Learn about our mountain safety policies

Mountain Safety

Under the law, any individual who engages in the sport of skiing, alpine or nordic, or any person who is within the boundaries of a ski area for the purpose of observing any skiing activity, accepts and assumes the inherent risk of skiing insofar as they are reasonably obvious, expected or necessary.

Inherent risks of skiing include, but are not limited to, those dangers or conditions which are an integral part of the sport, and can also include changing weather conditions, variation or steepness of terrain, snow or ice conditions, surface or subsurface conditions, whether man-modified or not, bare spots, creeks, gully, forest growth or rocks, stumps, lift towers and other structures and their components, collision with other skiers and a skier's failure to ski within the skier's own ability.

Kirkwood is committed to promoting skier safety.

In addition to people using traditional alpine ski equipment, you may be joined on the slopes by snowboarders, telemark skiers or cross-country skiers, skiers with disabilities, skiers with specialized equipment and others.

Always show courtesy to others and be aware that there are elements of risk in skiing and snowboarding that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce.

Know your ability level and stay within it. Observe “Your Responsibility Code” and share with other skiers the responsibility for a great skiing experience.


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Avalanche and Snow Safety

Avalanches may occur both inside and outside of the developed ski area at any time. Avalanches are an inherent risk of the sport due to the nature of snow and its accumulation on steep, mountainous terrain. When skiing in deep, unconsolidated snow, beware of the risk of deep snow immersion accidents and/or suffocation, particularly around the base of trees. Always ski with a partner, stay aware, and observe all posted signs and warnings

Backcountry Warning

The ski area abuts US Forest Service land that may be beyond the ski area boundary. The ski area assumes no responsibility for individuals who elect to go into the backcountry terrain beyond the ski area boundary. To access the backcountry, use designated ski area exits. Areas beyond the ski area boundary are not patrolled or maintained. Avalanches, unmarked obstacles and other natural hazards exist.

Be aware: the backcountry avalanche hazard may be extreme. Rescue in the backcountry, if available, is the responsibility of the County Sheriff. It will be costly and may take time. If a sign indicates the area beyond the sign is closed, do not ski in the terrain beyond the sign. Skiing in closed areas is against the law and you may be criminally prosecuted.

Know the Signs

Please observe and respect our ski area and avalanche closure boundaries.

Getting Educated

Get the low down on backcountry travel from the experts at Expedition: Kirkwood. E:K offers a range of avalanche education programs including AIARE certified avalanche education courses designed to give you the information and skills you need for a safe and successful venture into the backcountry.


Above 8,000 feet, altitude illness affects 20 to 30 percent of visitors from low elevations to some degree. If you live at a lower elevation, you may tire more easily. Take it easy at first, plan short trips until you are acclimated and drink plenty of water. Some visitors may experience symptoms associated with high altitude. Symptoms may include headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, restless sleep, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Those with one or more of these symptoms may have Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). If the symptoms do not subside shortly, a doctor should be called.

Upon arrival in this area, take it easy for the first day or two. Drink two or three times more water or fluid than usual. Limit alcohol consumption for two or three days and minimize caffeine intake. Limit salty foods and increase carbohydrate consumption. Most importantly, listen to your body. Do not push the limits of your physical capabilities.


At 9,000 feet, exposure to the sun is 40% greater than at sea level. We recommend sunscreen with a protection factor of 15 or higher, as well as eye protection.


Brief afternoon thunderstorms are common in the mountains. When you see a storm developing, return to the front of the mountain or seek shelter. Precautions include keeping off ridge tops and staying clear of chairlift houses and towers, power lines, open ski runs, lone trees, and signposts. Lifts may close on occasion, due to weather. Please take this into consideration.


Be aware, mountain weather changes quickly and there is usually at least a temperature difference from the bottom to the top of the mountain.


Kirkwood encourages our guests to educate themselves on the benefits and limitations of winter sports helmets. Regardless of whether or not you choose to wear a helmet, every winter sport participant shares responsibility for his or her safety and for that of others using the ski area facilities.


