Rad Resorts: Kirkwood, California – Natural terrain at its best

Comments by Nate Deschenes/

The almighty Cirque and Chair 10.  Photo: Nate DeschenesThe almighty Cirque and Chair 10. | Photo: Nate Deschenes

Kirkwood, if you don’t know, is straight legendary. Few places rival the natural terrain granted to Kirkwood’s vast expanse – chutes, gullies, cliffs, rocks, bowls, cornices… the odd groomer. As one local put it, “The “in bounds” here is more intense than most any backcountry – anywhere!” Add to that over 600 inches of snowfall annually, a geographic anomaly that infects the area with an epidemic of widespread glory.

As a Class A (most dangerous) avalanche area, things are done a little differently at Kirkwood, namely the seriousness of boundary lines and the order in which terrain opens on a pow day. Strict adherence to the rules here is not only recommended, it is required if you place any value on future life activities. Yet, when those lifts pop, get ready for a life changing experience, as at Kirkwood there are no wrong turns and getting sucked down one of the dozens of gullies or finding yourself perched atop a money cliff band is all part of the program.

Casey Lucas rips into some classic Kirkwood terrain. Aurora Photos / Kirkwood Mountain Resort. Casey Lucas rips into some classic Kirkwood terrain. Aurora Photos / Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

Local ripper Casey Lucas has been ruling Kirkwood for over 14 years. Garnering the attention of sponsors like Oakley, Never Summer and Dakine she has an obvious gratitude for the place that undoubtedly trained her to become one of the standouts on this year’s Freeride World Tour. According to Lucas, “The diversity of natural features from cliff drops, chutes, spines lines, and natural jumps continue to inspire and challenge me.”

As a place that is fairly remote, Lucas also applauds the real mountain culture that the area embraces, explaining that, “Kirkwood also has an amazing family, a group of people living their life to the fullest.”

So who better than Miss Lucas to drop some advice on how to get the best out of your next trip to this Rad Resort.

Best place to scare yourself:
Jim’s Ridge or the Cirque

Best secret stash:
Fall line gullies under Heart Shoot

Best side-country hike:
Thunder Bowl

Best people to ride with:
Anyone who likes to have a fun time and doesn’t mind a good hike.

600 inches… average. Brendon Drury samples the Sierra’s finest. Aurora Photos / Kirkwood Mountain Resort600 inches… average. Brendon Drury samples the Sierra’s finest. Aurora Photos / Kirkwood Mountain Resort

Best month to shred:
Miracle March!

Best hit run:
“The Fingers” off Chair 6 to the park.

Best pow run:
Eagle Bowl

Best urban myth/resort legend:
Tele Rob sending Hospital Drop or Daron Rahlves skiing the Cirque in four turns.

Best live music:
Mont Bleu Outdoor Amphitheater (South Lake Tahoe)

Best bar:
Divided Sky (SLT)

Best nightlife:
Heavenly Village (SLT)

Best hotel:
Kirkwood Lodge

Best hotel on a budget:
Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge (SLT)

Best hot tub/hot spring:
Grover Hot Springs – 30 minutes away in Markleeville.

Best breakfast:
Down Town Café (SLT)

Best grocery store:
Grass Roots (SLT)

Best pizza:
Grand Central Station (SLT)

Best burger:
The Wall Bar

Best veggie:
Sprouts (SLT)

Best snowboard shop:
Shoreline of Tahoe and Sports LTD.

rad-resorts-kirkwood-trail-map

Vitals

Website: Kirkwood.com

Where: Located on Highway 88 on the crest of the Sierra Nevada – 90 min from Reno, 30 min from South Lake Tahoe, 3 hrs from Bay Area

Elevation: 7,800 – 9,876 ft
Lifts: 12
Acreage: 2,300

Parks: 3
Pipe: No
Powder: 600 in

Lift Tickets: Midweek $79
Weekend/Holiday $89
3 days in advance online $60/$76
(https://onestore.snow.com/kw/eStore.asp?action=TicketsViewSeasons&rnd=939572721977)

Season Pass: $439 Early Bird (http://www.snow.com/epic-pass/passes/kirkwood-pass.aspx)