Royal Gorge resort looks at expansion plans
It may get easier for skiers in Tahoe and the Bay Area to access Royal Gorge-USA Cross Country Ski Resort.
Resort operators are hoping to add a new day lodge, a parking area, an outdoor ice skating rink and a residential area between Lake Van Norden and the grade crossing in Soda Springs, a plan which they hope will encourage Union Pacific to reinstate a train stop that helped bring skiers to the summit until the mid-1900s.
Royal Gorge filed a preapplication with Nevada County for the new developments, but based on the feedback, planners with Hayes Land Planning Consultants anticipate making an official submission this week.
According to preliminary designs, the new 5,000-square-foot lodge would contain a small cafe, ski and ice skate rental shop and perhaps a small retail store, said Jane Dulaney, marketing director for Royal Gorge.
The ski resort has been looking to improve the Van Norden facility for about a year.
The dirt lot, portable toilets and solitary ticket booth, which resemble a tool shed more than a ticket facility, remains a popular entrance for nordic skiers and the occasional dog sledders who visit the area.
“It makes sense to us and our customers to increase services there,” Dulaney said. “It’s going to be very basic. If you are skiing between the two resorts it would be a nice place to visit. But it is modest by all means.”
Van Norden used to be the focal point for nordic skiing before John Slouber, owner and operator of Royal Gorge, built Summit Station, currently the main lodge at the area.
“(Lake Van Norden) is magical in that it holds snow incredibly well,” said Mark Nadell, Far West nordic administrator. “I’ve skied there on two inches of groomed snow and it was perfect skiing.”
Nadell said Van Norden became a hidden jewel when the summit station was built because it changed the focus of the resort. Van Norden was hard to get to.
Skiers either parked in the inconspicuous lot and didn’t ski the larger portion of the trail system, or made special arrangements to get back to the main lodge through connecting trails.
“It’s going to make that area really accessible again. I am excited about it,” Nadell added.
Barbara Green, Nevada County Board of Supervisors 5th District seat, said she is supportive of finding alternative forms of transportation for skiers to help alleviate traffic on Interstate 80 and to help boost the economy.
While she hasn’t been involved with the application for a new lodge, Green told Slouber she would like to help encourage traffic alternatives that could help the summit’s quite economy.
Land surrounding Van Norden is zoned forest recreational. An application with the county may involve a general plan amendment to allow for higher density units, said Steve Enos, a planner with Nevada County’s community development department. Donner Summit is the head water of the south fork of the Yuba River. Preserving wetlands up there will be an issue, he added.
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