Donner Pass

Tracking Icons in North Lake Tahoe

This is where the first-ever method on a snowboard happened,” Tim says. “Do you know how many tricks were invented here?”

He’s pointing at a little windlip on the side of the road atop Donner Pass, right across from Sugar Bowl’s Village Gondola, a few hundred yards from Donner Ski Ranch. Maybe 12 feet high with a quick transition to flat, it doesn’t look too special. The California sun has done a number on the snow, with temperatures pushing 60 degrees the past few days. We’re standing on a dirty snowbank. A discarded Red Bull can lies next to the bushes on the right and part of a broken surfboard spewing foam sits at the bottom of the landing. It’s the ramp that time forgot.

But this is the Donner Pass quarterpipe, the place where Terry Kidwell, Allen Arnbrister, Shaun Palmer, Damien Sanders and the rest of the Lake Tahoe crew basically invented freestyle snowboarding in the mid-’80s. Dozens of tricks went down for the first time on a crude wall carved from that little right-hand hit—the first fakie spins, various grabs, the list goes on. The hill above is long and steep and provided ample speed for riders to get overhead air and expand their repertoire. It was a groundbreaking spot. And we’re here to ride it. So we start digging…

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