Powder days are what Kirkwood is all about. Get up early and head to Cornice Chair 6 because it is always opens first. Sentinel Bowl (skier's left) and Wagon Wheel Bowl (skier's right) will get you warmed up for Wagon Wheel Chair 10. This takes you up to The Wall, from where you can head down to Eagle Bowl and the flats near Caples Crest Chair 2. This leads on to Sunrise Chair 4 and the whole east-facing, morning-sun-catching side of the mountain. The chutes off Harry's Lip are steep and interspersed with some nice trees. Areas like the Sisters and Chamonix should only be attempted by pro-air junkies, and only when conditions are right.
Kirkwood's funpark, now sponsored by Snowbomb.com, maintains the high reputation of the resort. Some of the technology that has helped Kirkwood build a jibber's paradise are the variety of rails Kirkwood bought for the 2000/01 winter season including a 20-foot long mailbox, a 20-foot long double barrel rail, a 35-foot double kinked rail, a 20-foot single kinked rail and an 8-foot long straight rail. The park includes a larger variety of jumps this season such as tabletop/hip combination jumps and double tables which have two different take-offs, allowing riders to go the distance they are comfortable with. A halfpipe is in the works, however, to be built under Chair #5; however, the current lack of a halfpipe in the funpark isn't a disadvantage considering the plentiful natural gullies tucked away on the front face. These snaking, banked runs vary from wide and slow to narrow and fast with the odd kicker, lip, and hit to give intermediates a more forgiving forum to practice in. Try the Drain, Snowsnake Gully, and underneath the Rabbit runs.
The quality of the groomed slopes is excellent and the trails snake all over the mountain-it's all good. The Wagon Trail, off Wagon Wheel Chair 10, has the most consistent gradient for carving, plus there are some great rolling runs over by Sunrise Way.
The Nitty Gritty
Summit: 9,800 ft.
Vertical drop: 2,000 ft.
Base: 7,800 ft.
Annual average: 480 inches
Snowmaking: On the four main runs
Total Area: 2,300 acres
Advanced: 35 percent
Intermediate: 50 percent
Beginner: 15 percent
Length of season: November—May
Number of lifts: 10 chairlifts, 2 surface lifts
Hazards and Rules: Leashes are mandatory. A word of warning for all: this mountain can be extremely dangerous. It is not uncommon for avalanches to go all the way to the carpark. Respect closed areas; they are here for a reason. Boundaries are strictly enforced, and although there is some nice looking backcountry, it cannot be accessed by using the lift system. Hiking to these areas is possible but unsafe without an experienced local guide and a safety kit.
Snowboard School: Contact Kirkwood Snowboard at 209-258-6000 for rates and programs.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication