First Turns: Sugar Bowl, CA

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Beta: As soon as the first video clip of spitting snow guns hits the airwaves, diehard boarders show up to hike and ride that teeny sneeze. When the area actually opens in mid November, Sugar Bowl sees an influx of UC students who arrive with cheap season passes, bag lunches, and pooches in their pickups. Some have already warmed up on a strip of white at Boreal, regularly Tahoe's first to open, but they come here to feel the early-season thigh burn of 1,500 vertical feet.

Opening Dates: Traditionally the area has opened mid November. This season's plan: Blow snow in mid October for a November 1 start.

Early-Season Snow: Sugar Bowl sits on Donner Summit at the end of the Royal Gorge, where Pacific-born storms funnel in and let loose. The area also has a modern snowmaking setup-including a new cooling system that allows for snowmaking in warmer temps.

Terrain: Plan on ripping Rahlves Run, site of super G races. If it dumps, several trails on Mt. Judah will open. Target kickoff for the Superpipe is early December. (In summer 2002, the resort spent $80,000 blasting granite, so the pipe doesn't need to be carved from tons of snow.) With mounds already sculpted in the dirt, a temporary terrain park is open for business on day one.

Biggest Early Season: On December 1, 2001, the storm gates opened, and the area was flooded with consecutive daily dumps of 32 inches, 18 inches, 32 inches. Nearly seven feet.

Deals: The new $399 SugarWood Powder Pass ( is good Sunday through Friday, nonholiday, at Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood. An early season day pass is usually $40.

Plan B: Rent a mountain bike at The Back Country ( in Truckee and head for the Emigrant Trail, a rolling single-track at about 6,000 feet. It's 12 miles from Sugar Bowl, four miles north of Truckee on Highway 89.

Nightlife: Slip into Moody's in the Truckee Hotel, where Paul McCartney made a surprise appearance last February. It's '50s hip with live jazz, crushed red velvet curtains, and cosmopolitans.

Info:, 530-426-9000