New high-speed lift won’t be installed for next season |

New high-speed lift won’t be installed for next season

Susan Wood

Skiers and boarders will have a longer wait to catch a new express lift, as improvements written into Heavenly Mountain Resort’s updated master plan have been postponed for at least a year. The plan includes three proposed high-speed lifts.

In the last two winter seasons under Vail Resorts’ 5-year money belt, the Colorado company’s South Shore’s ski area has installed two high-speed chair lifts.

This year, the ski resort intends to put in an umbrella bar between the gondola and Tamarack Express chairlift. Seating to accommodate 120 people will be covered by a 10-meter tent, Vice President of Planning Andrew Strain reported. Heavenly also plans to remodel its Main Lodge, upgrade snow-making equipment, buy more grooming machines and continue installing electronic message and trail signs.

But no chairlifts will be installed for the coming year.

“We’re disappointed but still hopeful those improvements will prevail,” Strain said.

Approvals by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and U.S. Forest Service were delayed to next year for the 2006-07 ski season, as Heavenly works on its extensive environmental analysis. The recommendations were made last month.

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“We recognize that Heavenly’s master plan is important to the local economy, and we’re collaborating to move the proposals forward,” TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said Tuesday.

Forest Service land-use planners were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

The South Shore resort’s revisions to its 1996 master plan came up for review earlier this year – 50 years from the time Heavenly teamed up with the Forest Service to use its land.

The wish list of changes is long and ambitious – but arguably much needed to those who use the mountain.

For one, Heavenly anticipates eventually setting five kilometers of cross country ski trails on the Von Schmidt flats between the gondola’s observation deck and end point. The expansion would double the 1.2 miles already laid out for the winter.

One South Lake Tahoe Nordic skier thinks the area may support a 5K ski race, but parking may be an issue. Gondola parking is quite limited at the base to those seeking a free space.

“I think people would like to see what they have up there, but the stopper may be the parking. Ski racers will have boots and other clothes,” Janet Penn said.

Penn was curious enough about the mountain’s improvements to the extent she showed up at the Forest Service office in January to view a special presentation of a first draft of the plan’s amended version.

The unapproved master plan also includes an extended version of the Mott Canyon chairlift, Skyline Trail regrade, a restaurant off the California Trail above Tamarack Express as well as high-speed replacements for the Galaxy and North Bowl chairs.

These changes mark improvements above and beyond the $40 million in five years Vail pledged to spend on Heavenly. Over two-thirds of that amount has been spent.

Last year, Heavenly installed a high-speed chairlift called Powderbowl Express. The year before, it replaced the slower Canyon chair with a high-speed lift on the Ridge Run.