Sugar Bowl Ski Resort
Sugar Bowl Ski Resort in California is super sweet! The strength of Sugar Bowl Tahoe isn’t really as a destination resort. It’s more of a great ski area to visit for a day or several days, combined with other Lake Tahoe ski resorts on your California skiing
The Sugar Bowl Ski Resort is the closest major ski area to Sacramento and the Bay Area, so it receives its fair share of day trippers on weekends. However compared to some of the high profile Tahoe ski resorts
that can get absolutely chaotic, Sugar Bowl is somewhat overlooked, so it provides a relative serenity and there are fewer bottle necks to get on the lifts.
Some of the bigger Tahoe resorts feel a little like Disneyland, and despite initial investment at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort from Walt Disney himself, thankfully there’s nothing Disney-esque about the ski area. Sugar Bowl Tahoe isn’t glitzy or pretentious, and even though it has a long history that dates back to 1939 and the soul of skiing is still highly valued, the ski resort is not old fashioned. It’s a reasonably well developed ski resort with some modern lifts, excellent grooming and terrain parks. Sugar Bowl Resort finds a happy middle ground.
Sugar Bowl Ski and Snowboard Terrain
OK I guess we’d better not sugar coat things! Sugar Bowl California is somewhat on the small side (1,500 skiable acres) compared to some of the nearby big boys like Northstar
, Squaw Valley
and Heavenly Ski Resort
. The runs aren’t particularly long with a vertical drop of only 1,500 feet (457 metres) at most, so if you want to have your own Silver Belt race down the mountain, it might be over pretty quickly.
On the plus side, the Sugar Bowl Ski Resort packs in over a hundred trails across its four peaks and plenty of terrain variety. Sugar Bowl Resort has short alpine bowls and ridge lines, as well as mellow tree-lined groomed runs, glades, steeps, cornices, and chutes. There are also terrain park features for beginners through to experienced riders.
Beginners have 17% of the trails to play on, whilst intermediates have 45% of the terrain. Whilst it doesn’t have the same degree of gnarly terrain as Squaw Valley
, Sugar Bowl is well known for being challenging. Advanced riders have 38% of the trails that include a mix of single and double black diamond runs. The expert terrain includes some challenging tree skiing and short but crazy cliff sections that are sick if you’ve got the courage; otherwise they’ll make you sick!
Sugar Bowl has hike-to-terrain off the peaks where you’re likely to find freshies, as well as excellent side-country (lift accessed backcountry) terrain, and the resort offers a guiding service so you can make the most of these areas.
Sugar Bowl is serviced by 13 lifts, of which 5 are high-speed express quad chair lifts.
Sugar Bowl Snow
Located atop Donner Pass, Sugar Bowl gets dumped on with an average of 500 inches (12.7 metres) of snow per season, and the resort keeps the snow well into spring. Powder days can be epic when the cold snow is like icing sugar, but California is also blessed with an abundance of bluebird days so it doesn’t take long for the snow to sour somewhat. If the snow turns to Sierra Cement, thankfully Sugar Bowl ski resort has great grooming so you can spend the day hooning around.
Where is Sugar Bowl Tahoe?
Sugar Bowl CA is situated along the Donner Pass of the Sierra Nevada, 10 miles west of the town of Truckee
(20 minute drive). Sugar Bowl is considered one of the Lake Tahoe ski resorts
, although the actual lake is about 24 miles to the southeast. Reno Nevada
is 42 miles to the northeast of Sugar Bowl Ski Resort.
Sugar Bowl Lodging
The main on-mountain lodging is The Lodge at Sugar Bowl
, which is a ski-in ski-out historic hotel that is a delightful step back in time. The hotel rooms have been restored but they’re nothing too fancy even though the tariffs are rather deluxe, probably because of the unique and convenient slope-side location.
Most people stay in Truckee lodging
, 10 miles away, which provides the flexibility to visit other nearby Tahoe ski resorts.
The two base areas at Sugar Bowl Resort are somewhat minimalist (especially relative to Northstar and Squaw Valley). There are no fancy boutiques, just a couple of basic ski shops, a day lodge, and a few dining and drinking options. The only hint of extravagance (so far) is a day spa and a fine dining restaurant.
Summary of Pros and Cons of Sugar Bowl CA
- Don’t be a complete goofy! Learn the art of skiing (like Goofy) at a ski resort where there’s a good vibe and the folks are pretty down to earth.
- The ski area is uncrowded relative to some of the high profile Tahoe resorts.
- SB is much more affordable than its neighbours, so you shouldn’t need your sugar daddy to pay for your ski vacation!
- Sugar Bowl Ski Resort is usually blessed with lots of snowfall.
- There is fabulous expert terrain (although it needs a lot of cover) as well as sidecountry and backcountry.
- The Sugar Bowl village is connected to the Royal Gorge Cross Country ski area, which has a massive 200km of groomed trails across 6,000 acres of terrain atop the beautiful Donner Summit. This is a huge plus for those who love Nordic skiing as well as down-hilling it.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective:
- The terrain size is not that big and it may not provide enough variety for a week-long trip.
- The hotel is delightfully rustic and the tiny village is unique in that it’s car free and you have to get there via gondola. However there’s nothing much to do other than ski or snowboard, minimal shopping, and negligible nightlife. Sugar Bowl is a delightful change of pace from the big Tahoe ski resorts, and the place to slow down a little.
Ski tours in or near Sugar Bowl