The Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe opened last December at Northstar-at-Tahoe to a banner snow season. Reservations are picking up for Christmas this winter despite the hotel's financial issues at the end of last season.

The swanky hotel seemed to be on shaky ground last spring when Bank of America filed a default notice in late April for $19 million against East West Resort Development of Avon, Colo.-the developer behind the Tahoe Ritz as well as resorts in Vail and Breckenridge plus Deer Valley, Utah. A Placer County judge granted ownership of the Tahoe Ritz property to the bank and other investor by the end of May.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, which has a 25-year contract to manage the posh hotel, but does not own the property, closed for three weeks for cleaning in spring. The closure appeared to critics as a step toward foreclosure, but the hotel re-opened for summer May 10, on schedule. It has not planned a fall maintenance closure as it transitions into winter and has not yet made a decision about a spring closure following the ski season.

"Unfortunately, the economic environment caused a change in ownership of the hotel property, but it didn't impact Ritz-Carlton," Steven Holt, spokesperson for the Ritz-Carlton, told OnTheSnow.com. "The performance of the hotel January through April was ahead of all expectations. The snow was amazing, and we had a really successful debut season."

Nightly room rates during the ski season at the resort run $350 - 4,000, but start at $799 per night during peak vacationing times. The hotel adds a $25 resort fee for each night's stay to cover Internet, local phone calls, a daily newspaper, the Highlands Gondola service to Northstar Village, in-room coffee, ski valet services, and access to the fitness center, spa, adult pool, and daily group exercise.

Parking fees are also added on. No self-parking is available, only valet parking, which costs $35 per night. Non-hotel guests dropping in to look at the much-touted hotel, dine at the Manzanita, or visit the spa will pay $5 for valet parking. This is the Ritz, after all.

Holt indicated that reservations for this winter at the hotel are starting to pick up. "Looking at the pace, we're ahead of where we were last year," he said referring to reservations made prior to the hotel's opening last December.

The Tahoe Ritz plans for new spa services this winter that include sports conditioning, après ski yoga, and renewal rituals that combine workouts with spa treatments.

More information. Or call 530-562-3000.