Like an aging movie star, Sugar Bowl keeps getting face lifts. This beautiful resort sweetens its slopes this winter with a high-speed detachable quad up Mount Lincoln. The chairlift's new summit location provides more vertical drop for intermediates sliding over its long ridgeline into mellow pitches or adrenaline junkies linking high-speed turns down the Silver Belt, a pre-World Cup race course. Rarely do history, ambience and raw challenge converge so tidily as at Sugar Bowl. With the self-contained feel of a remote alpine retreat, the mountain has something to offer every skier. Founded in 1939 by Austrian downhill champion Hannes Schroll, Sugar Bowl feels big-and it is. Its alpine domain spans 1,500 acres over four peaks serviced by 12 lifts. "So much to choose from," chimes a reader. The layout of the mountain makes it easy to explore. From its two base areas, lifts quickly disperse skiers into an arc of ski-anywhere terrain. Gentle slopes blanket the Judah side to the east, but along the upper ridges of Disney and Lincoln, eye-popping fall lines-some tremendously steep-punctuate wide-open bowls. With a base elevation of 6,883 feet, Sugar Bowl invariably gets the coldest, driest, and most abundant snow in the region-averaging more than 500 inches annually. When Pacific Coast low-pressure systems rampage throughout the Sierra, it can snow for days, even weeks. Sugar Bowl's biggest shortcoming is its lack of nightlife. "Boring," one reader simply states. But its amenities are continually improving. In the midst of a decade-long, real-estate driven improvement project, Sugar Bowl has added an ice rink to its base facilities, as well as a new lodge on the Judah side. But the center of activity remains the seasoned Sugar Bowl Hotel, a throwback to a cozy Tyrolean inn. A nice touch at a resort that, as one reader puts it, has "lots of Old-World charm."
WHAT'S NEW Mount Lincoln Express Quad; increased seating inside Judah Day Lodge; expanded snowmaking.
A GOOD DEAL $35 adult lift pass every non-holiday Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
HIGH/LOW PACIFIC RANK Snow (3), On-Mountain Food (7), Weather (9); Value (22), Off-Hill Activities (24), Family Programs (24).
DON'T MISS Fresh powder stashes in the steep double black-diamond slopes of Strawberry Fields.
READER REMARKS (+) "Good snow and lots of it." "Sugar Bowl reminds me of Europe."
(-) "No nightlife." "Short Runs!"