Skiing in Kirkwood

Kirkwood Ski Area

Because Kirkwood is at a much higher elevation than the rest of the South Shore resorts—its base elevation begins at 7,800 feet (2,377 m)—it consistently receives the most and the best snow.

So its 2,300 acres (932 ha) of wide-open terrain promises something for everyone-from gentle groomed trails through hair-raising steeps and chutes, but most of the skiing is for intermediates and above with only 15 percent of the ski area suitable for beginners. Artificial snowmaking covers 5% of the resort (115 acres). From the base elevation of the village the highest point of 9,800 feet (2,987m) allows a maximum vertical descent of 2,000 feet (610 m).

Kirkwood Beginner Skiing

Kirkwood’s beginner skiing choices are somewhat limited. The Timber Creek area is home to the bulk of Kirkwood’s green trails.

Most of the green trails are located in the Timber Creek, and because the area does not appeal to the advanced skier, it is a much more comfortable, less intimidating experience for the first-time skier. Four green trails are serviced by the Bunny Triple Chair. On the other side of the Timber Creek base area, the Timber Creek Express Quad services a lone beginner run – Squirrel Ridge. The Mighty Mountain Children’s Center is also located at Timber Ridge Base.

On the main side of the resort, beginners have only one lift which services green terrain – the Snowkirk Triple. Two runs – Snowkirk and Hay Flat – are the only options. There are no green runs from the summit.

Kirkwood Intermediate Skiing

Intermediates have 50 percent of the total terrain to carve up. Elevator Shaft is the steepest intermediate run.

A classic ski itinerary might be to warm up on chair #7 for a couple runs then take it up and ski down Up ‘n’ Over to the front side of the mountain. Try the runs on chair #5 starting skiers right on Lower Monte Wolfe and moving skiers left to Mokelumne, and then Lower Zachary.  Next head to chair #11 and take Buckboard, if with children, also try Snowsnake Gully.

Good time for a lunch break at Bub’s Sports Bar and Grill or Monte Wolfe. After lunch head to chair #2 and try Bark Shanty. After a couple runs on chair #2 head over to the backside, chair #4, via Herringbone Straight and Bud’s Alley, and try Elevator Shaft and Happiness Is.

Kirkwood Expert Skiing

Kirkwood’s expert skiing is on par with anywhere in North America. The best area is accessed from chairs #6 and 10 and Thunder Saddle (off chair #4) while the toughest skiing is Look Out Janek; Steep and Deep Wagon Wheel Bowl and Thunder Saddle.

For powder it has to be Palisades Bowl, Wagon Wheel Bowl, Thunder Saddle and Fawn Ridge. For advanced or expert skier the classic route really depends on the weather and conditions. Powder days are totally different than non-powder days and there are many powder days at Kirkwood.  

On a non-powder day perhaps take a few warm- up runs on chair #11 (Wagon Trail and Conestoga).  Next head to chair #6 and ski Sentinel Bowl, Olympic, and Monte Wolfe. When conditions are good off-piste, go for Lost Cabin and over to Rabbit Runs. After a few laps on each of these trails head to chair #10 and look for the best lines from the chair.  The Wall, Eagle Bowl, and Norm’s Nose are all popular trails. Finally make your way over to the backside and take a few trails off chair #4 before heading in via Thunder Saddle.

Boundaries are open at management’s discretion and there is unlimited expert terrain accessible. Wagon Wheel Bowl from the top of the cornice (accessed by chair #6 or chair #10) offers steep terrain, which funnels into narrow chutes. Chamoix from chair #6 is a narrow, steep chute. If you continue to explore right of Chamoix, there is a series of great steep pitches with often some of the best snow (no sun exposure). There are numerous snow-filled steep chutes in the Thunder Saddle area, the toughest being Hell’s Delight (right along the Cirque boundary line).

Kirkwood Snowboarding

Kirkwood is a favorite among freestyle skiers and snowboarders because of its big mountain terrain.

With the varied terrain, especially the number of steep shoots and gullies, the entire resort is a bit of a natural terrain park. In response to a growing demand by skiers and riders for a terrain park system that rivals Kirkwood’s natural terrain, Kirkwood is committed to its terrain park program.

Kirkwood now has three terrrain parks, Adventure Land offering gentle rollers and ski-through tunnels; DC shoes playground which has beginner and medium sized jumps designed to hone jib skills; and Kirkwood’s main park DC shoes Stomping Grounds, which has jumps, a sound system and a Superpipe. Park riders can always find a variety of freestyle terrain suitable for their ability and interest. The parks offer hits, jumps, tables, spines, and handrails.

Kirkwood Mountain Restaurants

There are eight restaurants on and (mostly) off the mountain offering cafeteria and deli-style refreshment as well as more upscale dining at the resort’s main full-service restaurant, Off the Wall Bar & Grill.

Located in the Lodge at Kirkwood, diners can appreciate spectacular views (along Kirkwood’s ridge tops from Thimble Peak to Martin Point) in an intimate setting complete with a cozy fireplace and overstuffed chairs. Sunrise Grill near the base of chair #4 is a quick-stop place serving barbequed ribs, burgers, chicken, snacks, and beverages for avid skiers who want to keep their energy levels high without coming in off the slopes. Outdoor seating in beach-style chairs, and good music make it a great place to just relax in the sun. Bub’s Sports Bar and Grill in the village is the place to go for a family-friendly atmosphere. Bub’s specializes in all-American cuisine.

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