For many, a trip to Kirkwood Mountain Resort, is like going back in time, when winter trips were simply just about the skiing, and the day’s adventures were retold by the fire with a round of beers at the local 100-year-old bar.
Though the secret may be out. The 2,300 acres of skiable terrain at Kirkwood, on the southern side of Lake Tahoe, gets some of the best snow in the area – in the 2005-2006 season, the resort recorded 804 inches of snow – though the average snowfall level is closer to 350 inches. Kirkwood also benefits from a two-mile ridgeline at the top of the Sierra Crest, making it a go-to spot for cliff drops. While Kirkwood is known as a destination for advanced skiers and boarders, about 15 percent of the runs are marked for beginners, as well as four terrain parks.
Kirkwood has a top elevation of 9,800 ft. with a vertical drop of 2,000 ft. accessed by 86 runs marked at about 50 percent intermediate, and 35 percent advanced, along with the 15 percent of beginner trails. The terrain parks – Burton Adventure Land, Burton Progression Park, the K2 Stomping Grounds and the Border X Course – offer some variety, though they aren’t necessarily destinations in and of themselves for those who might build a trip around terrain parks. The longest ski run here is 2.5 miles. There is no night skiing at Kirkwood, but there is a tubing hill – Kirkwood Slide Mountain Tubing Hill – as well as cross country skiing. There is also an on-site kids adventure center.
There is a Ski & Snowboard School at Kirkwood, offering private and group lessons for both kids and adults, as well as package lessons. Ski and snowboard rentals are available at Village Rentals and Tuning in the Village Plaza, next to the tickets and season pass office, though other rental operations are plentiful in the Lake Tahoe area. Kirkwood is an Epic Pass destination.
The season at Kirkwood generally runs from mid-November to the first week of April. Some note that March is a great month for skiing at Kirkwood, with an average of 74 inches – February gets about 72 and April gets about 30 – as well as sunny conditions.
Kirkwood may not have the variety of other resorts when it comes to lodging, but there are still some great options near the lifts and in the surrounding area. For larger groups, Timber Ridge has townhomes with three bedrooms, a whirlpool tub, gas fireplace and private two-car garage near the Village lifts. Close by is the Snow Crest Lodge, a luxury condo residence with units that range from one to three bedrooms, with a full kitchen, gas fireplace and underground parking. A little further away, but still on the shuttle route is The Sentinels complex by Kirkwood Meadow, offering 1,500 sq. ft., two-bedroom residences in a secluded setting, each with a fireplace ( www.kirkwood.com ).
There are several places to grab a bite to eat, both on the mountain or in village area. Built in 1864, the historic Kirkwood Inn has been drawing locals and travelers alike to its rustic log cabin interior on Highway 88, either for a beer or hearty dinner, for well over a century. The Inn is also open for breakfast on the weekends from 8 a.m. Just in the Village, The Wall features European-inspired cuisine and California wine along with stunning views, in this restaurant that is within The Lodge at Kirkwood.
For on-mountain dining, the Sunrise Grill has burgers and casual lunch food on the backside of the mountain, near the Chair 4 base ( www.kirkwood.com ).
Flights from major city hubs connect regularly to Reno/Tahoe International Airport, just over an hour from Kirkwood via Highway 395 to Highway 88. The South Tahoe Express Reno airport shuttle has services to Stateline, where there is a shuttle to Kirkwood Village. Another option is Sacramento International Airport, about two and a half hours from Kirkwood.
By car, Kirkwood is about two hours from downtown Sacramento and four hours from San Francisco. Once at Kirkwood, the Village itself is easily walkable, though guests with vehicles will have more flexibility if they are visiting other Lake Tahoe resorts.
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