One of the many great things about skiing around Lake Tahoe is the number of smaller (all things being relative) resorts that are scattered around the area. I generally consider myself well versed in ski knowledge (by no means an expert, but more knowledgeable than your average bear), but there are some areas that I had never heard of. One such area is Sugar Bowl. We heard about it from our waiter at Fireside Pizza when we had lunch at Squaw Valley. By the way, excellent pizza! We split their Mediterranean and Big Mountain pizzas along with a pitcher of a local IPA whose name escapes me. A nice hearty meal for a long day of skiing.
Anyway, in talking with our waiter, he recommended that since we were staying on the north side of the lake that we try out Sugar Bowl. We’d never heard of it, but thanks to the miracle of smart phones, we were able to find out the basics of it quickly, and made plans for the next day.
Sugar Bowl was pleasant surprise. While it lacked the scale of Squaw Valley, and didn’t have quite the scenery of Heavenly, it was still a very solid mountain. It certainly didn’t hurt that we had the mountain almost to ourselves. You really get a lot more out of a place when you don’t spend half the day waiting in line. It doesn’t offer too much in the way of super difficult terrain, but it does offer a nice range of cruisers that is reminiscent of Purgatory (aka Durango Mountain Resort). But it does have an ace up its sleeve that I’ve never seen elsewhere.
Included in the price of your ticket, and by that I mean EVERY ticket is a half day lesson and equipment rentals. That’s a deal I don’t think you can beat. So after spending the morning exploring, I decided to trade in my teles for a snowboard. See how the enemy sees the slopes.
I’m just kidding about snowboarders being the enemy (mostly). Truth be told, there are nice people and jerks aplenty to be found on both one board and two. Sadly, I would have to say that the majority of the jerks fall into my demographic: the 15-29 year old male. Of course, a friend of mine likes to point out that a lot of the reckless behavior can be linked to that group trying to impress the 15-29 year old female. Perhaps not really an excuse, but I’d believe that if it was even proven true.
Anyway, I’ve only been snowboarding once before when I was about 12 years old. I remember it being fun, but also a lot harder than I thought. Also, the constant falling is pretty hard on the knees and butt. That part hasn’t changed. So we went up and I managed to get off the chairlift without falling, which I take as a major accomplishment. After a strapped in, I confronted my first challenge: getting up. It’s not as easy as you might think. When you’re so used to being able to independently move your feet, having them locked together is very off-putting. And it makes it a lot harder to keep your balance. Nevertheless, I did get to my feet and set off…for about 50 feet. Then came my first attempt at turning. I think that one of the most difficult things about going to snowboarding from skiing is the fact that all your inputs to steer are turned 90 degrees. Leaning your body forward back controls your left and right turning, while leaning your body side to side dictates your weight distribution up and down the hill. For those of you who play video games, it’d be like pushing the stick left and right controlled your up/down view. I honestly think it would be easier if they were reversed rather than turned 90 degrees, but that’s not up to me.
Anyway, I crashed. And I would continue to crash while going down the hill. I could feel that I was getting my weight back, but I couldn’t seem to change it. Also, turning from toe edge to heel edge was much better than heel to toe. I think it has to do with turning in such a way that you’re view of the hill opens up. Snowboarding is a good experience for all skiers, as it let’s them experience the quasi-blind spot that snowboarding give you. Yes, you can always turn your head, but given the way your body is twisted, it’s always going to be harder to look over your lead shoulder. Something to keep in mind if you’re passing a boarder on a cat walk. However, you borders still need to look before veering back and forth in crowded conditions. Skiers don’t like being cut off any more than you.
I did manage to link some turns, but to be honest, after one run, I was sweating voluminously, and I really hurt from some of the crashes. So I happily returned to my teles. It might have been a different story if the snow had been a lot softer, but I think I’ll always be a skier. It’s just more fun.
Anyway, if you’re just going to be in Lake Tahoe for a weekend, I’d probably recommend you stick to some of the better known resorts. They have more to offer. But if you have more time, come on out to Sugar Bowl. It’s fun, relaxed, and a great place to try out a new winter discipline. So give it a shot!