Bandows to bid Tahoe farewell |

Bandows to bid Tahoe farewell

Susan Wood

After a decade at Heavenly Ski Resort, Monica Bandows is leaving the Lake Tahoe employer for Big Bear Lake, taking with her a lifetime of memories.

These memories are both good and bad but never dull.

The 37-year-old communications director vividly recalled the day the late U.S. Congressman Sonny Bono hit a tree at the ski resort in January 1998.

Bandows had the day off but ended up working around the clock over the next 24 hours.

“It was a sad day. It’s always very sad when these accidents happen. We lost a great congressman and a Heavenly regular. We used to see him all over the mountain every year,” she said.

She weaved through 20 satellite trucks in the parking lot to address a barrage of media from all over the nation and make introductions for the speakers.

Hours later, she caught a glimpse of herself on television. That’s when it dawned on her what kind of exposure the tragedy brought to her employer.

“I had people who I hadn’t heard from since college call me,” she said. Bandows graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a degree in business administration and a specialty in marketing.

She returned to the site where Bono was killed only once.

The positive memories for Bandows occurred much more often.

Her perfect Tahoe day could be characterized as a morning of crystal blue skies following 2 to 3 feet of fresh snow. Bonus points go to those days with waist-deep snow in Mott Canyon.

“I’ve had the best days of my life out skiing,” she said. “When I’ve been in the office for a week or so, and I go out skiing, I say that I have one of the greatest jobs in the world. It’s tough to leave.”

Besides those banner powder days, Bandows will miss the South Lake Tahoe people the most. She said for months she agonized over the decision, prompted by a visit to Big Bear for her grandmother’s funeral in May.

“I thought wouldn’t it be nice to be closer to family,” she said.

But the decision to leave Tahoe has been bittersweet.

“I like it here because everyone who lives here wants to live here,” she said. “And if you want to be involved, this community will accept you with open arms.”

Bandows served on the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce for five years – including a recent stint as president, Soroptimist International for two years, the task force organizing the 1997 Lake Tahoe Environmental Presidential Summit and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority marketing and public relations committees.

This marketing, business and communications experience will come in handy. Bandows is leaving for the Southern California mountain lake community later this week to scope out her new endeavor.

She’s starting her own business, as the sole proprietor of the 15,000-square-foot Big Bear Convention Center. With her parents’ assistance, she bought the 20-year-old center, situated on three acres, from her parents and five other co-owners for an undisclosed amount.

The facility has hosted wedding receptions, concerts and arts and crafts fairs. She wants to expand its horizons as a site for corporate retreats and a series of international cultural festivals. She’ll arrive in time to stage the region’s Octoberfest, scheduled over six weekends.

Bandows worked for Bear Mountain Ski Resort for three years before coming to Heavenly.

Her husband Anthony Marini’s commercial production work took him to Los Angeles more and more.

“We knew it was only a matter of time before we’d have to move down there,” Bandows said.

Still, she’s proud of her accomplishments such as the gondola unveiling and the positioning of the resort as an international ski area.

“I’d say Monica is fair-minded. She always gave me the impression of being very willing to listen to the other side, and she’s not shy about stating her positions. I like that,” said Kathleen Farrell, executive director of the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce.

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