Sugar Bowl, California
In 1938 Walt Disney was amongst the visionaries who helped pick this picture perfect location for Sugar Bowl. The ski resort is set in a superb position next to the Donner summit, a place of tall peaks, steep narrow chutes, and wide open bowls. It also happens that Sugarbowl’s easier to get to than any other ski areas in the Lake Tahoe area, situated close to Interstate 80, five miles west of Truckee.
There are two base areas at Sugar Bowl. The first is Judah Base, situated directly on the road. A mile to the west of Judah Base is the parking lot for the Village Base. The Village is reached from the lot by a 10 minute gondola ride. So if you’re not planning on staying at the Village overnight, it’s a lot quicker to park at Judah Base, avoiding the slow gondola.
The skiing at Sugar Bowl is spread across three peaks. Mount Judah, served by the Judah Express rising from Judah base, Mount Disney connected to the Village by the Disney chair, and Mount Lincoln reached from the Mid Mountain Lodge by the Lincoln chair. All the skiing areas are interconnected, and it is easy to move from area to area.
If you’re an Expert skier, looking for the ultimate Sugar Bowl experience, make sure you tick the Silver Belt trail, which drops straight the summit of Mount Disney to Steilhang trail. It’s easy to imagine you’re a competitor in the famous Silver Belt race, which dates back all the way to 1940. The race has recently been revived in a six-man format, taking place in February, and is open to all comers (providing they pay the entry fee). A second must-do trail is Rahlves run, a double black named after Daron Rahlves, the most successful American World Cup downhill skier ever, and winner of the legendary Hahnenkamm in 2003. Rahlves, who lives in nearby Truckee, spent many days during his skiing career training at Sugar Bowl. Another possibility is to take the short 15-minute hike from Mt Disney to Crow’s Nest Peak to savour the oft-virgin snow of Strawberry Fields.
The whole of Jerome Hill (next to Mount Judah) is a paradise for Intermediates, with a huge amount of easy cruising mixed with shorter steeper sections. Also recommended are the runs off Mount Lincoln, such as Crowley’s Run, California Street and Henderson Bowl. Exciting skiing on wide open slopes.
Sugar Bowl has two areas set aside for learning, with excellent beginner terrain, above the ‘Mountain Sports Learning Center’ at Judah Base. When you’re ready to hit the hill, take the Christmas Tree lift to some super long easy runs, such as Sleigh Ride, and Christmas Tree Lane, both of which give great first-time outings.
Coldstream, Golden Gate, and The Digger’s Scoop are all superb terrain parks, under the Judah chair. You’ll be able to hone your skills, and take them to the next level.
Accommodation The Inn at the Sugar Bowl base was constructed in 1939 and remains a very characterful ski lodge. Staying there is expensive, but does make for a truly memorable vacation. Though don’t expect a lively nightlife (I read somewhere that the bookshelf in the lobby was voted the number one nightspot at Sugar Bowl!). Construction is also complete on the all-new Mt. Judah Condominiums and the Jerome Creek Lodge, which offer ski-in, ski-out accommodation at the Mt. Judah base.