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SKIING / BOB LOCHNER : Master Plan Will Make Heavenly More So

“Ski all day, play all night” has been the winter tourism slogan here for almost half a century, since Heavenly Valley cranked up its first lift and Harvey Gross opened his old Wagon Wheel on U.S. 50 in Stateline, Nev.

Within about two years, if all goes well, it will become easier than ever to practice this round-the-clock hedonism, at least for those who can stand the pace.

Heavenly--the “Valley” has been dropped because the ski resort is actually spread among several mountains in California and Nevada--has plans to build a 14,000-foot long gondola that will whisk skiers directly from the casino-hotels to the slopes, where three new chairlifts and several new runs will open the entire bi-state complex.

Estimated cost: $20 million.

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Currently, there are limited accommodations within walking distance of Heavenly’s base lodges, meaning nearly everyone has to drive or take a shuttle bus to any of the lifts. This, of course, cuts into time that could be spent (a) gaming, (b) seeing a show or (c) skiing--not to mention (d) sleeping.

However, since building anything at Lake Tahoe requires a time frame similar to that of the Egyptian pyramids, ground-breaking is conservatively scheduled for May 1996. Planning, which has involved five public agencies and several environmental groups, has been under way for five years. Before permits can be issued, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will seek public review and comment, starting in mid-February, then will conduct public hearings next year.

Stan Hansen, Heavenly’s vice president, says the project will enhance Tahoe’s fragile environment, adding, “There will be extensive benefits in the areas of watershed restoration, drainage, transportation and air pollution control.”

Also planned for the Stateline base area are two new hotels and an ice skating rink, with a future light-rail line running along South Shore to the foot of Ski Run Boulevard, site of another new hotel.

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Since late 1990, Heavenly has been owned by the Kamori Kanko Co. of Sapporo City, Japan, which has already made about $20 million in improvements, including an extensive snow-making system that has rarely been needed in this Big White Winter of ’95.

This season’s new attraction is the reconstructed Dipper chairlift, now a high-speed quad that reduces riding time to the top of the mountain on the Nevada side from 12 to five minutes.

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At North Shore, Northstar-at-Tahoe plowed back $5 million from what it called a record-breaking 1993-94 season into constructing a new Vista Express quad chairlift, which replaced the old Forest double chair, and realigning its Aspen Express quad from the mid-mountain day lodge to simplify access for both beginning/intermediate and advanced skiers--renaming it Arrow Express in the process.

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Another new wrinkle at Northstar is the Dynastar test center, which offers skiers the chance to try out any of that company’s skis for four hours at a cost of $10.

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Not to be outdone this winter, Sugar Bowl, located near Interstate 80 on Donner Summit in the Sierra northwest of Tahoe, has created an entire new mountain.

Joining existing terrain on Mt. Disney and Mt. Lincoln, the 110 acres on Mt. Judah offer excellent intermediate skiing, served by the new Jerome Hill Express quad chairlift. And there’s no need to take the gondola from Old U.S. 40 to Sugar Bowl Lodge, because a new access road lets skiers drive right up to a separate parking lot, and small day lodge, at the base of the lift.

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Mt. Judah represents the first phase of a planned $24-million expansion program, according to resort officials.

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More snow fell throughout much of the Sierra early this week, restoring powder and packed powder conditions after the episodes of wind and rain that had hardened or crusted the surface in many places last week.

Some phenomenal sample depths: Heavenly, 72 to 132 inches; Northstar-at-Tahoe, 120-204; Sugar Bowl, 144-216; Kirkwood, 168-240; Alpine Meadows, 132-240, and Squaw Valley, 66-210. Closer to Los Angeles, Mammoth Mountain is reporting 126 to 162 inches, June Mountain 92.

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In the Southland, Bear Mountain, Snow Summit, Snow Valley, Mountain High, Ski Sunrise, Kratka Ridge, Mt. Waterman and Mt. Baldy continue to operate daily on bases of 24 to 78 inches.

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Snow Summit, which played host to the U.S. Pro Tour last weekend, was the scene of a major surprise: Austria’s Bernhard Knauss lost a race.

After winning all seven previous events on the circuit this season, “Bernie” skied off course while trying to catch American Bob Ormsby in the second heat of their matchup Sunday, and Jakob Rhyner of Switzerland eventually won the slalom.

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As the pros head for Jackson Hole, Wyo., this weekend, Knauss still tops the standings with 264 points, 91 more than runner-up Sebastian Vitzthum, a fellow Austrian. Ormsby, of Tahoe City, is 10th with 75.

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World Cup skiers will compete this weekend in their final races before the biennial World Alpine Championships at Sierra Nevada, Spain, Jan. 29-Feb. 12.

At Wengen, Switzerland, Luc Alphand of France will try to duplicate his double downhill sweep of last Saturday, and Alberto Tomba of Italy will try for his seventh consecutive slalom victory--his ninth in a row including the final two of 1993-94.

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American Tommy Moe was the only racer to finish in the top 10 of all three speed events at Kitzbuehel, placing sixth and eighth in the two abbreviated 1.7-mile downhills and ninth in the super-G.

The women, still trying to catch leader Heidi Zeller-Baehler of Switzerland, will be at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Skiing Notes

Trace Worthington of Park City, Utah, finished third in Sunday’s aerials to win the combined--which also includes moguls and ballet--in the World Cup freestyle meet at Breckenridge, Colo. Nikki Stone of Westborough, Mass., was the top women’s aerialist, but Maja Schmid of Switzerland had the best combined score. . . . Squaw Valley has opened its new 12,000-square-foot Children’s World, offering child care and ski instruction for youngsters 2 to 12.

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