South Lake Tahoe and Truckee, Calif./Nev. - October 4, 2012 - In a press release today Vail resorts is saying the mountain experience at Lake Tahoe has been re-imagined. It has been reborn thanks to significant on-mountain investment over the past decade. It includes a cultural movement that embraces the skier or snowboarder and takes their experience to the next level. A technological revolution that has turned how we share our vacations completely on its head. And a new way to access the mountains that is bringing the best Lake Tahoe has to offer into one affordable package.
It's happening at Vail Resorts' Tahoe properties - Heavenly Mountain Resort, Northstar California Resort and Kirkwood Mountain Resort.
"Vail Resorts is the premier mountain resort operator in the world, with the industry's most robust capital improvement plan, a culture of innovation, a commitment to guest service, employees who are empowered to help the guest, and experience with operating a profitable, sustainable business. We're able to utilize these assets to re-imagine the mountain resort experience and to change the game for skiers and snowboarders at Lake Tahoe," said Blaise Carrig, Vail Resorts' president of the Mountain Division.
For Heavenly, it's been a 12-year revitalization, transforming a popular day ski area into one of the world's top snowsports destinations. First, the Heavenly Gondola connected the city of South Lake Tahoe to the heart of Heavenly's mountain, turning the previously disjointed experience into what ski icon Glen Plake calls "a true ski town, complete with people walking around in their ski boots." After purchasing Heavenly in 2002, Vail Resorts immediately pledged to invest $40 million in on-mountain resort improvements, including upgrading the existing facilities, building new restaurants, upgrading or replacing lifts (including three new high-speed detachable express chairlifts) and snowmaking systems, as well as enhancing the resort's environmental efforts. In 2010, Tamarack Lodge was the LEED-certified crown jewel of the $30-million effort to redefine the gondola experience, tying the area together with an adventure park featuring tubing and sledding, a state-of-the-art kids' ski school building, a kids' adventure zone, a terrain park, and the highest-elevation, highest-energy après ski party the industry has seen in recent memory.
"The whole top-of-the-gondola experience at Heavenly has been truly transformational for the mountain and our guests," said Pete Sonntag, Heavenly's general manager. "The experience is high-energy and comprehensive, appealing to skiers and snowboarders, as well as sightseers and other pedestrians. You won't find many, if any, single areas at a winter resort that have as much going on."
Northstar California Resort has also seen its share of transformational improvements - to the tune of over a billion dollars since 2004. The resort has come into its own, and now features luxury lodging including the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, the region's only five-star hotel property, and the first LEED-certified base area village that has become a favorite après ski hang out complete with shopping, incredible dining options and fire pits surrounding an outdoor skating rink.
Significant improvements have also been made to improve the lift network, snowmaking capabilities, skiable terrain and skier services. Last season, Vail Resorts invested an additional $30 million in projects at Northstar, including the installation of a new high-speed chairlift and a new ski pod with new glade skiing and two new intermediate ski trails on The Backside of the mountain, construction of the LEED-certified Zephyr Lodge, a new 700-seat on-mountain restaurant, and the construction of a new 22-foot Superpipe designed by Shaun White, who calls Northstar his home mountain and primary training resort.
"No resort in the U.S. can match what we've done at Northstar over the last several years," said Bill Rock, chief operating officer of Northstar. "Northstar has arrived. For those looking for a complete destination resort experience that delivers high quality service, family amenities and laid-back luxury, you'll find it at Northstar."
As the newest addition to Vail Resorts, Kirkwood is easing into the portfolio in order to preserve the unique feel that makes it the mecca of thrill-seeking skiers and riders.
"We don't plan on changing the many ways Kirkwood stands out as a big mountain experience," said Casey Blann, general manager of Kirkwood. "That being said, I look forward to evaluating what improvements we can make to enhance the already incredible experience. These improvements will take us over the top as a truly iconic resort. Look for Kirkwood to win over new friends and rekindle the passion of the 'veterans.'"
Over the last several years, Kirkwood has made a number of improvements along those lines, adding two new surface lifts that provide access to 700 additional acres of Kirkwood's legendary terrain, building a new facility to house Expedition: Kirkwood, North America's premier backcountry education program, and erecting the ZipTahoe Treetop Canopy Tour that employs 11 zip lines, aerial spans and bridge networks to whisk guests over skiers and riders while descending over 1,100 feet.
Due to the massive amounts of natural snowfall Kirkwood receives each year, the resort made a significant investment in state-of-the-art, computerized snow removal equipment for the roadways as well as new snow safety artillery to more safely and efficiently clear the slopes for operation.
"In addition to what we'd call the 'sexy' improvements, we also have the ongoing maintenance capital that establishes our resorts as the gold standard in the industry," Carrig said. "We typically spend more on this type of capital than most mountains spend in total. It's not the kind of stuff people notice, but they notice when it's not there."
Every year, Vail Resorts focuses on refreshing its snow cat fleet, invests in the latest and most efficient snowmaking technology, upgrades and updates facilities, and builds out back-end systems that make for an overall smoother experience for the guest.
"Last season was a great example of what maintenance capital gets you," Carrig said. "It all came down to snowmaking and grooming. Because of our continued investment, we had it and our competitors didn't. It's that kind of vision that separates Vail Resorts' mountains."
That vision and innovative spirit also brought about EpicMix™, Vail Resorts' wildly popular ski and snowboard application. EpicMix brings together the digital and physical experience of skiing and riding and makes it easy for guests to share their stories with friends and family. In its first season, EpicMix tracked vertical feet and awarded digital pins for special accomplishments on the mountain. In the second season, EpicMix re-imagined how vacation photos were captured and delivered. For its third season, EpicMix is bringing amateur ski racing into the 21st century with EpicMix Racing. Working with World Champion ski racer Lindsey Vonn, Vail Resorts has completely redesigned how skiers can fully utilize the latest digital technology to compare themselves against the very best, seamlessly track and share all of their accomplishments and compete against racers from six world-class resorts.
Vail Resorts' vision also extends to driving the best value for skier and snowboarders. The Tahoe Local Pass remains unmatched in value, price and experience with access to more than 263 trails, 14 terrain parks and 10,270 acres of some of the best terrain in the world at Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in California and Nevada. Ski or ride more than four days in one season and, priced at $439, the Tahoe Local Pass pays for itself, then ski or ride for free the rest of the season. Vail Resorts' entire season pass lineup offers something for every type of skier and snowboarder, including four different season pass options in Lake Tahoe ranging in price from $399 to $679. For more information, visit www.epicpass.com.
"At the end of the day, no other mountain or group of mountains can compare to the experience we provide for our guests," Carrig said. "We are constantly re-imagining the mountain experience and are leading the way into the next generation of skiing and riding."