No glitz. No glam. No lift lines. Sugar Bowl is about skiing, pure and simple. Founded in 1939, this old-money hill atop Donner Pass has surprising steeps, rocky test pieces, and sweet backcountry. Street cred, too: World Cup downhiller Daron Rahlves calls it home; extreme-skiing legend Eric Deslauriers runs the freeride team.
Conventional wisdom leads straight to the rocky top of north-facing Mount Lincoln, Sugar Bowl's highest point, where lines get progressively steeper, cliffier, and harder as you work your way from skier's right to left. Unconventional thinking, however, takes you to the east face of Mount Disney, where open, rock-studded powder fields lie unplowed far longer.
Start with Silver Belt gully, straight off the top of Lincoln—a 1,500-foot natural halfpipe that has more hits than a Cheech and Chong movie and includes a gnarly little drop off a frozen waterfall. This season, check out the newly cut chairlift line—the lift won't go in till next summer, so for now it's a perfect evergreen-lined hallway.
Après: The Belt Room in the Village Lodge is still the place: Its wood-paneled walls are lined with black-and-white photos from back when investor Walt Disney used to imbibe. What, you thought Mr. Toad's Wild Ride came from the mind of a sober man?
The Tip: When monster storms shut down the road (at least three times a year), the Village Lodge gets overwhelmed with stranded—and giddy—Bay Area weekenders. Be sure to pack your sleeping bag for a night in the car. The ski area's 27 rooms (yes, 27) are almost always booked.