January is a great time to visit Land Trust properties on groomed ski trails at Royal Gorge and Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center. The snow is mid-winter crisp and thanks to recent storms, the trails are well-covered. When lower valleys are obscured by inversions, you’ll enjoy sun and views at high elevation. Passes are required to access the trails at the resorts.
When a 950-unit housing development threatened Royal Gorge in 2012, the Land Trust and Donner Summit community mobilized to ensure thousands of acres were protected for public recreation, including winter, when Land Trust partner Sugar Bowl operates the resort.
Located on Donner Summit, Royal Gorge gets ample snowfall, and at roughly 3,000-acres, offers a vast array of trails and terrain to explore. Different areas vary from open, level meadows to tight, wooded trails passing through mature red firs, with climbs giving way to spectacular views of the Sierra Crest and western slope. Lyle’s lookout offers a panorama over Kidd, Palisade and Killborn Lakes, while Point Mariah looks south into the deep canyon of the North Fork of the American River.
Different trails cater to all ability levels in each track system, so just about any XC skier can enjoy the views, forests and meadows throughout Royal Gorge.
Looking from Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Area's Hastings cutoff Trail toward Frog Lake Cliff.
Tahoe Donner Association partnered with the Land Trust in 2016 to acquire the Crabtree Canyon portion of the Carpenter Valley acquisition. Now protected by a conservation easement, Crabtree Canyon will continue to be a mecca for mountain biking, hiking, and XC skiing.
Ski the Crabtree Canyon trail out of Euer Valley for an uphill workout and a long downhill run, the Sundance trail to Hastings Cutoff for a view of the Sierra Crest headlined by Frog Lake Cliffs and all the parcels in the Land Trust’s current acquisition of Frog Lake, Red Mountain, and Carpenter Ridge, or climb to Drifter Hut for a great view over Donner Lake of Land Trust victories at Schallenberger Ridge, Black Wall, and Johnson Canyon.
Both Royal Gorge and Tahoe Donner offer skating, striding, snowshoing, and limited dog-friendly trails.
Known as a race training center, the Land Trust has worked with Auburn Ski Club on land projects, trail alignments and on races that cross from the ski club onto Land Trust lands.
The ski club has a great family atmosphere with unique classes and racing – including biathlon – available for those looking to try something new or improve their skills.
Skiers can expect rolling terrain that can test the fitness and ski handling of anyone who’s interested in pushing the pace, and their limits.
Photo by David Galson, skiers at Royal Gorge.