Sugar Bowl getting a jump on winter with a new $3 million chairlift

Sugar Bowl is getting ready for winter with installation of the Crow’s Peak chairlift, which will provide access to the Strawberry Fields area of the mountain.

Sugar Bowl is getting ready for winter with installation of the Crow’s Peak chairlift, which will provide skiers and boarders access to the Strawberry Fields area of the mountain. (Sugar Bowl Resort photo)

Sugar Bowl Resort is installing a new chair lift this summer, which will improve lift-serviced access to advanced and expert terrain on the west side of the resort.

The Crow’s Peak chairlift, a fixed-grip Dopplemayer triple, will provide lift-serviced skiing and riding in the Strawberry Fields area of the mountain, just below the Crow’s Nest Peak.

Currently, hike-to terrain accessed from the Disney Express Chair, the new Crow’s Peak chair will greatly improve fall line skiing, increasing the overall terrain and vertical for skiers to enjoy. With approval from the United States Forest Service in place as of last week, installation of the new chairlift is beginning so it will be ready for skiers and riders to enjoy during the 2013-14 ski season.

With a project cost of $3 million, it represents Sugar Bowl’s latest significant capital improvement to the resort, both on-mountain and around the base area. Sugar Bowl recently acquired Royal Gorge, North America’s largest cross country ski resort, bringing multiple XC ski trails directly into America’s only snowbound village, at the foot of the mountain.

The new lift’s bottom terminal will be located just above Royal Gorge’s Van Norden Meadow, physically bringing the two resorts closer together. At nearly 1,000 vertical feet, the new lift will run to the top of Crow’s Nest Peak, with the top terminal located just looker’s left of the peak itself.

The terrain enhancements will include two new groomed runs, tree skiing through glades, chutes and cliffs, and also provide a wind-protected area on inclement weather days.

2013-14 Sugar Bowl season passes are on sale starting at $299, with dual-resort Sugar Bowl/Royal Gorge season passes starting at $449. Information: www.sugarbowl.com and www.royalgorge.com

Season’s last runs at Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl Resort will be closing for the season at the end of the day on Sunday. Spring skiing will be in full swing until then, with the summit snow depth at 118 inches and the base snow depth at 25 inches.

“We had a great year, from early season powder days to mid-season groomers and sunny spring days to wrap things up,” said John Monson, the resort’s director of sales and marketing. “Bringing Royal Gorge Cross Country back to its once and former glory this season was especially rewarding. We look forward to even more skiers and riders enjoying both resorts next year.”

One-day lift tickets purchased during the remainder of the current season can be used toward the purchase of a 2013-2014 season pass (up to an $80 value).

Sugar Bowl is hosting a weekend-long passholder appreciation party, April 13-14. All current and 2013-2014 pass holders are invited to enjoy live music with Lisa Phenix on Saturday at Judah Lodge. Also, enjoy a free barbecue at the Lodge from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

New and experienced skiers also can take advantage of general admission days through the remainder of the season. That means all day lift ticket holders can get free equipment rentals and a free two-hour lesson during their visit.

Sugar Bowl has been home to some of the foremost skiing and boarding races this season, including the finale of the Rahlves Banzai Tour and the Women’s and Men’s Freestyle Hill Climb race in the United States Ski & Snowboard Association SuperTour finals.

During the 2012-2013 season, Sugar Bowl Resort also assumed operations of Royal Gorge Cross Country Resort under an agreement with the Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land. Royal Gorge is America’s largest cross country resort with about 6,000 acres of terrain and 200 kilometers of trails.

Information: www.sugarbowl.com or call 530-426-9000.

Top skiers prepare for final Rahlves’ Banzai Tour challenge at Sugar Bowl

The Rahlves’ Banzai Tour will end where it all began more than 70 years ago — the Silver Belt gully at Sugar Bowl Resort.

Some of the best skiers and snowboarders in the West will battle it out to cap off the four-stop skiing competition with a win at Sugar Bowl.

The Rahlves’ Banzai Tour is described as “big mountain freeskiing meets skier/boardercross.” Competitors race in four-person heats over natural terrain in a contest of pure skiing speed. Previous stops include Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley USA.

The Rahlves’ Banzai dates back to the famed Silver Belt downhill race, which began at Sugar Bowl in 1940 and was considered one of North America’s premier ski races, attracting elite skiers from across the nation.

Daron Rahlves — Olympian, X Games gold medalist, one of the most decorated downhill skiers in U.S. history, and freesking film star — helped reshape the race into the four-resort circuit that it is today. Although he does not compete in the other three stops of the tour, he will take on the ski winners of all four tour stops in a one-time, winner-takes-all, $10,000 cash prize Super Final at Sugar Bowl on Sunday.

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Shuttle between North Lake Tahoe ski/snowboard resorts — for free

A free ski shuttle is now ferrying visitors among nine North Lake Tahoe resorts.

The pilot program, which runs on weekends and holidays through March 31, aims to get skiers and snowboarders out of their cars and reduce travel hassles.

