Destination: Kirkwood

By Tim Neville

This California dream pairs Tahoe’s most challenging terrain with an acoustic vibe that will make you want to linger long enough for those famous powder-dumping storms to give you the ski experience of a lifetime.

Meteorologists have a name for the atmospheric phenomenon behind the enormous amounts of powder that pound Kirkwood every winter: orographic lift.

Everyone else calls it the K-Factor. 

Storms stick around longer here thanks to the mountain’s three-mile-long, horseshoe-shaped ridge that traps the weather. 

Add to that a refreshing sense of seclusion, friendly service, and electric terrain, and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind mountain for people who ski hard and play hard—both on and off the slopes.

EAT

Back In Time

The Kirkwood Inn & Saloon is as authentic as it gets. 

Homesteader Zachariah Kirkwood built the cabin in the 1800s, and today it’s a historic landmark—and the coziest spot in town to sink your teeth into a meaty rib eye.

Frontier Fare

Pop into Off The Wall Bar in the Lodge at Kirkwood, and take note of the antler chandeliers. 

Those are courtesy of Dick Reuter, another Kirkwood pioneer, who lived in the woods and fed his family copious amounts of venison over the years. 

You, however, won’t go wrong with the sizeable juicy buffalo burgers.

Home Cooked

Staying in? 

Expedition:Kirkwood can help arrange a private chef to have canapés and dinner waiting for you when you return from the slopes.

SKI

Away We Go!

When a storm unleashes, hop on an Expedition:Kirkwood Cat Tour for four epic cat-skiing runs through untracked powder in Kirkwood’s remote Martin Point and Red Cliff areas, which aren’t accessible from any lift.

Slope Sleuthing

Hire a private guide at Expedition:Kirkwood (which also provides custom K2 skis) to lead you to the best stashes and dispense tips on how to improve your game along the way.

In addition, the center offers backcountry clinics to make you a more confident skier on ungroomed terrain.

Something For Everyone

Covered in steep, tight runs with names like Once Is Enough and Hospital Air, Kirkwood has the kind of extreme, big-mountain terrain worthy of its claim as the only stop in the United States for the Freeride World Tour.

But that doesn’t mean you need to be a rubber-boned cliff-dropper to have fun here. 

The Timber Creek area, home of the Tahoe Learning Center, offers a gentler take: Think magic carpets, groomed slopes like Graduation and School Run, and two forgiving chairs for green skiers and riders. 

STAY

Built To Last

The Palisades area offers the best ski-in/ski-out properties, including the spectacular (and colossal) setup in lot 29: A six-bedroom, five-and-a-half bath, timber-frame home with 150-year-old, hand-hewn beams.

Inside you’ll find custom ski-tuning equipment, high-vaulted ceilings, and a spacious media room for watching your GoPro highlights.

Secluded Convenience

The East Meadows neighborhood houses some of Kirkwood’s most stunning homes, in a quiet setting overlooking a broad meadow in the shadow of the region’s towering peaks. 

Here you’ll find 20-foot ceilings, wraparound windows, granite countertops, and built-in iPod docks—all within a three-minute walk (or an easy, free shuttle ride) of the slopes. 

DIVERSIONS

Level Ground

Kirkwood’s Cross Country Center has nearly 50 miles of groomed trails for skate and classic cross-country skiing.

(Kids should try the Kiddie Kilometer, a short loop festooned with life-size animal cut-outs.) 

Warm up with hot chocolate at one of three trailside huts, and finish the day with a sunset snowshoe hike to catch the alpenglow on Red Cliffs.

Special Treatment

If you need a break from downhill thrills, arrange for a 90-minute Dharma hot stone treatment from Body Slopes Massage. 

Don’t feel like going out? 

No worries: All services can be done in the comfort of your own room.

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