Master plan upgrades underway at Heavenly: Improvements include new, longer lift and zipline ride
STATELINE — Heavenly Mountain Resort has taken its license to thrill to new heights.
Improvements include construction of a high-speed chairlift along the Olympic Downhill run above North Bowl.
The upgrade of the new quad chair culminates a long, controversial battle. The skirmish involved Heavenly’s 10-year master plan that pitted the bistate ski area against activists once objecting to the cutting of up to 353 old-growth trees. As of Wednesday, Heavenly’s expecting to cut down 203.
The ski resort originally planned to replace two chairlifts — Olympic and North Bowl — with a longer lift, but compromised with a shorter version along the existing Olympic lift line that keeps the North Bowl area intact. The North Bowl trees mark a favorite stash of rugged terrain to advanced riders. Spokesman Russ Pecoraro said the resort hasn’t ruled out eventually replacing the slow lift.
From the top of the Olympic lift at about 9,000 feet, the Ridge Tahoe resort looks like a Monopoly hotel piece thousands of feet below. A construction crew has been digging holes where wire cages are set to hold new towers, which are scheduled to be installed within a few weeks.
The hope is the incoming Olympic quad will become its own destination for skiers and boarders on the mountain. For years, many would use the chairlift to connect to other areas like the popular Comet and Dipper express lifts. That area will also see a new run off Orion by next winter.
Making the Olympic chair more attractive opens the western perimeter to veteran Heavenly riders. With an 866-vertical-foot rise and 3,533-foot length, the lift is expected to operate at 1,000 feet per minute. The former two-seater lift took 11 minutes to ride.
“This will give (riders) access to the Nevada woods. We expect it to become more of a destination lift,” Pecoraro said.
It’s the first chairlift to be installed since the Powderbowl six-pack in 2004.
In addition to the Olympic chairlift, a zipline is planned for completion by winter for an area near the top of Tamarack Express lift. The “Heavenly Sky Rider” places riders in a harness attached to a pulley that runs 3,100 feet between towers.
It’s unknown at this time whether passholders may need an extra ticket for this ride. Ziplines have been popping up across the Americas, from Costa Rica to Alaska.
“We’ve been having a variety of meetings with the Forest Service about these things,” said Bob Roberts, California Ski Industry Association spokesman.
One session is slated for Friday at Lake Tahoe that will include the association, federal land manager and ski area representatives from as far away Southern California.
“(Ziplines are) the coming thing. The whole idea is to get more use out of summer,” Roberts said.
Other phase 1 improvements due within the next three years include the proposed Powderbowl Lodge at the top of the Powderbowl chairlift.
Improvements in phases 2 and 3 could include another restaurant called the Sand Dunes to be installed at the top of Tamarack, an expanded Mott chairlift that provides access to the Killebrew territory and upgrades to remaining slow lifts.
Heavenly management would not disclose how much the projects would cost.