8.7 out of 10


38.6915881378254 -120.051394919703
Great for
  • Clean & Green
  • Gym & Fitness
  • Neighborly Spirit
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Eating Out
Not great for
  • Cost of Living
Who lives here?
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Tourists
  • Students


5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Gym & Fitness 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5

"Could be the best in Tahoe"

Oh my sweet lord, I was here last Sunday and still cannot get over how unexpectedly amazing this place is. Tahoe skiers from the Bay Area and Sacramento seem to fall into two categories: those who ski at the bigger resorts (Squaw, Northstar, maybe Sierra if they have the shared season pass - no one in their right mind skis at Heavenly), and those who ski at the smaller ones - Alpine, Homewood, Mt. Rose.

And then there is the third category - those who swear by Kirkwood. Look at any map or measure of vertical feet, and it seems like nothing all that special - some steep, challenging runs that seem a little more widespread than the average mountain, at best. But those who have truly experienced Kirkwood know better.

To use the word massive is an understatement. Kirkwood has dizzying amounts of chutes, open bowls, and steep runs, many of which are accessible by one of their fifteen lifts - and many more of which can be accessed only by a combination of hiking and skiing along the ridgelines. The "If you can see it, you can ski it" motto absolutely holds true, as it is not uncommon to look off into the distance and see a massive ridgeline with a single set of ski tracks carving perfect turns down a sheer cliff face.

But even those with slightly less adventurous spirits can still feel like Warren Miller amidst the remote, high-alipine runs that leave skiers feeling satisfied, confident, and craving more. And contrary to what it may seem, this mountain is not designed for expert skiers alone. The 2,000-foot elevation change from top to bottom is fairly moderate and reasonable for first-timers, and a sizeable amount of groomed, blue and green trails make this place accessible for skiers of all shapes and sizes.

Speaking of accessibility, at 3 1/2 hours from San Francisco, with no need to take either highways 50 or 80, this mountain is the closest to the Bay Area and only sees a fraction of the traffic. Just be aware that the pass on highway 88 can sometimes close unexpectedly, making it the mountain impossible to access without driving back around to Lake Tahoe.

While lodging is not as abundant as some of this mountain's south shore neighbors, there are still several options on the mountain or nearby. There are restaurants and food options at all of the base lodges, a snack bar mid-mountain on the back side, and considering there are no lift lines, you can spend more time here and less time waiting to be picked up. This is truly a gem in Tahoe.
  • Closer to SF
  • No Crowds
  • Amazing terrain
  • Drive can be treacherous
  • Challenging terrain
  • Fewer lodging options
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
  • Tourists
  • Students
  • Country Lovers
StephSF It breaks my heart to say this, but after a return trip back, I was not nearly as impressed. The area was just as stunning, but because so many of the runs are backcountry-style, they hardly ever get groomed which renders huge sections of the mountain unusable on days that see a melt followed by a freeze (crispy, crunchy, iced-over snow with contours and tracks from previous skiers to chop up the terrain). Granted, the overcast and somewhat snowy, windy weather didn't help, either.

We had lunch at the bar and grill at the base and were thoroughly disappointed in the service - no food at the bar, overpriced entrees that tasted like they came out of a freezer but still took about 20 minutes to get out there, and virtually zero attention from our waitress. Bud's Bar, where we went for apres-ski, has far better food and somewhat reasonable prices.

Granted, the mountain can't doing anything about the weather, and I have no verification of what the conditions were like at other mountains. I would still say that Kirkwood has some of the best terrain in California, but it is also perhaps the most conditional.
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