The Snow Report
This Tahoe-area resort is more affordable than most and gets an amazing amount of snow—600 annual inches—making for a solid 11 percent of powder days per season. It’s only got 2,300 skiable acres and 2,000 vertical feet but 72 runs keep intermediate and advanced skiers satisfied (only 15 percent of Kirkwood’s trails are for beginners). Jibbers can catch air in any of four terrain parks, and snowshoers and cross-country skiers get their terrain too.
It’s uncommon for a ski resort not to offer childcare, but this one doesn’t. So if you want to ditch the offspring, you’ll have to stick them in the ski school’s Small Fry classes (for ages two to four) or its Burton Learn-to-Ride program. Instructors here are notably high-caliber, so they’ll be in good hands.
Kirkwood scored well on its environmentalism too: The resort has taken measures that saved 35 percent of electricity usage and two million gallons of water. The not-too-far-off plan is to install 20 wind turbines that’ll generate 20 percent of Kirkwood’s energy needs. Guests can get onboard with the conservation efforts—buy a $2 or $10 green tag to stick on your ski pass and you’ll be helping the resort buy renewable-energy credits.
Where to stay is a good question, since Kirkwood proper doesn’t have any hotels. It is surrounded, though, by Heavenly and Northstar, as well as rental cabins (some that are ski-in/ski-out) and campsites, so figuring something out shouldn’t be too difficult.
Off-hill recreation isn’t as robust here as it is at other resorts but there is an alpine coaster, a zipline, snowmobiles, and snowcat tours. A small pedestrian village offers decent restaurants, shops and bars, and South Lake’s casino scene isn’t too far a drive.
CONTACT: (209) 258-7406, kirkwood.com
SEASON: Late November to mid-April
TICKETS: General: $79 (discounted on certain dates for military personnel), children $65 (ages 4 and younger: $10), ages 65 and older: $54. Half-day tickets: $64