Mid-station platform for gondola nears completion | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Mid-station platform for gondola nears completion

Majestic is the best way to describe the view from Heavenly Ski Resort’s mid-station observation deck.

The vista, a near perfect portrait of Lake Tahoe, will soon be achieved by riding Heavenly’s $30 million gondola, scheduled to open on Dec. 21.

“On the Fourth of July you can see five fireworks shows from here,” said Malcolm Tibbetts, vice president of mountain operations for Heavenly, as he stood near the edge of the deck, towering over Heavenly’s magnificent ridgeline.

In fact, the 1,500-square-foot wraparound deck puts almost every inch of Lake Tahoe’s 72-mile shoreline within view, a view that extends from Echo Summit on the left to Carson Valley on the right.

Tibbetts has worked for Heavenly for the last 28 years and has the Sky Deck and East Peak Lodge to his credit. He said none of the projects has proved to be as challenging or rewarding as the observation deck. The location of the deck, coupled with environmental restrictions, made construction more difficult than normal.

“Nobody has ever built anything like this before,” said Stan Hansen, senior vice president of American Skiing Corporation, parent company to Heavenly.

Trucks carried supplies for the observation deck to the site. The road will have to be returned to its natural state because of environmental regulations.

The concrete support beams, which used hundreds of yard of concrete, were dug and placed by hand, a task that is normally done with machinery.

“Even the whole concept of hand digging, when it was all done, we kind of felt that was the right way to do it,” Tibbetts said.

Situated 9,121 feet above sea level, just shy of the Nevada border, the deck winds its way around granite boulders that look as if they were placed by an artistic hand.

A crew of 8 to 15 carpenters and welders have worked since the begining of July to build this structure. The walkway uses more than 1 million tons of steel.

The gondola, which meets American Disability Act standards, provides easy access for everyone. There are no stairs. Passengers can walk off the gondola and cross the 2,500-square-foot bridge to the deck.

The deck is equipped with a shelter, restrooms and built-in benches.

If that isn’t enough, a wedding on the observation deck, which will be open year-round, should play out like a match made in heaven.

The gondola will continue horizontally across the mountain to the top station, which will lead to the base of the Tamarack Express Chair. The top station at 56,000 square feet will be completed by next season.

While most ski resorts are praying for snow at this time, at Heavenly they are hoping the weather holds out for a few more weeks to facilitate the completion of the project.

“There is a lot of satisfaction in what we’ve done, but there is nervousness as well,” Tibbett said.

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