Sugar Bowl History
Walt Disney and his family posing with their skies on at Sugar Bowl

Since 1939
Celebrating 75 years atop majestic Donner Summit

The Mountain
A yodeling ski fanatic from Austria name Hans Schroll first laid eyes on Mt Lincoln on July 4, 1937. Schroll took one look at the still remaining 30 foot base of snow and immediately began plotting places for lifts and runs. He was later quoted as saying, "When I saw the bowl at the foot of Mount Lincoln, I decided that was the place." The perfect place to build his dream Austrian style resort.

With all his money tied up in a then occupied Austria, Schroll sought out investors for his newly planned resort. Schroll had taught some of California's most wealthy and influential families how to ski. One of his most famous clients was Walt Disney.

With little convincing from Schroll, Disney invested the now seemingly small sum of $2500 and in turn his name was stamped on the peak that would become home to the first chairlift in California.

the first Disney Chair lift being constructed

On October 13, 1938, Sugar Bowl Corporation was officially formed and together the investors purchased the 700 acres that would soon become the Village of Sugar Bowl Resort. Construction of the new Disney chairlift and the planned Bavarian style lodge began in the summer of 1939.

Skiers From the Bay area unloading their gear for a day of skiing at sugar bowl

Sugar Bowl Resort officially opened for the first time on December 15, 1939. There was very little snow on the ground the first month of operations so skiing was a bit of an adventure as skiers dodged willows and rocks on the way down Disney. Several stockholders got together and built the Hans Brinker ice rink which kept guests entertained until the first blizzard of the season struck on January 4, 1940.

The new snow brought skiers to the resort by the trainload. Southern Pacific's "Snowball Special" saw train patronage jump significantly during the resort's first season. Visitors got off the trains in the newly built Norden snowsheds and were then loaded onto tractor-drawn sleds where they made the mile and a quarter trip to the resort.

the original magic carpet gondola at sugar bowl

California's first chairlift drew large crowds that first season. The ride to the top of Mt Disney was six and a half minutes and cost riders 25 cents or $2 if skiing. Sugar Bowl also attracted the attention of Hollywood right away. The likes of Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn, Norma Shearer, Claudette Colbert and many others enjoyed the resort's picturesque slopes and European feel. In 1946, Norma Shearer saw a photograph of the then desk clerk's daughter and decided the girl should be in movies. Thus was born the career of Janet Leigh.

World War II stopped the resort's operations for three years as the railroad routes were overrun with military transports and fears of railroad sabotage. Many of the top skiers and ski instructors joined the 87th Infantry Division and subsequently the 10th Mountain Division.

In the fall of 1945, Scroll hired miners from nearby Nevada City to repair damage sustained by the lift and it's top terminal during the previous 3 winters of inactivity. By Christmas of 1945, Sugar Bowl was ready to reopen.

For the next several years, Sugar Bowl enjoyed the country's journey back to normal after the Great Depression and World War. People came in droves to Bill Klein's new ski school, eager to join in the fun on the mountain. The Silver Belt Race resumed along with the California State Championship held on Mount Lincoln.

In 1953, a man named Jerome Hill came up with the long needed solution to the resort's slow transport from Highway 40 to the Village. Jerome suggested building a gondola that could transport people and goods in and out of the resort year round. Sugar Bowl offered the land and Hill financed the first gondola on the west coast.

Sugar Bowl Historical Video

Created by Culture Films, LLC

This video explains and shows how in the late 1930s the well known Austrian racer Hannes Schroll, along with the help of the area’s first ski school director - the Austrian Bill Klein, convinced well heeled celebrities and families, such as Walt Disney, and the Hills of the Great Northern Railway fortune, to invest in the development of Sugar Bowl just above Donner Pass, not far from Lake Tahoe and within driving and train range of San Francisco, and Reno. Thereafter for a number of decades Sugar Bowl was the premier Californian ski resort as its many top-flight Austrian ski instructors, racers and coaches attracted many a skier while creating a sterling reputation for skiing excellence and Austrian style après-ski conviviality. This segment is told in part by Bill Klein, long time Sugar Bowl ski school director and ski shop owner in both the Sugar Bowl and San Francisco, and Ernst Hager, former Sugar Bowl instructor and later U.S. Women's Ski Team Coach.

Judah Lodge covered in feet of snow

Royal Gorge XC - Skier skating down a beautiful royal gorge trail

Sporthaus - a view of the sport house with the pool in the foreground

Moving in to the Modern World

Judah Lodge, New Lifts, Royal Gorge XC, and more!

In 1992, approvals to add state of the art technology, slope-side parking, high speed chairlifts, and a new lodge. Sugar Bowl undertook a $22 million, ten year expansion and upgrade program for these improvements.

First to be done was the Nob Hill lift to be replaced by a quad chair at the base of the Village Lodge. In 1994 the new Mount Judah area was opened. New Trails, slope-side parking, and the Jerome Hill quad was installed. Mount Judah Express quad chair was next, which enabled Sugar Bowl's first terrain park and half pipe. With those improvements, there were 400 acres of new intermediate terrain and 1200 new parking spaces.

In 1998, a 20,000 square-foot main lodge at the base of Mt. Judah was added, along with the installation of a new Christmas Tree quad chairlift. Disney lift was replaced in 1999 with a high-speed. detachable quad cahirlift. In recent years the all-purpose Jerome Creek Lodge was built, giving Sugar Bowl a modernized facility that includes condominiums for rent, which provides ski-in, ski-out lodging at the base of Mt. Judah.

In 2012, Sugar Bowl ski resort took over management of Royal Gorge, North America’s largest cross-country ski resort, and began updating the resort’s lodge, grooming equipment and operations. The Royal Gorge deal was made possible through a conservation purchase spearheaded by the Truckee Donner Land Trust that protected the property from large-scale real estate development.

In 2013 Sugar Bowl ski resort unveiled $20 million in improvements to the mountain, including a new ski-in, ski-out Sugar Bowl Academy campus, and a fitness, spa and ski training facility called the Sporthaus. Sugar Bowl also added a new chairlift allowing lift access to the once hikeable Crow's Peak. With all the improvements at the resort, the one thing that will always stay the same is the great skiing and riding on the mountain.

Phone: (530) 426-9000
Snow Phone: (530) 426-1111
Address: 629 Sugar Bowl Road, Norden CA 95724
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