When it comes to having fun in Lake Tahoe in the summer, visitors will soon have a few options to add to the area’s long list of activities.
Heavenly Mountain Resort announced Tuesday plans to expand their summer offerings to include ziplines, ropes courses, a bobsled-like mountain coaster, water activities, 4x4 tours and a highly anticipated lift-accessed mountain bike park.
“We feel like there’s always been a big opportunity with summer,” Heavenly general manager Pete Sonntag said.
The Ski Area Recreational Opportunities Enhancement Act, passed in 2011, allows ski areas on national forest land to expand the variety of activities they offer with the approval of the Forest Service. Vail Resorts is one of the first companies in the country to take advantage of the new legislation, with Heavenly leading the charge in Lake Tahoe. Vail Mountain Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort, also Vail holdings, have filed plans to expand their summer activities as well.
“The reason we chose these three is we kind of have a critical mass of visitors in these areas,” Sonntag said. “The idea isn’t to draw thousands of new visitors to the area, but to take the visitors we have and give them more to do.”
Heavenly has begun construction on the ropes courses, a canopy tour and a four-line zipline. The company expects to open late this summer or in time for the 2013-14 winter season, according to a statement released Tuesday. Weather permitting, some of Heavenly’s new activities will operate during winter months.
The company filed the proposal for the additional activities with the Forest Service and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency two weeks ago. Upon approvals from both agencies, the earliest Heavenly would start construction on the other new facilities would be 2015, with opening slated for 2016. To implement the activities, little has to be built upon the existing infrastructure, Sonntag said.
“The beauty of this is most of this stuff already exists,” he said.
The mountain bike park would be accessed from Tamarack and Dipper lifts and run down into the East Peak Lodge area of the resort. The terrain will feature 8 miles to 10 miles of both cross country and downhill trails for a wide range of abilities, according to the statement.
So far, at least one local bicyclist has expressed excitement over the park.
“We have so much energy for bicycling here in Lake Tahoe,” cycling enthusiast Curtis Fong said. “We want to get the infrastructure here to be world class.”
In addition to having fun, Heavenly hopes to implement and element of learning to their new activities. Partnering with the Nature Conservancy, the resort will add information about the natural environment to their new facilities. Vail has named the strategy “Epic Discovery.”
“Epic Discovery represents an outstanding opportunity to introduce families to the forests and wildlife of the Northern Sierra Nevada,” said David Edelson, Sierra Nevada project director for The Nature Conservancy.
Heavenly plans to donate 1 percent of all summer lift ticket and activity revenue to The Nature Conservancy. The expansion has received support from city and state officials.
“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 it’s unique environment,” said U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein in a statement.