In 1860 Zachary Kirkwood crossed the Sierra Nevadas into a narrow valley. Surrounded by alpine lakes and towering cliffs, he staked his claim for land below a horseshoe-shaped mountain that now bears his name. Today Kirkwood is a small town with most of the high-standard services and amenities clustered along the Lake Tahoe access road (which doubles as the parking lot) or in the resort's lodges.
Speak to any snowboarder in the Tahoe region and they'll invariably say Kirkwood when asked for their favorite resort. The mountain is a special place that could easily be considered the largest natural snowboard park in the U.S. The high altitude, arcing ridge line contains steep chutes, wide open bowls, long gullies, crisp corduroy trails, hair-raising cliff drops and huge wind lips. Due to the high percentage of advanced terrain, Kirkwood hosts a round of the U.S. Extremes. The mountain has a friendly atmosphere and everyone seems to be smiling all the time. This is mainly due to the superb riding and general lack of hustle and bustle in one of America's top five naturally snow-blessed resorts.
Isolated in the southwest ranges of Tahoe over Carson Pass, Kirkwood requires more time and effort to get to than most of the region's resorts. This helps cultivate the chilled-out atmosphere that characterizes Kirkwood and keeps numbers down, especially in bad weather.
Kirkwood has a predominantly northerly aspect and boasts an average snowfall of almost 40 feet. It's one of the only resorts in California where you'll need a snorkel on huge powder days; Kirkwood can catch storms that the other resorts never get a sniff of. Steepness abounds, resulting in claims by the avalanche control that they use more dynamite than any other U.S. resort.
Web Site: www.skikirkwood.com
Mountain information: 209-258-6000
Snow Report: 510-939-SNOW
By plane: Reno, San Francisco, Sacramento, and LA are all the major gateways to the Lake Tahoe area. An airport shuttle runs regularly from Reno-Tahoe International Airport to South Lake Tahoe properties. If you're planning to stay in Kirkwood, a rental car may be a good idea.
By car: From South Lake Tahoe, the drive takes 35 minutes on Highway 89 south to Highway 88.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication