Sugar Bowl Ski Resort
When it comes to Lake Tahoe skiing, Sugar Bowl can get overlooked in favor of higher profile resorts like Heavenly, Squaw, and even Kirkwood. And that’s a shame, because with 1650 acres of prime in-bounds skiing that gets over 500 inches of snow each year, Sugar Bowl is a haven for powderhounds and daredevils alike. There are 103 named runs at Sugar Bowl with an advertised difficulty mix of 17 percent novice, 45 percent intermediate, 26 percent advanced and 12 percent expert. This mix has to be taken with a grain of salt, however; ratings are resort specific, so if you’re not used to the Bowl, a good many intermediate trails are going to have you gripping your poles a little tighter.
Skiing the Bowl
Sugar Bowl is located on Donner Summit, just 46 miles west of Reno, and is the closest big resort to the Bay Area. When you first get to the Bowl, you can get to the slopes one of two ways. You can park right off of Old Highway 40 and ride the gondola up, or take the entrance to the Judah Lodge area and park there. Where you should park really depends on which peak you’re going to spend the most time on. If you’re going to spend the majority of your time on Judah, park at the Lodge. If you’re not staying at the Bowl and you’re after any of the other three peaks, park at the Village lot. It’s about a ten minute walk under non-crowded conditions from the Village to Judah, but at closing time on the weekends, it can take up to twice as long moving back and forth.
There are four peaks at Sugar Bowl for inbounds skiing: Judah, Lincoln, Disney, and Crow’s Nest. Which peak you’re going to spend the most of your time on depends on your ski ability and what type of skiing you prefer. If you’re up to it, you should ski them all. Taking the lift line straight down from Crow’s Nest Peak along the fall line is one of the hairiest glade/steep combos you’ll find in California, but it’s also one of the best. Chutes on Lincoln have drop ins that are gnarly and fun; the bowls and wide open steeps on Disney are some of the best powders west of the Rockies, and when Judah Bowl is open, you’d be crazy to miss it.
There are 13 lifts that service Sugar Bowl which can move over 23,000 skiers per hour around the peaks. Judah has a standard quad and a surface lift that service the learning zone. For the rest of the peak, there are two high-speed quads and a short quad that leads to expert chutes and the Judas Bowl. Mt. Lincoln offers two lifts, both high speed quads. Christmas Tree is the shorter lift that leads to several novice and intermediate runs. The Lincoln Express leads to the peak and access to back country off-piste skiing. Disney has a high speed quad and a standard double, and Crow’s Nest offers one standard triple lift.
Après Ski at Snow Bowl
There are many dining options at Sugar Bowl, both during the day and as the afternoon winds down. Nob Hill BBQ is one of the favorites, but is only open on the weekends and holidays. If you’ve packed your own lunch, warm up at Rathskeller and supplement your vittles with goodies from the vending machines. Nob Hill Café has a great view and offers traditional diner fare. The beef stew in a bread bowl is outstanding and goes great with a seat by a window. If you’re after more adult libations, the Belt Room Bar has cold beer on tap, wine by the bottle or glass, and a fantastic view with plenty of friendly locals. For more formal dining, the Village Lodge has a large fireplace, elegant seating, and a menu of specials that includes elk tenderloin and Scottish salmon.