The ritual of arriving in early morning by train and taking the 15 minute ride in tractor drawn sleighs was in place for more than ten years after Sugar Bowl opened in 1939. It was the only way to get to Sugar Bowl. It was a cold ritual and Jean Chickering, one of the founders of Sugar Bowl, said it was the only time in her life she drank from a bottle. "It was so cold."
Sugar Bowl people talked about doing something about it for years but like the weather, no one did anything - until Jerome Hill (for whom the Jerome Hill Chair is named). He was a Renaissance man: artist, musician and film maker. One documentary on Albert Schweitzer even earned him an Oscar. He was also the grandson of the Great Northern Railroad tycoon, James J. Hill. Perhaps that last bit of background gave him the idea to solve Sugar Bowl's problem.
Jerome Hill financed the Magic Carpet, the first ski gondola on the West Coast and only the second in North America. Opening in 1953, it cost 15 cents one way and 25 cents round trip. Later it was incorporated into Sugar Bowl. Originally there were 12 cars holding 6 people each and capacity of 450 passengers per hour. When Jerome Hill died in 1972 the gondola went to the Alpine Winter Foundation which sold it to Sugar Bowl. Today's version was built in 1983 and can accommodate 1000 per hour in fifty cars.
A Good Story
Because the gondola was built in the Summer of 1953 and the Korean War was in progress, getting steel for recreational activities was difficult. The gondola was constructed from old mining equipment from Kentucky.
Things to do right here
Head up the road to the Mt. Judah turnoff. Go right and follow the signs to the historic (1939) Lodge at Sugar Bowl where you can sit at the bar or eat at the restaurant.
Hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and go up to Mt. Judah and Mt. Donner. Sit amongst the summer wildflowers just beyond Mt. Lincoln (two miles up the trail) on the PCT and enjoy the scent of wild mint while enjoying the view of Donner Lake and Coldstream Valley. How many different wildflowers can you find? Stop at Roller Pass, between Lincoln and Judah, and consider taking a wagon train up the steep grade, wagon by wagon.