Sugar Bowl’s Authentic Alpine Culture

Solo skier skiing at Sugar Bowl Resort. | Courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort

The majestic and magical white peaks of Sugar Bowl Resort are stunning and awe inspiring. Jagged cliffs of the Palisades appear to be one with the sky. When you look up at Sugar Bowl, you understand why Bill and Fred Klein and Hannes Schroll were enamored by the terrain back in the late 1930s. With a number of investors that included Walt Disney, Sugar Bowl Resort was formed.

“There is a strong sense of community here. The snowbound village is really important. I’ve spent every Christmas of my life at Sugar Bowl. I don’t get into a car for 10 days, that’s unique.”     –Michael Parish

The ski-in-ski-out alpine culture of Sugar Bowl is still vibrantly alive 80 years after it began. The resort was home to the first chairlift in California and the first ski gondola in the West. The homeowners are stewards of the authentic alpine culture that makes Sugar Bowl so special. Mount Lincoln, Mount Disney, Mount Judah and Crow’s Nest Peak offer miles of ski terrain and are open to the public at one of the region’s independently owned ski areas.

Read about the founding of Sugar Bowl

There are 134 homes in the snowbound village. There are no stores or shops in the village and people get around by foot or on skis. The Hotel offers newly renovated rooms, the Belt Room Bar, Village Dining Room, Espresso Bar and the new Sporthaus spa and training facility. There’s a cafeteria at the Judah Lodge on the east side of the resort. Other than that, if you need supplies, it’s a ride to Soda Springs General Store or a trip to Truckee.

The Palisades. | Courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort

“We have a legacy, a historical resort that is uniquely special. We want to preserve the magic of a snowbound village that is unique to North America. We have an active community with alpine, back-country, cross-country and skate skiing. Rain or snow it doesn’t matter, people are outside,” says CEO Greg Dallas.

Steve Beatty, director of Village Services, has been with Sugar Bowl for 41 years. He’s seen the growth and expansion of the resort in a way many haven’t and acknowledges the expansion of homes in the village has been a big shift over the years.

The Hotel. | Courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort

“In 1939, the ski resort had only a handful of homeowners such as the Chickerings, Hendersons, Gregorys, Walkers, Greys, Jones, Hill and Schroll families,” says Beattie. “Acquiring Royal Gorge Cross Country Center [in 2013] was another unique dynamic for the resort. Having both sport disciplines is a game changer for Sugar Bowl. Because Sugar Bowl is privately owned and not a corporate structure, we have a better control with our environment and can create the culture we want here.”

Michael Parish and sister Jessica Galloway are third-generation Sugar Bowl homeowners. Their grandparents Marco and Ruth Hellman built their house in 1958. Their mother Nancy Hellman Bechtle has been skiing at Sugar Bowl for more than 75 years and is considered the Grand Dame of Sugar Bowl.

“We used to take the train from Oakland, which took seven hours to get to Sugar Bowl — and stay in the girl’s dorm. A snow cat was supposed to meet you, but half of the time it didn’t show up and we’d have to walk to the hill. It was very rustic,” says Bechtle.

She is passionate about Sugar Bowl. There’s a run off of the Disney lift that bears her name, Nancy’s Coulier, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Bechtle was friends with Sugar Bowl founder Hannes Schroll.

“I used to ski with Hannes. Once he lent me his 220 skis for the Eagle Race off of Disney. He was a fabulous skier. He didn’t believe in turning,” she says.

As one of the older homeowners, she sees the future in the newer homeowners and their families. “There is a magic and innocence of the place, no movies or bowling,” she says.

Parish agrees: “There is a strong sense of community here. The snowbound village is really important. I’ve spent every Christmas of my life at Sugar Bowl. I don’t get into a car for 10 days, that’s unique.”

Ted Peterson is a second-generation homeowner. His father purchased a condo in the 1970s. For Peterson it is the old-world charm that captivates his love of the resort.

Homeowners and their families are the future of the mountain. Kate and Yaz Krehbiel chose to build a home at Sugar Bowl because of the sense of community. Kate was on the U.S. Ski Team and grew up skiing on the East Coast; her family had a cabin in New Hampshire. The Sugar Bowl community resonated with her past.

“It’s safe for kids. They play monopoly, football, sled and can run around at night,” she says. “There is a sense of belonging.”

Sugar Bowl can’t compete with the big resorts, says Krehbiel, but needs to look to ways to offer new programs while still maintaining the beauty and ethos of the resort. Its unifying mission is to continue to uphold the intimacy of the mountain and preserve the uniqueness of the resort for homeowners and the public alike. |