Sugar Bowl Resort announced today that the historic ski resort atop Donner Summit, in operation since 1939, will install a new chairlift this summer, accessing the Judah Bowl area of the mountain. Located within the resort’s already approved and current United States Forest Service (USFS) special use permit boundary, the new chairlift will take skiers and riders to the ridge top of Mt. Judah, dropping them off just below the summit. While skiers and riders can currently access this skiable acreage by hiking, the new lift will allow the resort to maximize usage of, and access to, skiable terrain within the currently permitted boundary. The chair, a CTEC-built Garaventa fixed-grip quad, will have an uphill capacity of 1,200 people per hour.
Resort management explains the decision as not only beneficial to skiers and riders looking for more terrain and value from their ski experience at Sugar Bowl – the resort will increase lift capacity while not increasing lift ticket prices in 2009/10 – but also as a critical move toward remaining competitive in the market place. “Operating as a mid-sized resort in Tahoe, we look to maximize our skiable acreage so that skiers and riders are free to explore more of the mountain”, explained Sugar Bowl’s President and CEO Rob Kautz, “and doing so will help to maintain our economic viability in the industry and on Donner Summit”. The skiable terrain will remain natural, with no new ski trails cut. The construction should get underway in late July and be completed by October, fully operational for the 2009/10 ski season.
Environmental impacts of the project will be minimal, as the USFS requires strict adherence to construction standards. No merchantable trees will be removed, no roads constructed, no tractor grading is required, and the towers and top terminal will be helicopter lifted in to hand-dug footings, minimizing overall impact. Visual impact will also be nominal, as top and bottom terminals will be low-profile and painted to blend into their surroundings. All signage and roping will be removed in summer months, and since the top terminal is below the summit, the lift will not be visible from Truckee.
Sugar Bowl’s impressive access to backcountry terrain will remain intact, with rules and regulations not affected. The new chairlift will deposit skiers and riders at the summit of some of the best “sidecountry” terrain – areas beyond the resort’s boundary yet legally accessible – in the region. “With the new chairlift will come an increase in educational programs targeting safe touring and skiing in the backcountry”, said director of sales and marketing John Monson. “Skiers and riders looking for a little more adventure will be able to sign up for professionally-guided backcountry tours, gaining the snow safety skills required to enjoy the sidecountry powder skiing just beyond the ski area boundary”. Sugar Bowl will partner with several local backcountry organizations, including long-time Donner Summit operation and American Mountain Guide Association certified Alpine Skills International to lead backcountry tours and educational programs.