South Lake Tahoe Goes First Class

For years, visitors to the California side of Lake Tahoe’s South Shore have had two lodging choices: motels or a single full-service hotel the Embassy Suites Resort.

By: Mimi Kmet

For years, visitors to the California side of Lake Tahoe’s South Shore have had two lodging choices: motels or a single full-service hotel the Embassy Suites Resort.

Now, after more than 15 years of planning, negotiating, research and politics, South Lake Tahoe’s redevelopment is finally coming to fruition: A major lodging, retail, dining and entertainment village is slated to open at the base of Heavenly Ski Resort next month, bringing more first-class accommodations to the area and transforming the South Shore’s California side into a true destination resort.

In addition, Colorado-based Vail Resorts, which purchased Heavenly earlier this year for $90 million, has launched a $40 million, five-year, on-mountain improvement plan for the area’s nearly 5,000 acres of terrain, which spans two states.

The new village features two Marriott Vacation Club International (vacation ownership) properties the 261-unit Marriott’s Timber Lodge and the 199-unit Marriott Grand Residence Club. The units will be available for commissionable bookings when not in use by owners, according to company spokesperson Ed Kinney. Based on owners’ projected frequency of use, there should be plenty of opportunities for travel agents to book the properties. For example, owners are expected to occupy 30% to 40% of the Grand Residence Club’s units at any given time, according to Scott Oldakowski, project director, sales and marketing, for the two properties.

The one- and two-bedroom villas at the Timber Lodge range in size from 835 to 1,185 square feet, while the units at the Grand Residence Club range from 360 square feet for a studio to 2,496 square feet for a penthouse.

Each unit features a deep soaking tub in the master bath, a fully equipped kitchen, living and dining areas, more than one television, a DVD player, a washer and dryer and a fireplace. Many units offer private balconies. Kitchens and baths feature granite countertops, ceramic tile floors and custom wood cabinetry.

Each property offers a pool, a whirlpool spa, maid service and ski storage. In addition, the Timber Lodge provides a children’s pool and activity center, as well as a convenience store and a delicatessen. At the Grand Residence Club, there are laundry, valet, concierge and valet parking services.

Each property has its own fitness facility. The Grand Residence Club facility, which is more complete with a steam room and massage services, is available to guests at the Timber Lodge.

Grand opening nightly rates range from $79 per unit for a studio to $200 for a penthouse, Nov. 3 through Dec. 14.

The ground floor of the village offers more than 100,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, including a multiplex theater, an art gallery, an ice-skating rink, shops, cafes and restaurants.

South Lake Tahoe’s redevelopment actually began more than a decade ago, with the 1991 opening of the first phase the 400-unit Embassy Suites Resort, which sits across Stateline Boulevard from the Nevada side’s casino core. Previously, there were no full-service lodging options on the South Shore’s California side just dozens of motels. It wasn’t until December 2000 that a new ski gondola began operating from what would become the village core, taking visitors to the top of California’s largest ski mountain in 12 minutes. This was the beginning of the second phase.

A third phase is planned for development on a parcel of land across Highway 50 (lakeside), which was owned by Harvey’s Casino until Harrah’s purchased Harvey’s in summer 2001. Harrah’s is now conducting its own due diligence on the property before giving its blessing to the original plans, according to a spokesperson for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. Those plans include a 91,000-square-foot convention center accommodating groups of up to 2,000, an adjacent 540-room hotel and a 2-acre replica of Lake Tahoe that will serve as an environmental learning center and outdoor recreation facility.

Meanwhile, Vail Resorts’ on-mountain improvement program of Heavenly Ski Resort has begun, with upgrades of the California Lodge, the Stagecoach Lodge and the East Peak Lodge. Other improvements will include a new black diamond run on the Nevada side, additional snowmaking on the Cascade run, a new snack bar at the Observation Deck, additional restaurants and new and upgraded lifts and snow-making systems.

Heavenly is Vail Resorts’ fifth ski area and its first outside of Colorado. The others are Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone.

Call Marriott Grand Vacation Club at 800-VIL LAS-9 (845-5279).

Web site: www.mvci rentals.com. Kirkwood Mountain Resort, located about an hour drive south of Lake Tahoe, is in the midst of its own redevelopment, which is transforming the area into a village surrounded by a mountain community.

So far, 170 detached homes and 350 condominiums, a portion of which will be available for booking by nonowners, are completed. Another 60 condominiums and 20 detached homes and home sites are slated for completion within the next year. At build-out in 10 years, there will be 350 units in the village and 1,400 to 1,500 units total.

Much of the development is taking place in the Village Plaza, the project’s core area, with direct access to 2,300 acres of terrain (not including backcountry) via five ski lifts. The addition of 115,000 square feet of commercial space will bring the total to 195,000 square feet. Plans also call for the rebuilding of the Timber Creek Day Lodge, which will triple in size to 35,000 square feet.

A Village For Kirkwood

Kirkwood Mountain Resort, located about an hour drive south of Lake Tahoe, is in the midst of its own redevelopment, which is transforming the area into a village surrounded by a mountain community.

So far, 170 detached homes and 350 condominiums, a portion of which will be available for booking by nonowners, are completed. Another 60 condominiums and 20 detached homes and home sites are slated for completion within the next year. At build-out in 10 years, there will be 350 units in the village and 1,400 to 1,500 units total.

Much of the development is taking place in the Village Plaza, the project’s core area, with direct access to 2,300 acres of terrain (not including backcountry) via five ski lifts. The addition of 115,000 square feet of commercial space will bring the total to 195,000 square feet. Plans also call for the rebuilding of the Timber Creek Day Lodge, which will triple in size to 35,000 square feet.

Nightly lodging rates range from $139 to $699, depending on the type of accommodation and season.

In addition, over the next 10 years, a Mountain Master Development Plan will add four new lifts, upgrade existing lifts to faster triples and quads and add a new full-service restaurant at the top of Caples Crest.

Call Kirkwood Vacations at 800-967-7500.

Web site: www.kirkwood.com.

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