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Sugar Bowl to operate Royal Gorge Nordic ski area

Special to the Los Angeles Times

Sugar Bowl Resort, on Donner Summit northwest of Lake Tahoe, has signed an agreement to lease and operate Royal Gorge, North America’s largest Nordic ski area for the 2012-2013 season and beyond.

Royal Gorge operates on 6,000 acres of land and has more than 125 miles of ski trails that cover beautiful High Sierra terrain from the expansive Van Norden Meadows to the scenic Devil’s Peak.

Sugar Bowl was opened in 1939 by Austrian ski instructor Hannes Schroll. One of his backers was Walt Disney, after whom Mt. Disney is named.

On Monday, the Truckee Donner Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land and the Northern Sierra Partnership put down a $500,000 nonrefundable deposit on the property. They plan to complete the $11.25-million purchase on Dec. 20, officials said.  

In 2005, developers purchased Royal Gorge and then announced controversial plans for a 950-unit resort. Local residents and vacation homeowners worked with regional conservation advocates to oppose the project and promote a different outcome.

The recession also took its toll, and the previous owners of Royal Gorge defaulted on their loan for the property. As a result, the resort was taken over by the lender this past summer.

Fans of Royal Gorge say its expansive size, breathtaking views, remote wilderness feel and easy access make it a top destination for cross-country skiers. The area has historic significance as well: Native Americans used Donner Summit as a trading hub and settlers, including the unlucky Donner Party crossed here at the end of their journey to the Golden State.

The two resorts are connected by a trail that allows skiers to ski back and forth. Plans are in the works to further enhance the connection with two additional beginner-friendly routes.

Sugar Bowl also is offering a season pass that allows holders to downhill ski at Sugar Bowl and cross-country ski at Royal Gorge for one rate. Sugar Bowl passholders can add on an unrestricted Royal Gorge pass for $149 (adult price), and can purchase an unrestricted, standalone Royal Gorge pass for $299.

Officials said Sugar Bowl plans to invest $500,000 in Royal Gorge this season, including upgrades and renovations to Summit Station, the purchase of two new grooming machines, enhanced trail signage, a new website and more.


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