Before the sunrises in South Lake Tahoe, twelve brave Tamarack souls face the cold air and the steep curves of Kingsbury Grade as they race to the base of Boulder Lodge to board the brand new Transport Cat. Heavenly Mountainâ€™s Tamarack Lodge now in its second year of operations faces a multitude of customers every day, and with high volume comes high responsibilities. The much-needed Cat has been integral to the success of the lodge by allowing an early morning crew access to the lodge long before the Gondola starts turning.Â The new Transport Cat manufactured by Pinoth seats twelve and features padded seats and heaters for comfort, as well as, state of the art safety features.Â The new Transport Cat is not only swanky, but also advantageous to the Tamarack operations.Â The lodge feeds upwards of five-thousand guests per day and the extra hour and a half of prep and stocking of product is critical to the continued overall success of the mega-lodge.
I recently sat down with Tamarackâ€™s Kitchen Manager, Joseph Koenig, who rides the Cat to work four days a week.Â He was eager to discuss the overall experience of riding the new luxurious transportation vehicle, and hereâ€™s what he had to say:
Q: It looks pretty comfortable in there, how does it ride?
Joe: Usually it is smooth and relaxing to be honest.Â Only a few mornings has it been bumpy, primarily when we cross an icy patch.
Q: What is the temperature like?
Joe: A little frigid at first but once we fire up the heaters it gets nice and toasty inside.
Q: Whatâ€™s the most rewarding part of the ride?
Joe: As we reach Crossover Trail, we are all stunned by the magnificent beauty of the sun rising over the Pine Nuts Mountains.Â Â It is an inspirational way to start the day.
Q: Whatâ€™s the mood like on the ride, how do you pass the time?
Joe: We use this opportunity to discuss operational logistics, plan for business levels, assign the dayâ€™s prep work and ponder about the inventive culinary creations we will be featuring as specials that day.Â Itâ€™s your basic foodie talk.Â But Iâ€™d be less than truthful if I didnâ€™t say thereâ€™s also the jaw session about places to ride/ski.Â We have a few veteran Heavenly employees on the early morning crew who take the time to point out great spots for tree skiing, jumps, jibs and general escapades.Â Youâ€™ll find there is a lot of pride and ownership among the employees of Heavenly in terms of â€œtheirâ€ mountain.Â They love to share, support, and promote the best places on the hill, and Iâ€™m all ears.
At the conclusion of our interview, I had to admit to Joe I was a bit jealous about his mode of transportation to work each day.Â He agreed that he feels very lucky to be working at Heavenly and at Tamarack Lodge.Â I thanked him for supplying a glimpse into the life of a Mountain Dining employee and up close and personal look at one of the factors involved in managing a lodge on the upper mountain.Â There are many moving parts that have to happen to provide the food, beverage, environment and guest service to the guests of Heavenly each day.Â Many of which involve hard work, but when you really break it down also a whole lotta fun.
~ Scarlett Mellin and Joseph Koenig, Heavenly Mountain Resort Food and Beverage