Kirkwood, CA: The Myth… The Legend


We set out from South Lake Tahoe on highway 89, heading west for what locals say is Tahoe best kept secret. Visions of steep lines, cliffs, chutes and plenty of soul filled our minds. 35 minutes later as we crest the last hill on highway 89, I give a cry to the rest of the car “Thar she blows!! Tis a hump like a snow hill!! It’s Kirkwood!!” when we turned the corner by the Kirkwood Inn , the car was silent, except for Dr. Dre rappin California Love. We had all heard of Kirkwood either from friends, or magazines, but they forgot to say how jaw-dropping their terrain was. We showed up a bit late for our adventure, as were supposed to meet our tour guide Adrienne at 10:00, but didn’t arrive to the parking lot untill then. So we met up with Joe (Kirkwood’s marketing genius) for some tickets, and an insider’s tip on where to start. We ended up finding Adrienne on the only high speed lift (chair 6) and she hooked us up with another local and freeride team member, O.J.

DING! DING! DING! ROUND ONE!! O.J. takes us to a set of chutes just off the chair. With about a 5 foot air in, and a hard right off a rock outcropping to another 15-20 footer out, for a first run! I knew it was game on with our new guide. We then get led on a series of routes that challenged all of us to the fullest. Cornice drops, pow fields, mandatory airs, point it or die chutes, and runs with a combination of all of the above. We ripped The Saddle, Eagle Bowl, a place called Hell, Norms Nose, Kodak, and so many other sick shots, that we forgot the names.

Kirkwood is Sick! Like a good case of the flu, we had developed Kirkwood-itis. Everything you could ever want in a mountain. Steeps, Snow, Chutes, Airs, and all in abundance. We were all dumbfounded by the place. We were like kids in a candy store gobbling up the free samples! What more could we say… it was too hard to describe this place in words, you have to experience it for yourself. The locals are super friendly, and ripping skiers. With this terrain in your back yard, you would have to be good.

We all were spent after our session, so when the sun went down, so did we. After enjoying the mountain, we headed to the pub to enjoy some “real” beer. Hint to the non locals, the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with a bit of the chips and black bean salsa at the pub in Kirkwood’s village is almost unbeatable. With some definite props to our kids at Kirkwood, Joe, Adrienne, and O.J., we can only say that we will see you soon, but not soon enough. Kirkwood is one of those places that should be on every skier’s list of places they must visit before they die. As for us, maybe a place where we would like to be buried.

— Jason Beacham – FTH Contributor

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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