Sugar Bowl is not as well known as other resorts around Lake Tahoe, like Squaw Valley, Northstar, and Heavenly, but that may be to its advantage. Personally, I’ve found throughout this tour that usually I enjoy visiting small resorts more than large ones because the atmosphere tends to be more friendly and homey and fresh tracks are easier to find.
I know that many other people feel the same way that I do. If the majority of skiers and snowboarders agree with me, then Sugar Bowl is a good contender for the title, Best in the West.
If here’s one thing that Sugar Bowl does well, it’s maintain an excellent on-hill experience. Sugar Bowl is a bit out-of-the-way. It’s a longer drive to reach Sugar Bowl than Squaw Valley or Northstar from the nearest airport and cities. So, the crowds at Sugar Bowl tend to be thinner and lift lines shorter than at other nearby ski areas. In fact, Marketing Director John Monsens even told me that Sugar Bowl keeps their lift ticket prices intentionally high to prevent the resort from ever getting too crowded and to maintain a top-tier experience for those who visit the hill.
This may sound like a strange strategy from a business point of view, but I was very happy with it.
Our first day in Sugar Bowl was two days after the last snow, yet we easily found a great steep run right beside the Mt. Lincoln Express that was basically untracked. Brian and I rode that run all day with out crossing another person’s tracks. That kind of experience is virtually unheard of at larger, more accessible resorts.
Sugar Bowl is not without it’s drawbacks. It’s not as accessible as other hills in the area. Unless you stay in their on-mountain accommodations (which happen to be the only snowbound lodge in North America (there is no way in or out except for a gondola) you’re looking at a minimum 20-minute drive to get there. It’s also not as inexpensive as some other resorts, though it’s far from the most expensive I’ve been to.
But, are those drawbacks balanced by the on-hill experience that so many skiers and snowboarders visit Sugar Bowl for?
A lot of unpredictable factors have to come together to make a great ski trip. You have to have snow, meet the right people, and find the right spots on the mountain. You can’t predict those things, and nobody can guarantee them.
That being said, my experience at Sugar Bowl was among the best that I’ve had on the trip so far.