Gondola is epic moment in Tahoe history | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Gondola is epic moment in Tahoe history

Heavenly Ski Resort made history Thursday with the opening of its eight- passenger gondola, the first solid step in a $250 million redevelopment project slated to convert South Lake Tahoe into a world class resort.

Television, radio and print media from as far as San Francisco came to witness the event and be among the first to be taken from the bright lights of the casino corridor to the top of Heavenly.

“This is the first time that we have brought the ski experience down to the community,” said Mayor Hal Cole.

The project was the result of years of dedication from city, county and environmental officials. A scrap book of the event would read like a who’s who in the South Shore community.

Les Otten, chairman for American Skiing Corporation, parent company of Heavenly, traveled from headquarters in Newry, Maine, to be a part of the opening.

“Today the dream becomes a reality,” he said.

With two world-class hotels scheduled for construction at the base of the gondola next spring, the South Tahoe Redevelopment Agency is setting Heavenly up to be competitive with the resort villages of Colorado, Utah and British Columbia.

“(The gondola) will help economic development in the community more than any other project in the last 30 years,” said Dave Solaro, El Dorado County Supervisor.

Karen Wright, a 22-year-resident of South Lake Tahoe, was among the first to ride the gondola, grabbing a ride with friends and representatives of the local media.

“I think it’s terrific,” she said. “We’re not here for the skiing. We’re here for the view. It’s going to be a new tourist attraction.”

As Barbara Magee, a 24-year Meyers resident, said she never gets tired of looking at views of Lake Tahoe.

“We are history today,” she said. “This is exciting.”

Chris Beni, a resident of South Lake Tahoe since 1977, quietly videotaped the ride up the mountain, absorbing the view.

“I think the ride is great, and it will be a great contribution to the community – to the tourist portion and the local portion,” he said.

Kevin Cole has spent the last decade working on Park Avenue redevelopment. As a representative of both the city and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, he was one of the first to catch a ride on the gondola.

“I’m just thrilled,” he said. “This is just amazing. This is the most wonderful thing that has happened to South Lake Tahoe.”

Passengers who took advantage of the $18 lift ticket Thursday will be eligible to ride for free on Friday. Anyone who buys an $18 gondola ticket on Friday will get a lift ticket included.

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