Sugar Bowl Access

In early 2014, Sugar Bowl Ski Resort instituted a policy of requiring an "uphill ticket" for those who wanted to skin up their slopes. This is a complicated issue that encompasses two distinct groups of skiers: skiers skinning up to access the backcountry, in particular the lands in the area of Benson Hut, and those skiers skinning up to enjoy the run back down.

Although it was before Snowlands Network was established, board members of Snowlands had participated in Sugar Bowl's Mt. Judah expansion planning process many years ago. The outcome was that skiers and snowshoers would have free access to the backcountry via the traditional route that loosely follows the Pacific Crest Trail. This route leaves Donner Pass Road near Lake Mary, traverses below Mt. Judah to Roller Pass, and then ascends to the ridge to Mt. Lincoln before heading southeast toward Benson Hut. Another outcome was that the ski area was required to offer a reduced price, one-way, lift ticket to those who desired to access the backcountry via the lift.

The Forest Service met with Sugar Bowl Ski Resort in 2014 in response to Snowlands Network's request for a finding by the Forest Service as to public access. The outcome of was affirmation of the public's right to free access via the traditional route and the availability of one-way lift tickets. Backcountry skiers and snowshoers no longer should be intimidated by ski area publicity, signs and personnel that imply that access through the ski area is by paid permit only.

The issue of access from the Mt. Judah Lodge is a bit more murky. It appears that Sugar Bowl Ski Resort has the legal right to charge for access from the Mt. Judah Lodge during the the ski season. This means that skiers in search of aerobic exercise by skinning up and skiing down are required to buy an uphill permit.

But unclear is the situation pre- and post-season. Does the public have the right to use the public lands that are part of the ski resort's permit without charge before and after the ski season? The issue is clouded a bit because the road to the Mt. Judah Lodge and the lodge itself appear to be on private lands. Does the public have free use of the road to access the public lands?

Snowlands Network continues to work on the issues surrounding access through Sugar Bowl Ski Resort.