The Den (Children's Learning Center): Open on weekends and holidays 8:00AM - 4:30PM.
Sugar Bowl offers several different lesson groups each one targets a specific age/experience level with varying cost between $70 and $170. There is a two-hour lesson, a four-hour half day and an eight-hour full day lesson. The full day lessons include food. All the lessons include child care. Another way Sugar Bowl caters towards parents who wish to ski but don't want the kids in lessons is what they call a "parent" ticket which can be shared so one parent can stay down at the lodge and watch the kids while the other hits the slopes and then they can trade.
Sugar Bowl has three parking lots. One is along the main road where you can then take a tram to the main lodge. The Judah Lodge parking lot is split into two sections, one that cost money ($20 I think) and one I believe is dedicated to those taking lessons. It was a short walk from this "lesson lot" to "The Den", a large tent that serves as the child care facility and is also where you can pay for and check out the rental equipment. The Den also serves as a base for where children can go to retreat to if they decide skiing is not for them or they just want a break. It's a pretty big tent and the entire back half is dedicated to a children's center type atmosphere. This is where you check in and where you pick your children up. There are lots of activities and staff to care for and entertain the kids while you can be out on the slopes if you want. Oh, and it's got unlimited hot chocolate! There were staff present at the front counter to welcome parents and to make sure children didn't escape. There was a low gated door that sealed the area off as well. The tent itself was warm and friendly though not nearly as inviting as the lodge, and no food either. Overall, I thought The Den tent was set up very well and functioned fine for it's purpose; getting students their rental equipment and serving as a day care facility.
Rental Equipment and Staff
The check in and rental staff were friendly and made sure all the rental equipment fit and was adjusted properly. The rental equipment was in great condition and worked just fine. They give you everything you need including helmets. Rentals range in price from $45 to $60 for skis depending on age and what you want to rent and $30 to $45 for a snowboard and boots. The lesson fee includes all rental equipment, lessons, and a lift ticket. So for $90 you can get a two hour lesson, a full set of rental equipment and a lift ticket. Not a bad deal. If you were to forgo the lesson it would cost your 12 year old $50 for a lift ticket and rental. Again, not bad at all.
Every instructor wears the same yellow coat to help you distinguish them from everyone else. My son's class had 3 students and two instructors. The instructors were very nice and understanding. I saw a little girl just crying her eyes out asking for her dad and the instructors were very sympathetic and tried their best at comforting her by offering hugs, encouragement, and kind words. Eventually she came around and started to have fun sliding down the gentle slope. I don't think my kids had enough time to form a relationship with their instructors but when asked they said the instructors were nice.
The actual lesson went like this for my 4 year old; first they took my cell phone number and name and wrote it down on a sheet with a list of students next to my child's name. The kids get, as part of the lesson fee, a blue handkerchief which is tied around their leg to identify them as a student. One thing missing was name tags on the children. The first thing they teach them to do is to put their boot into the ski (you have to be older to get a snowboard). This can be very tricky for a 4 year old but the instructors were good about letting the kids try until they got too frustrated and then offered help. Next, the kids learned how to waddle like a duck and "walk" on their skis. Then, they bring out a ten foot section of indoor/outdoor carpet and the kids waddle up that and then slide down using the "pizza" slice to control the speed of their descent. Eventually, they graduate to the "magic carpet" and get to try their skills on a much longer but still very tame slope. My youngest was cruising down the bunny slope after about an hour of lessons with no problems. I credit raw natural talent ;-). Well, I'm sure the instruction played an important part too.
My 8 year old was in another group of only 2 students who wanted to try their hand at snow boarding. The instructor told us that we were lucky and were getting basically a private lesson as the day before he had 18 students. By the end of the day my oldest was boarding down the slope only falling on his rear a couple times each trip down. He had a blast and we are now looking for some used equipment for him so we can save on the rental fees.
They separate the boarders from the skiers with the "magic carpet" dividing them. The magic carpet is like a moving sidewalk you see in airports but goes up the hill and is made of rubber. The kids really liked this and considered it a fun ride in and of itself. The instructors were very careful to monitor everyone getting on and off to make sure they were all safe. Towards the end of the lesson they took my 8 year old on a real chair lift to go down a bigger slope which he really enjoyed. The line for this lift went really fast. His little brother wanted desperately to go on the chair lift but he was just too small. As a perenting tip, if your 4 year old decides to throw a "2:30 in the afternoon - I'm tired and hungry and super mad fit" you can offer yourself up as snowball target practice which is pretty much guaranteed to turn things around. All in all we had a fantastic time and the kids actually learned how to slide down a mountain in the snow on something other than a sled.
The Sugar Bowl Judah lodge is very accommodating towards families. There were diaper changing stations in the men’s room as well as the women’s. The Judah lodge is warm with a large fireplace and two dining areas. Be careful to keep an eye on your kids though as it does get very crowded between 11:00am and 2:00pm. There is a large outdoor dining area as well with lots of comfortable benches. Don't panic if you find out you forgot anything because there is a ski shop in the lodge as well, just be prepared to pay a bit more for what you forgot. We needed some goggles and ended up getting a pair for $32! Gloves will run you from $50 to $("you must be joking"). There was a sale rack but it didn't have anything in the size we needed.
For lunch, be prepared to spend between $50 and $80 for a family of 4 depending on how hungry you are. A dinner plate sized pizza will cost you about $10. Same price for a large salad (lots of different types). They also have lots of pastas and the usual french fries and burgers/hotdogs. There are also some tasty french fry options like garlic or chili. We saved a bundle by packing lots of snacks. I have to say, and I know my 4-year-old will agree, the hot chocolate was very yummy!
Unfortunately, we didn't even have time to make it over to the main lodge and spent the entire day at the Judah Lodge so I have no idea what it's like over there. Overall we had a terrific time and I know I need to start saving for next season. Now, to shop the internet for those off-season sales for snowboard equipment!
* I need to mention that this review was made possible with complimentary lift tickets and kid's ski school. I received no other compensation and the business did not state any requirements that I express a particular point of view. These opinions are entirely my own. I hope they prove helpful.
On the slopes of 8,383-foot Mt. Judah, Sugar Bowl’s express lifts and multimillion dollar expansion of trails and facilities make this one of the best medium-size ski resorts at the lake. Among recent additions is the huge learning center; a Flying Carpet lift to expanded terrain for beginning skiers and boarders; and the Snow Bomb Terrain Park; a family play park for beginners and younger kids, with a moving carpet; and expanded child-care programs both in the village and in the Mountain Sports Learning Center.
With little kids, take the gondola from the village parking lot to the lifts, day care, and lessons areas. Kids’ learning programs are Base Camp for ages 4 to 5, Summit Adventure Camp for ages 6 to 12 and Sugar Bears for ages 3 to 6. You can stay right here at the Inn at Sugar Bowl in family units; ask about winter and summer packages (530–426–6742).
I've gone to Sugarbowl many times with kids and it's always been a great experience. The special tickets office is very helpful, rentals were a breeze and the mountain seems made for people learning to ski/board. Great spot!
I took a group of 35 high school kids to Sugar Bowl in January '09 and was so pleased with the service of the staff and their family-friendly feel. The staff in the rental shop and at each lift is very patient, and seems to really like kids. I would definitely recommend Sugar Bowl to anyone - with or without kids.