ski in the club-like lounges surrounding the ice rink, complete with fire pits.
All in all, it was a great day skiing with media friends and learning about what’s new and exciting as Vail Resorts continues to invest in both Heavenly and Northstar at Lake Tahoe.
You, too, should consider investing in an Epic Local Pass to enjoy either of these Vail Resorts.
All we need now is daily transportation service between both resorts.
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Under new rules proposed by California’s insurance commissioner, home and business owners will have open access to their wildfire risk scores that companies use to determine rates and renew coverage.