Norden in Nevada County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
The Magic Carpet
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
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.
Erected by Donner Summit Historical Society. (Marker Number 20.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the 20-Mile Museum - Hwy 40 Scenic Bypass, and the Donner Summit Historical Society marker series.
Location. 39° 18.824′ N, 120° 20.307′ W. Marker is in Norden, California, in Nevada County. Marker is on Donner Pass Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 58404 Donner Pass Road, Norden CA 95724, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Charlie Chaplin’s Gold Rush (here, next to this marker); Sugar Bowl (here, next to this marker); The Lodge at Sugar Bowl (here, next to this marker); Mt. Judah (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Summit Hotel (approx. half a mile away); Tunnel 6 (approx. half a mile away); Donner Ski Ranch (approx. 0.6 miles away); Tri Lodges (approx. 0.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Norden.
More about this marker. This marker is removed every Fall for the winter months and replaced every Spring for the summer season.
Also see . . . Sugar Bowl Gondola (aka The Magic Carpet) - Sierra Nevada Geotourism MapGuide. From Sugar Bowl's very first season, visitors and stockholders debated the need for better access into the resort, Jerome Hill was convinced that there had to be an easier way to get skiers, guests and supplies to the lodge other than over land behind a snow weasel. Jerome wanted something that was uniquely Sugar Bowl, reflecting its persona. "We were having lunch in our Hillsburough home when Wellington asked Jerome how he might solve this problem," recalls Harriet Henderson. "Jerome suggested he might build a gondola that could transport people in and out year-round." (Submitted on March 25, 2015, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.)
Categories. • Man-Made Features • Sports •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 25, 2015, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 240 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on March 25, 2015, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.