Destination Northstar |

Destination Northstar

Northstar-at-Tahoe may be steps away from a major advance to its pedestrian-friendly village.

Comments are due back on the environmental impact report by Jan. 17, and if given a clean bill of health, construction may start next fall.

When the ski area opened in 1972, the vision of a destination resort surfaced.

Efforts are now in full swing to make the ski area minitown a reality.

Year-round conference space, 200 more housing units, a full-service spa, outdoor ice skating rink, a bookstore, brew pub and three more restaurants are but a few of the amenities planned at the 18-acre site — which expands the current village by 6 acres.

Educational and entertainment programs at the 12,000-square-foot skating rink in the heart of the village would include cooking classes and wine tastings. Outdoor fire pits are also mapped out to enhance the outdoor experience.

“Our goal will be to create a warm, friendly, pedestrian-oriented village that is festive and fun and has that casual, family-friendly atmosphere that people love at Northstar,” said Roger Lessman, managing partner at East West Partners. The Beaver Creek-based resort developer will fund the majority of the village expansion.

At least three phases are planned in the $100 million expansion of the existing 12-acre village. They should be completed by the beginning of 2007. The clock-tower building will be knocked down, with the recycled materials used in the new village. The Village Condo, with residential and commercial space, and the Northstar Club, a time-share, will remain.

The village architecture will be inspired by the Sierra Nevada and national park designs. This includes varied roof tiers, traditional windows and overhangs. and the use of natural materials such as stone and wood.

Northstar and East West Partners aim for a certification that recognizes environmentally friendly building practices, a major focus for ski areas trying to balance ecology with economy.

Ski villages are cropping up across the United States. Northstar plans to compete with the others by appealing to tourists other than the skiers.

“We see the village as the cornerstone to position Northstar as a four-season resort, not just a ski resort,” East West Partners Project Manager David Tirman said.

Northstar is at a crossroads in the evolution of the ski industry and its competitive edge.

“They’ve gained a lot of market share in the last decade,” California Ski Industry Association spokesman Bob Roberts said Wednesday. “They have to look at themselves as a destination marketing resort.”

Roberts agreed many resorts have gone the village-building route, but he further said “not all the resorts are doing it.”

Are the resorts oversaturating the market with villages?

“Destination marketing will never overwhelm us. We’re not a Colorado,” he said.

Marketing to the destination visitor, described as the active sort that stays at a vacation resort for an extended period of time, is intended to pump up the midweek business. In Tahoe, that’s the challenge.

So ski resorts have made a concerted effort to evaluate issues beyond keeping the road clear for the skiers and boarders to include infrastructure requirements, water for snowmaking and employee housing.

“They never talked about this in the last decade,” the ski industry expert said. “Each area is looking at its manifest destiny.”

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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