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Ski resorts add revenue with summer attractions

Rob Sabo

With summer almost in full swing, it’s time to hit the ski resorts.

While many area ski resorts continue to close for the summer, a growing number reposition themselves to continue drawing summertime revenues.

At Heavenly Mountain Resort, the addition of the 3,300-foot-long Heavenly Flier zip line was directly aimed at making the resort more of a four-seasons or summer destination, says Communications Director Russ Pecoraro.

The mid-mountain attraction, which the resort hails as the longest zip line in the continental U.S., complements the resort’s popular summertime gondola rides at South Lake Tahoe. Other attractions include Adventure Peak, which offers dining, hiking and a rock-climbing wall.

“The gondola is quite an attraction in itself, and we wanted to add more of a destination feel and give people a few more things to do,” Pecoraro says. “Offering a gondola in the heart of town has always been a huge summer attraction, and the Flier makes Heavenly a must-do destination for summer as well as winter.”

Pecoraro says Heavenly’s master plan also includes cutting new hiking trails and building an amphitheater, though he did not give a timeline for the additions.

“We really are focused on becoming a four-seasons destination and offering premier high-quality entertainment,” he says.

Roughly five years ago the face of Northstar primarily consisted of a some condominiums and a gondola. After several years of hot-and-heavy construction, the new-look Village-at-Northstar is rivaled only by neighboring Squaw Valley. The village includes an ice skating/roller rink, a Starbucks, and high-end shops and restaurants, including Mikuni, a hugely popular Sacramento-area sushi house.

“Ninety-nine percent of what you see when you walk around the village is brand-new,” says Kirstin Cattell, communications manager.

In addition, Colorado-based East West Partners is developing a Ritz-Carlton Hotel and condo and timeshare units at the property, as well as 100 Hyatt-branded timeshare units.

In 2005 Northstar had 1,450 single-family/condo units. Since then East-West Partners added 213 condos to the Village-at-Northstar. The company is constructing 173 hotel rooms at the Ritz-Carlton and 114 wholly or partially owned condo units. In addition, East-West Partners’ Highlands development will add 850 more condos, and the nearby Martis Camp development will add 653 single-family homes.

Cattell says the first phase of the Hyatt properties is scheduled to open this coming ski season, and the Ritz-Carlton properties should be ready for the 2009 ski season.

“We are transforming Northstar resort into a year-round destination,” she says. “When you get to Northstar, everything you need is here. All these interactive activities address the multi-generational travel trend.”

Popular summertime activities include an 18-hole golf course, roller-skating, hiking, and the largest mountain bike park in Northern California. Northstar Village also hosts events such as Beer Fest and Movies-on-the-Plaza, which typically draw large crowds. Cattell says the resort still generates the vast majority of its revenues during the winter, but summer bucks are definitely adding to the pie.

“Come Memorial Day this village is running full steam once again,” she says.

Squaw Valley has long pursued summer cash flow.

High Camp at 8,200 feet boasts a swimming lagoon, 1960s Olympic museum and year-round ice skating. The Adventure Center offers a ropes course and zip lines, while bungee trampolines and a natural miniature golf course can be found in the village.

Savannah Cowley, media and public relations representative, says nature-based activities such as guided Friday and Saturday night sunset and full-moon hikes have gained a strong following in recent years. Stargazing sessions with professional astronomers also draw larger crowds.

“It really provides an amazing vantage point from 8,200 feet and as clear as it is from Lake Tahoe,” Cowley says.

Large summer events include an Independence Day celebration and concert on July 3 and Kite Festival on July 12. The resort’s biggest summertime draw is its Wine and Music Festival July 19 and 20.

“It’s really become one of the banner summer events in Lake Tahoe,” Cowley says.

“There are just a lot of things going on in the village,” she adds. “I definitely think that this summer, with gas prices being so high, going to a ski resort for people from Reno and Sacramento offers a way to have a vacation and your pockets won’t feel it. It’s a great alternative to feel like you are somewhere serene and beautiful.”