Your Mountain How to plan the perfect Kirkwood ski day

By Amy Whitley

Kirkwood is a mountain of extremes.

From steeps and deeps to bowls and cornices, you’ll be rubbing elbows with some of Tahoe’s most elite skiers when taking your turns at this “skier’s mountain.”

Ready to get the family from the car to the slopes, so you, too, can make your mark on this mountain?

Here’s how to plan your day, whether you’re there to rip it up or learn the basics.

If you’re not staying on-site, you likely have a bit of a drive to Kirkwood, which is located 45 minutes from South Lake Tahoe.

Use the time to help the kids gather all their gear, so they’re ready to go when you arrive.

Happily, Kirkwood is almost as well known for its lack of crowds as for its epic terrain; your commute will likely be the most ‘waiting’ you do.

You can even rent your equipment online to save even more time.

If your kids are taking lessons, you’ll want to park at the Timber Creek area, and sign them in at the Children’s Center at the Timber Creek Day Lodge.

You’ll have bypassed the (slightly) more congested Kirkwood Mountain Village, but you can still grab everyone a pastry at Timber Creek Café before depositing them at their lessons.

Now you have some decisions to make.

If you’re a beginner yourself, try one of Kirkwood’s lessons (if you’ll be skiing with the kids, and you’re all approximately the same level, definitely opt for a private lesson to share).

If you’re keen on just half a day, don’t forget about the cross-country track in the Kirkwood Meadow.

The Nordic Center offers rental equipment and 80 km of groomed track.

Intermediate schussers will want to take their first few laps on TC Express.

Once you have your ski legs under you, traverse over to Solitude, where you can take the long, meandering Home Run from mid-mountain to the base.

Advanced and expert skiers will be in black-diamond heaven at Kirkwood.

If you’re looking for a little navigational guidance, however, the best way to take full advantage of the incredible stashes and bowls of the Kirkwood backcountry is with Expedition: Kirkwood.

With an instructor trained in the backcountry safety and technique (inbounds and out-of-bounds), your E:K group will be able to enjoy all the lift-accessed powder, glades, and bowls you can handle.

Sign up for the ladies-only two-day series to meet other women skiers, or let the E:K team teach you and the others in your class how and when to navigate chutes, cornices, and bowls.

Not sure you want to be part of a group at all?

Hire a Kirkwood private guide to show you where to go.

You choose between in-bounds and out-of-bounds, then simply play Follow the Leader.

If you opt to explore Kirkwood’s black and double black diamond runs on your own, you’ll want to play on the Wall and Cornice Express during the morning, or traverse all the way over to Sunrise.

Come back to the front side via Scotts Run, and meet up with anyone else in your group at the Red Cliffs Day Lodge, where you can all spread out in the Red Cliffs Café.

Can’t tear yourself away from the backside?

Get a bite at the Outback Mountain Grill at the base of Sunrise.

This is a grab-and-go type of joint, perfect for picking up a quick burger or wrap.

In the afternoon, mellow out with some cruisers down Solitude.

If the kids are with you, this is their chance to play in the terrain park.

If the box and half-pipe are not your scene, take some laps and cruise down under the chair to check out their moves on each pass (if they’re old enough to ski or ride unassisted).

Once you’re warmed up again, head up Cornice Express and tackle the blue squares and single black diamonds lining either side.

Right at the base, you’ll find the K Bar.

This is the spot to kick off your skis around 2:30 p.m. and get a hot or cold drink.

From there, it’s an easy traverse back to the Timber Creek area to collect any kids taking lessons.

Don’t try to drive all the way back to Tahoe before dinner.

Head over to the Mountain Village, and stop with the family at Cornice Grill.

There are eight beers on tap for mom and dad, and plenty of kid-friendly pub-fare offerings.

You didn’t want to cook dinner anyway, right?

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