Like many ski resorts in the country, Heavenly Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe wants to become a destination not only in the winter, but in the summer months as well.
Heavenly has submitted a proposal to the USDA Forest Service and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for expansions to its on-mountain summer activities, as part of Vail Resorts’ Epic Discovery, a Summer Mountain Adventure.
Vail Resorts also owns Tahoe ski resorts Northstar California and Kirkwood Mountain Resort.
Vail Resorts has proposed Epic Discovery at three of its mountain resorts: Vail Mountain, Breckenridge Ski Resort and now Heavenly. The three proposals are the first of their kind following the 2011 passage of the Ski Area Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act.
Heavenly is the first Lake Tahoe resort to propose activities under this federal bill that allows the Forest Service to review and accept non-ski-related activities on its mountains. In May, Heavenly announced the first phase of the summer expansion in the resort’s Adventure Peak area, which is already approved for non-ski-related activities, including two ropes courses, a canopy tour and a four-line zipline center.
Construction on these activities is currently underway with an anticipated opening either late this summer or in time for the 2013-2014 winter season. Epic Discovery is designed to connect kids and families with the national forests in an active, fun and engaging way, utilizing existing infrastructure such as Heavenly’s gondola and on-mountain facilities.
The current proposal includes a number of new activities at Heavenly, including ziplines, ropes courses, Forest Flyers, a mountain bike park and trails, additional hiking trails and mountain excursion tours, all with extensive, integrated environmental and interpretive programming.
“Our proposal meets the expanding needs and expectations of visitors to Lake Tahoe by offering inspirational outdoor recreation and educational opportunities. It also better supports the year-round local economy in the South Lake Tahoe area,” said Pete Sonntag, Heavenly general manager. “The activities in this proposal are designed to appeal to a wide range of visitors, from the casual sightseer to the avid mountain adventurer, with the goal of creating life-long connections to the outdoors and an appreciation for our national forests.”
The plans for Heavenly will revolve around the concept of “learning through play” by featuring extensive environmental educational elements among the numerous new interactive activities located in already developed areas of the mountain focused primarily at the Adventure Peak area at the top of Heavenly’s Gondola, as well as in the East Peak and Sky Meadows areas.
Heavenly will work with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the TRPA, as well as The Nature Conservancy, to bring scientific content to the eco-discovery experiences. Heavenly will contribute one percent of all summer lift ticket and activity revenue to The Nature Conservancy for forest and watershed restoration projects.
“Epic Discovery represents an outstanding opportunity to introduce families to the forests and wildlife of the northern Sierra Nevada and to make the connection between healthy headwaters and a secure water supply,” said David Edelson, Sierra Nevada Project Director for The Nature Conservancy. “This exciting project will not only help to educate the next generation of conservationists, but will also directly support The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to protect and restore the northern Sierra’s watersheds.”
Proposed Epic Discovery activities and environmental interpretive programming will be designed to be compatible with the existing on-mountain infrastructure of lifts and trails, blending into the natural environment in a thoughtful manner.
In addition to the activities, interpretive specialists will be on site to provide eco-educational experiences for kids and families, helping them to learn more about their natural surroundings. Heavenly Mountain Resort has submitted the activities described below in a comprehensive proposal to the Forest Service and TRPA.
Following acceptance of the proposal, the agencies will begin the environmental review and public comment process. Heavenly would begin construction on Epic Discovery activities in the summer of 2015.
If approved, the resulting on-mountain, eco-conscious experience would generate new jobs related to both the construction of the new facilities, more year-round employment for the long-term operation, and would help support a much healthier year-round economy for the local resort community.
Epic Discovery at Heavenly is part of the summer mountain adventure plans Vail Resorts has previously announced at Vail Mountain and Breckenridge.
“Lake Tahoe is a national treasure and I am thrilled that the Ski Area Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act is creating an opportunity that will benefit Lake Tahoe’s economy and its unique environment,” U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said. “Heavenly’s 1 percent for the Forest partnership with The Nature Conservancy will fund important watershed restoration projects as well as create a summer experience on the mountain that engages visitors in Lake Tahoe’s environment.”
Below are highlights of what guests will be able to experience, discover and learn across Heavenly:
• Mid-Station Zipline Canopy Tour: An interpretive zipline canopy tour in the area between the Gondola mid-station and the top station to the east of the Gondola alignment. The tour, which will incorporate the use of ziplines and aerial walkway bridges, will begin at the top of the Gondola and finish at the Mid-Station Observation Deck.
• East Peak Zipline Canopy Tour: A multi-stage guided zipline canopy tour will begin near the top of Big Easy chairlift and end with a zip over East Peak Lake, near the base of Dipper Express chairlift.
• Sky Meadows Zipline Canopy Tour: The Sky Meadows Zipline Canopy Tour will begin near the top of Tamarack Express chairlift and end near the base of Sky Express chairlift.
• Sky Cycle Canopy Tour: Located in the area between the Gondola top station and the Mid-Station Observation Deck, the Sky Cycle Canopy Tour will allow visitors to traverse the area by pedaling individual bicycle-like devices that are suspended from a cable in the air.
• Sky Meadows Ropes Course: A self-guided ropes course consisting of a series of platforms and rope walkway/bridges will be located between Sky Deck and the base of Sky Express chairlift.
• Forest Flyer: The Forest Flyer allows guests on individual sleds to descend on a raised track through the forest and natural rock formations. Located north and west of the existing tubing hill, the Forest Flyer will utilize gravity for the descent while giving riders full control of their speed.
• East Peak Lake Water Activities: Water-oriented activities on and around the existing East Peak reservoir will include kayaking, canoeing and fishing.
• Hiking Trails: New hiking trails will connect the top of Tamarack Express chairlift to the top of the Gondola and Tamarack Lodge, continuing down to East Peak Lodge, approximately three miles in length.
• Ridge Run Lookout Tower and Observation Deck: A new observation tower will be developed near the existing Ridge Run Overlook. Resembling a historic Forest Service Fire Lookout Tower, it will offer views of High Meadows and Freel Peak, as well as Lake Tahoe. The existing picnic deck adjacent to the top of Sky Express chairlift will be rebuilt.
• Mountain Bike Park: Dipper Express, Comet Express and Tamarack Express will serve as access points to the Mountain Bike Park in the East Peak Basin area, offering eight to 10 total miles of trails ranging in difficulty from beginner through expert.
• Mountain Excursion Tour: A Mountain Excursion Tour will connect all three activity centers via motorized 4×4 vehicles, at the top of the Gondola, East Peak Lodge, and Sky Meadows, and will offer guided tours to various locations around the upper mountain.
• Interpretive Learning: Interpretive Discovery Zones will be integrated throughout the experience, sharing the area’s rich natural environment and cultural history with guests using fun and informative learning techniques.
“The City of South Lake Tahoe supports Epic Discovery at Heavenly as another way to get our visitors out of their cars and engaging with the national forest,” said South Lake Tahoe’s acting mayor, Tom Davis. “We hope this will also increase the amount of days our guests spend in our town, giving them the ability to enjoy Lake Tahoe from many different perspectives.”