The Campaign to Conserve Royal Gorge
The 3,000-acre Royal Gorge property straddles the Sierra Crest at Donner Summit. A mosaic of lush mountain meadows, old growth forests and crystal clear streams, Donner Summit’s scenic and ecological richness have drawn generations of admirers from world over and made it one of the most iconic destinations in the entire Sierra Nevada.
Since the 1970s, Donner Summit has also been home to the largest cross-country ski resort in North America, Royal Gorge. At its peak of operations, Royal Gorge enjoyed international acclaim and drew thousands of skiers to its scenic and well-groomed track system. When the resort’s founder sold Royal Gorge in 2005, the new owners proposed a 950-unit subdivision. For the past seven years, this unique property has been at immediate risk of conversion to residential development.
The financial downturn, technical obstacles, community opposition and other factors changed the economic equation and finally opened the door for the property’s long-term protection. In December, our partners completed the purchase of Royal Gorge after an intense five-month campaign to raise the necessary private funding. We hope the secure the final funds needed to protect the property from public agencies in 2013 and 2014.
Our Vision for Royal Gorge
Royal Gorge is an outdoor recreation paradise. In winter, skiers flock to Royal Gorge to enjoy some of the best cross-country skiing in North America. Going forward, Sugar Bowl will run the Nordic ski operation and make investments to bring the quality of the ski experience up to its legendary brand.
The acquisition of the property will open the way to expanded year-round recreation at Royal Gorge. In addition to building new warming huts and signage, we envision creating a network of trails to help visitors explore the remarkable scenic and natural diversity of the land, as well the extraordinary historic and recreational assets of the Northern Sierra Crest. Those assets include the Pacific Crest Trail, Donner Lake Rim Trail, Western States Trail, and Emigrant Trail, among others.
The campaign to protect and steward Royal Gorge was highly collaborative, involving many organizations and individuals working together toward a common goal. The Northern Sierra Partnership, the Truckee Donner Land Trust, and The Trust for Public Land worked closely with Sugar Bowl Corporation and homeowners, the Serene Lakes Property Owners Association, the North Fork Association, The Palisades, Sierra Watch, The Nature Conservancy, and many other organizations and individuals concerned about the future of Donner Summit.
The Truckee Donner Land Trust is owner and manager of the Royal Gorge property. The Land Trust currently leases the property to Sugar Bowl in the winter to operate the Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Area. The Land Trust is currently planning to make investments to expand year-round recreation on the property, adding new trails, trailheads, and other visitor facilities.