Sugar Bowl ski resort wrapping up $20M in upgrades |

Sugar Bowl ski resort wrapping up $20M in upgrades

Greyson Howard
Special to the Sierra Sun
Crews work on the new $3 million Crow's Peak chairlift this past summer at Sugar Bowl Resort. The lift will allow skiers and riders easy access to the resort's Strawberry Fields terrain.
Courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort |

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Located west of Truckee atop Donner Summit, Sugar Bowl Resort first opened in 1939. To learn more, visit

NORDEN, Calif. — A new chairlift, a new campus, a fitness and aquatic center and continued upgrades at Royal Gorge are in the works for Sugar Bowl Resort this winter.

The $20 million project chalks up to about 10 times the average Sugar Bowl spends in a year, making it a significant investment in one of the West’s oldest ski resorts.

“It was time,” said John Monson, director of sales and marketing for the resort. “Nobody else was putting in a lift accessing new terrain; the academy was in need of a new facility and we’re just maintaining the momentum with Royal Gorge.”

From the skier and snowboarder perspective, the biggest improvement is the new Crow’s Peak Chairlift, accessing terrain previously reachable only by hiking on the western edge of the resort, Monson said. That terrain, including Strawberry Fields, adds up to 1,000 vertical feet.

The $3 million fixed-grip triple chairlift, while not as fast as new detachable lifts, can operate regardless of foul weather. The resort aims to have it spinning at 9 a.m. all season long, Monson said.

Previously, skiers and snowboarders hiked from the Disney chairlift up to Crow’s Peak to access the terrain, and had to traverse out early to get back to a lift. They will now be able to ride top to bottom, including new groomed runs in addition to the famous off-piste terrain.

“The tree skiing is going to be mint,” Monson said. “And the new lift should help spread people out even more on big days.”

The lift should be ready on the first day of the season, he said.


Sugar Bowl Academy, which has outgrown its current home atop Old Highway 40, gets a new building in the village. It will be able to house 75 student athletes, providing classrooms, a dorm, cafeteria, library, common area and sports area.

“It’s going to be the only ski-in, ski-out campus in the nation,” Monson said. “Their emphasis is not only placing athletes on the US Ski Team, but placing students in the nation’s finest universities.”

Academy athlete/students also benefit from learning from four-time Olympian, X Games gold medalist and World Cup Champion Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl’s ski ambassador.

The $12 million campus will be open for the 2013-14 school year.

“The new campus at Sugar Bowl Resort will definitely put us on par with the best sports academies in the world,” said Tracy Keller, head of the Sugar Bowl Ski Team and Academy.


For Sugar Bowl homeowners, lodge guests and academy student athletes, the new Sport Haus Fitness and Aquatic Center is scheduled to be open by spring.

The $4.5 million facility will have a lap pool, yoga studio, fitness facilities, outdoor hot tubs and spa treatment rooms, Monson said.

“It will be great for homeowners in the snow-bound village, for dry-land training for the academy, summer use and kid’s camps,” Monson said.

Located in the Mt. Disney side of the resort, near Village Hall, the center will be accessible to homeowners in the new Summit Crossing homesites.


In its second year of running Royal Gorge, Sugar Bowl continues to improve the 6,000-acre cross-country ski resort, with things like better grooming, better signage, new events and other activities.

“When I met with focus groups on how best to run Royal Gorge, they said: ‘grooming, grooming, grooming.’” Monson said. “While Royal Gorge can boast 200 kilometers of trails, how much of that used to be groomed? We’re going to do all we can to groom it all, every night.”

Users will find it easier to get around those 200 kilometers with new signs, a smartphone app and a new, more accurate, trail map.

Other improvements include enhance food and beverage options at the lodge, warming huts and LED signs for weather updates and events information.

Other options in Van Norden Meadow will include a second year of snow kiting, as well as fat-tired snow bikes, with their own trails to explore, Monson said.

Sugar Bowl also plans to bring back the once-illustrious Gold Rush cross-country ski race.

The upgrades will help Sugar Bowl stand out in an increasingly competitive ski resort market, Monson said.

“Sugar Bowl is a classic. (It’s) sometimes old school (and) has negative connotations, but the last I checked, skiing has always been pretty awesome, and we’re trying to preserve that flavor,” he said. “We want to carry the torch, to hold on to what it used to be like.”

— Greyson Howard is a freelance reporter living in the Truckee area.

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