Royal Gorge History

The History of Royal Gorge and the amazing story of how it was protected

North America’s Largest Nordic Ski Resort
Royal Gorge started in the 1970s when Nordic skiing in the U.S. was still in its infancy. Over time, it became a Nordic skier’s dream, sporting more than 200 kilometers of scenic trails rambling over 6,000 acres of terrain. With features such as Snow Mountain, Van Norden Meadow, Mt. Rowton, Devils Peak, Point Mariah and its namesake, the Royal Gorge of the American River, it offers an unrivaled Nordic ski experience.

Royal Gorge became renowned within Nordic circles worldwide. Legendary winter athletes, including Glenn Jobe, Katerina Nash, and Marcus Nash, trained at the area. Nordic skiers from the Midwest and East Coast made a week long visit to Royal Gorge the high point of their winter.

A Land in Peril
In 2005, Royal Gorge was sold to two Bay Area developers. The developers readied plans for a major resort subdivision that included 950-units, displacing wildlife habitat and leaving invaluable natural resources in peril. In 2011, Royal Gorge fell into foreclosure, the victim of downward spiraling economy and stiff local opposition. For the first time in a generation, a door opened for the Truckee Donner Land Trust and its partners to forever protect this remarkable and diverse sub-alpine landscape.

The Campaign to Save Royal Gorge Begins
In August 2012, the Truckee Donner Land Trust and its partners (The Trust for Public Land, Sugar Bowl, the Northern Sierra Partnership) and Serene Lakes, made a $500,000 non-refundable deposit to purchase the land and other acreage near Donner Summit for $11.25 million, well below its appraised value. The partners were given a short, five-month deadline to save the iconic property, kicking off one of the most astonishing, grassroots fundraising campaigns ever conducted in the region.

After months of intensive negotiations and fundraising, the famed Royal Gorge property was purchased and forever protected on December 20, 2012. An additional $3 million was raised to manage and restore the property. With local residents from Serene Lakes and Sugar Bowl leading the charge, more than 1,000 people from around the nation donated to the campaign, Donner Summit children held bake sales and ran lemonade stands to help with the campaign. “Save Donner Summit; Let’s Buy it,” bumper stickers appeared on beat-up pick-ups and luxury SUVs. The Truckee Donner Summit community and beyond had become galvanized, rallying to a conservation cause unlike anything ever seen before.

A number of conservation and environmental groups also rose to the occasion. The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Watch, The Palisades, Mountain Area Preservation, Sierra Business Council, North Fork American River Alliance, and the Sierra Club all advanced a conservation outcome for Donner Summit. As one of the most important conservation victories for the Sierra in a generation, the campaign to Save Royal Gorge erases an enormous development threat, providing instead world-class recreation, while protecting a truly unique array of natural resources.

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