Participating resorts are Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Northstar California, Homewood Mountain Resort, Sugar Bowl, Donner Ski Ranch, Boreal, Soda Springs and Royal Gorge.

For the schedule and details, go to www.laketahoetransit.com.

Sugar Bowl unveils its game plan for Sunday’s NFC championship

Sugar Bowl will be hosting a full-on football party on Sunday during the NFC championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons.

At the resort’s Judah Lodge, there will be two big-screen TVs, drink specials for Sugar Bowl Pale Ale beer, and a raffle that will benefit the Sugar Bowl Ski Team Foundation.

The lifts will be operating on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., so skiers and riders can spend the morning on the slopes, then head into the lodge for lunch and NFL action.

This is the 49ers’ second straight trip to the NFC championship game, and kickoff is at noon. The Baltimore Ravens meet the New England Patriots in the AFC title game at 3:30 p.m.

The atmosphere in Judah Lodge will likely have a strong 49ers slant, given Sugar Bowl’s popularity with skiers and riders from San Francisco and elsewhere in Northern California.

For more information, call 530-426-9000 or visit www.sugarbowl.com.

Shopping for deals on the slopes

At Mountain High, the Express Pass opens the way to money savings on the slopes and several special features. (Mountain High photo)

By Jerry Rice

OK, everyone knows that skiing and snowboarding can be expensive – traveling to the resort, lodging, equipment rentals, lift tickets…

But there are many ways to save on costs without cutting cut corners on the fun. Some examples:

> Free rentals for first-timers, ages 8 to adult, when a beginner lesson package is purchased at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit during the month of January. It’s part of a Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month promotion in partnership with the National Ski Areas Association. Information: 909-866-5841, www.snowsummit.com

Mammoth Mountain’s January midweek pass is $249 – $50 less than last season. With regular adult lift tickets at the resort running $99 per day, the cost of the special midweek pass essentially means it more than pays for itself after three days on the slopes. Other price levels are $179 for youth, $69 for children and $199 for seniors. The pass is valid Monday-Friday through Feb. 1, but must be purchased by Monday. Information: 800-626-6684, www.mammothmountain.com

> At Mountain High, spend $10 on a rechargeable Express Pass, load it with almost any lift ticket and start saving – $10 on all flex ticket options – and enjoying other benefits. Those other benefits include guaranteed reservations in case of a sellout, a free eight-hour non-holiday ticket after every five visits, and the ability to track the number of runs you’ve completed, the total vertical feet and other individual stats. Information: 888-754-7878, www.mthigh.com 

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San Francisco Bay Area rain means happy skiers at Lake Tahoe resorts

By Peter Delevett
San Jose Mercury News

Tahoe, tallyho!

The clammy Christmastime weather may be no fun in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it’s a boon for Lake Tahoe ski resorts that a year ago were suffering through a dry, nonwhite season.

Since Friday, more than seven feet of snow have fallen on the Sierra. And people from here and elsewhere have been flocking to the slopes.

Snowboarders enjoy the snow at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort. (Patrick Tehan/San Jose Mercury News photo)

“We expect to have a great holiday season,” said Paul Raymore, spokesman for Homewood Mountain Ski Resort on the lake’s western shore. “Conditions at all the resorts are pretty much all-time.”

Raymore said Homewood is already seeing brisk season-ticket sales, and his counterpart at Squaw Valley said lodging at her resort is virtually sold out through Jan. 4. “Our phones are ringing off the hook,” said Jenny Kendrick, who also represents Alpine Meadows.

Kendrick called it the second-snowiest Christmas for her resorts since 1970.

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Royal Gorge opening Saturday in the Donner Summit

Royal Gorge will open 19 trails and over 20 kilometers of terrain for cross-country skiing on Saturday. The Donner Summit resort will now be open seven days a week for the season.

The opening of America’s largest cross-country resort will be the first time that the resort opens to the general public under Sugar Bowl Resort’s new management team. Sugar Bowl took over operation of Royal Gorge in the fall, and updated the resort’s Summit Station lodge, added grooming equipment and bought new ski rental gear for the resort.

All services will be available at Summit Station lodge, including ticketing, rentals, food and beverage and ski lessons. Trail passes will also be available for purchase at the Van Norden trailhead. All-day lift tickets will cost $27. Skiers can receive a $10 discount on a Royal Gorge trail pass on Saturday, and every day throughout the season, by purchasing a $19 CORE pass.

Royal Gorge has over 200 kilometers of trails and approximately 6,000 acres of terrain that stretches from the open expanse of Van Norden Meadows to the foot of majestic Devil’s Peak. It is connected to Sugar Bowl Resort by an “interconnect trail” that leads skiers through Van Norden Meadows.

A cold winter storm dropped nearly a foot of snow at the resort on Wednesday, making for superb snow conditions across the resort’s trail system. For more information visit royalgorge.com or sugarbowl.com.