Renowned for its lack of crowds, deep dumps and challenging terrain, Kirkwood is one of California’s best spots to shred. It’s slightly off the beaten path, 35 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe. That’s not to say getting there is a pain, however, as it’s only a 90-minute drive via US 395 and Route 88 West from Reno International Airport. Kirkwood has been known to receive three to four feet of snow in a 24 hour period. While in those extreme cases there’s almost too much snow to venture outside, those massive dumps are an indicator of what makes Kirkwood appealing.
The unique volcanic rock formations around Kirkwood yield an assortment of drops, natural takeoffs, cheese wedges and the like. For those who enjoy a healthy dose of airtime, there’s plenty to be had on the slopes of Kirkwood. Case in point, Kirkwood has been the home to a stop of the Freeride World Tour for a number of years. While the event is held on a permanently closed part of the mountain called The Cirque, the ridges leading up to this area offer the same steep pitches as the closed portion. The mountain is essentially one giant ridge line that patrollers work from lookers right to left on big snow days. This creates staggered openings of its infamous steep zones (Jim’s, The Fingers, The Wall, Eagle Bowl, Thunder Saddle), resulting in fresh lines all day long.