Spot Check – Sugar Bowl, California

Sugar Bowl has so much going for it-the main thing being relative obscurity. For reasons of randomness, Sugar Bowl flies under the radar of the hordes of extreme riders who descend en masse on neighboring Squaw and Alpine. It’s not for a lack of snow or terrain. Sugar Bowl’s location on the top of Donner Pass puts it in pole position for receiving the most snow of any Tahoe resort (over 500 inches average), and the freeriding includes Palisades and ASI cliffs. The snow stays put in the steep and narrow chutes, it doesn’t get untracked in the blink of an eye, it’s a helluva lot cheaper than the other resorts, and it’s yours for the taking.

Sugar Bowl was voted in the top ten by you in the TWS Resort Guide Resort Poll in the categories of Most Challenging Terrain, Best Snow, and, not insignificantly, Best Food-and from the sounds of things, if we had a category for friendliest employees, they’d win that, too.


Park And Pipe

The two big Snowbomb terrain parks are on Golden Gate and Cold Stream, both accessed by the Mt. Judah Express high-speed quad. A new rail-centric park is on Silverbelt Finger. Designer Jesse Collins says the park will keep getting bigger every year, adding more homemade rails like the S, C, and the rainbow rails, and more acreage. Right now there’re quarterpipes, tables, spines, and hips in both parks. The Superpipe at the base of Mt. Lincoln Express is legit enough to serve as a qualifying venue for the 2004 X-Games VIII.

Riders should also snoop around on Buena Vista for an intermediate park, and beginners can check the Nob Hill Park.



Statistically, only 38 percent of the mountain is advanced, but looking at the trail map all you see is a winning flush of diamonds. Short and sweet is how they deal out the vert at Sugar Bowl. On powder days, there isn’t a maddening dash to the one good lift. The three peaks that make up the resort-Mt. Judah, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Disney-each hold their own for epic riding.

Start with wide-open turns on Disney’s east face and then head for the trees. If you think you’re some sort of Jeremy Jones prodigy, consider testing your theory and riding the hardest way down through The 58 or The Palisades-a collection of really, really steep cliffs and chutes.

Cool off with a quick hike up the peak of Mt. Judah for some blower turns through Judah Bowl and the Emigrant Glades.

If it hasn’t snowed recently, step out-of-bounds and build a kicker in the rolling terrain of ASI.


Local Knowledge

Stop in at Safeway and get a smokin’ deal: Sugar Bowl gift cards can be bought for 49 dollars on the rotating racks near Safeway checkout counters. There’s one in Truckee.


Good Times

There are plenty of sundecks and lodges at the mountain, but once the lifts close, the party ends. Take it back to Truckee. Sugar Bowl’s only ten miles west of the historic downtown filled with bars, including Bar Of America, Tourist Club, and Pastime Club. Just keep your trap shut about all the fresh lines you got-don’t want to be crowding this place out, too.



Hit up Wild Cherries in Truckee for breakfast. All the snowboarders go to Java Sushi and Tacos Jalisco, and it’s Safeway for every other meal.



Call central reservations for the Inn at Sugar Bowl: (530) 426-9000. Lodging here ranges from 130 to 450 bucks a night. More realistically, the Best Western in Truckee is one of the most popular and reasonable places to sleep if you want to stay in Truckee.



Average annual snowfall: 500 inches

Summit elevation: 8,383 feet

Vertical drop: 1,500 feet

Number of lifts: 12

Shreddable acres: 1,500

Halfpipe: Yes

Superpipe: Yes

Parks: 2

Snowskate park: No

Lights: No

Local shops: Summit Snowboard Shop, (530) 426-7692

Ticket price: $59 for adults, $44 for young adults, and $44 midweek.

Info: (530) 426-9000,



A peek at the peaks of Sugar Bowl. Photo: Kevin Klein