Luxury Lodging – The Ritz-Carlton brings five more stars to Tahoe.
8th Annual Mountain Home Awards
Susan D. Rock | Mountain Home 2011
A decade in the making, the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe opened its doors in December 2009. Developed by East-West Partners, the five-star, 170-room property located mid-mountain at Northstar-at-Tahoe was designed in the style of iconic alpine accommodations built at the turn of the twentieth century: Yosemite’s Ahwahnee, Oregon’s Timberline Lodge and North Shore’s Tahoe Tavern.
Incorporating a rambling form punctuated by a grand, central building, its design includes steeply pitched roofs that shed snow, shallow eaves, heavy timber, shiplap siding and a rustic granite base. The building, constructed over the course of three summer cycles, moves in natural contour with the mountain: A series of terraces and pavilions step down the hill, anchored by the stone and concrete center.
Its site-at the top of a veritable long and winding Highlands Road off Highway 267-is intentional. “We wanted to create an arrival for guests like that of a national park,” says Mark Hornberger, of San Francisco-based architecture firm Hornberger + Worstell. “Guests come to Tahoe to ski. We wanted an arrival sequence that didn’t present acres of parking. We wanted to get cars out of their psyche and view.” An underground garage helps further that goal; a gondola connects the hotel directly to the Village at Northstar, below.
The hotel’s main entrance leads visitors up through a multi-story, octagonal “Head House” that is centered around a 55-foot-high fireplace, its 200 tons of weathered granite affixed by Truckee’s Johansen Masonry. The pinwheel ascension of the spiral staircase gives guests pause and orients them as they make their way to the second-story lobby, where 25-foot windows frame views-which Hornberger and his team established via several snowshoe outings-of Martis Valley and the surrounding forested slopes.
“The fireplace is a functional icon, a pivotal point of the composition,” says Hornberger. “Different experiences around the lobby are all connected by the fireplace column.” Part of the overall “forest hall” leitmotif, the imposing pillar is crowned with a contemporary extraction of tree branches.
San Francisco’s BraytonHughes Design Studios selected a palette that reflects the surrounding landscape; hues such as Indian paintbrush red, pine green and wild rose yellow are used in custom carpets, draperies and furnishings. The cedar plank woodwork and alpine green slate floor were locally sourced. Works by local artists and photographers, including Joan Davis, Jim “JB” Bu.dny, Olaf and Elizabeth Carmel, Chris Crossen and Niobe Burden, are hung throughout the hotel, further tying the Ritz-Carlton to context and community.
The ski-in, ski-out property, which also includes fullownership residences, was LEED-certified last year, in part for its use of recycled steel, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, low-VOC paints, large expanses of daylighting and a green cleaning program. And that certainly deserves a gold star.