Got back from a daytrip to Sugarbowl today.
There was a big accident on I80 before 8:30AM and the road was closed, so I was stuck in the car 2 miles from Nyack (scene of the accident) for close to 4 hours. After being turned around, I turned off at the next exit and took a 2 hour nap. They finally opened the road at 12:30PM. When I arrived at Sugarbowl, it was already 1PM. :-(
The drive through Donner Pass Road was very interesting. So different from both the Tahoe North shore area and South Lake Tahoe! Donner Ski Ranch was cute.
I thought I'd check out the Judah side for future reference although I knew it was closed. It was open however, so I happily parked quite near the lodge (closed except for ticket booth and restrooms) and the Jerome Hill lift. The lady at the lift window was nice and gave me a $10 voucher in addition to the afternoon ticket for my Safeway gift card.
Not knowing what to expect, I headed out with my short slalom ski. I was going to check out the groomers first and then look at what it was like off the trails. Thought I'd made the right choice while skiing down towards the Village base. BIG mistake, I realized, once I got on the Lincoln chair. Fluffy snow everywhere! But I'll just stick to my 160cm SL9's since it's a chore to get back to the car and change skis.. Checked out a blue run(Crowley's Run?) to warm up and to get the lay of the land. The next chair entered the roped advanced area and made some turns near Sisters. Niiiiiiiiiiice!! Sure wish I had my 175cm M:EX's though.. Moved to Mount Disney. Checked out a groomed blue run again, Crow's Traverse and Overland. Might be interesting enough for my friends who can't yet ski/ride black runs comfortably.
Then tried a couple of ungroomed black runs Donald Duck(I think), Market Street. Snow was very very nice. With the lack of crowds and the overcast sky, there were still pockets of unskied snow, and it was all fluffy. That was when I realized it would actually be worthwhile to go back to the car and break out the M:EX's. The amount of fun I would have would be doubled. Now back with the EX's, I only had one more hour to go. Fuller's Folly, Silver Belt etc. I had a stupid grin on my face. Four runs later, it was already time to head back to the other side. The Jerome Hill lift kept running till 4:20, so I did a few more runs down Steamers. A little short, snow was a little heavier, but I was thankful for every additional run after 4PM.
At the end of the day, I felt like I had a great day. (Isn't every fresh-snow day?) Sure, I wish I could have arrived in the morning and had twice as much time, and in lots of freshies, but it was still all good. The quality of the experience made up for the lack of quantity.
Comparing Sugarbowl to Kirkwood, I really appreciated the Express lifts. I was able to get a lot out of the short 3 hours I had there. I'm not sure whether Express lifts will mean that the snow will be tracked out and packed faster when there are more people, but at least today it seemed as if this was not the case.
The trees were overall sparser than in Kirkwood, and I felt that there would be more to ski for the same area.(But Kirkwood is larger.) Lots of interesting terrain too. Chutes, gullies, ridges. At least as much as Kirkwood. I was reading the stats before going, and noticed that the vertical was a lot shorter than Kirkwood. But it was good enough, especially when the lifts bring you back to the top so fast. I somehow get the feeling that I would have more fun at Sugarbowl on fresh snow days than at Kirkwood, but this could possibly be because I was skiing somewhere new, as opposed to somewhere I ski all the time. We'll see.
There were many flat traverses that connect up the various areas. Not sure if my snowboarding friends would like this.
Very interesting was that there were numerous backcountry gates. This was something new to me. One day when I get around to doing BC stuff, (with the right gear, training and buddies, of course) this looks like a great place to start from.
One thing I couldn't help but wonder, was whether there would be much to do when there is no fresh snow and the ungroomed area is covered with death cookies. Looks like Mt. Judah would be nice for carving on groomers, but not sure as I only saw it from afar as it was closed for the season.
I guess I'll find out next Saturday. I need to use up (or sell off) my other three Safeway giftcards, and I also want to get more of this wonderful place called Sugarbowl.