Kirkwood recommends the use of helmets for children 12 years and younger while participating in our children's ski school programs. Parents or guardians who decide their child (12 years and younger) will not wear a helmet while in a ski school program will be required to decline helmet use in writing on the ski school release agreement prior to their child's participation.


Know your ability level and stay within it. Observe “Your Responsibility Code” listed below and share with other skiers the responsibility for a great skiing experience.

1. Always stay in control. You must be able to stop or avoid people or objects.
2. People ahead or downhill of you have the right-of-way. You must avoid them.
3. Stop only where you are visible from above and do not restrict traffic.
4. Look uphill and avoid others before starting downhill or entering a trail.
5. You must prevent runaway equipment.
6. Read and obey all signs, warnings, and hazard markings.
7. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
8. You must know how and be able to load, ride and unload lifts safely. If you need assistance, ask the lift attendant.
9. Do not use lifts or terrain when impaired by alcohol or drugs.
10. If you are involved in a collision or incident, share your contact information with each other and a ski area employee.

Winter sports involve risk of serious injury or death. Your knowledge, decisions and actions contribute to your safety and that of others. If you need help understanding the Code, please ask any ski area employee. 


Certain areas (indicated on the map in yellow) are designated as SLOW ZONES. Please observe the posted slow areas by maintaining a speed no faster than the general flow of traffic. Space and speed are especially important in these areas. Fast and aggressive skiing will not be tolerated.


Backtrack onto a maintained trail. If you have cell phone reception, call 209-258-7911. Wait for someone to answer; do not hang up until all pertinent information has been gathered. You may also report incidents to any uniformed staff member, but please stay with them until all pertinent information is gathered. First Aid is available 7 days a week, during normal operating hours.

CAUTION. Snowcats, snowmobiles and snowmaking may be encountered at any time.


Vail Resorts strongly discourages the use of electronic devices including cell phones, personal entertainment and communication devices, and any other electronic equipment that utilizes head/ear phones while skiing and snowboarding, or loading and unloading lifts.


In recent years, unmanned aerial systems (more commonly known as "drones") have become increasingly popular among guests, event promoters and marketing teams.  For safety reasons, recreational drone use is not permitted under our operating plans with the USFS.  Likewise, commercial use is also prohibited on Vail Resort's property, except in limited circumstances when an approved operator has obtained an FAA exemption and received written permission from the resort.  This includes use associated with special events, marketing, and in film/photo applications.


Skiing and snowboarding off the groomed runs and in deep powder is one of the most exciting and appealing parts of the sport. However, if you decide to leave the groomed trails you are voluntarily accepting the risk of a deep snow immersion accident. A deep snow or tree well immersion accident occurs when a skier or rider falls into an area of deep unconsolidated snow and becomes immobilized and suffocates. Deaths resulting from these kinds of accidents are referred to as a NARSID or Non-Avalanche Related Snow Immersion Death.

Become educated on how to reduce the risk of NARSID through your own action and awareness. ALWAYS ski or ride with a partner. DeepSnowSafety.org is intended to assist all skiers and riders in learning about the risks and prevention of deep snow immersion accidents.

  • Ski/Ride With a Partner.  It is critical to ski or ride with a partner who remains in visual contact at all times.  In many cases, some of the deaths which have occurred due to tree well incidents may have been avoided had 1) the person been with a partner, 2) the partner saw the person fall, and 3) the partner was close enough to assist digging the victim out in a timely manner.
  • Every Second Counts.  It does no good for your safety if you are under the snow and your partner is waiting for you at the bottom of the lift. If you have any question about what a "timely manner" is to assist someone in a tree well, hold your breath now as you are reading this and the amount of time until you need air is approximately how much time your partner has to help get you out of danger.  Other factors such as creating an air pocket or the nature of how you fall into the well may extend this critical timeframe. 
  • Maintain Visual Contact.  Visual contact means stopping and watching your partner descend at all times, then proceeding downhill while he or she watches you at all times. IF YOU LOSE VISUAL SIGHT OF YOUR PARTNER, YOU COULD LOSE YOUR FRIEND.
  • Carry Backcountry Gear.  Carry the same personal rescue gear as backcountry skiers or snowboarders: Transceiver, Shovel, Probe, and Whistle. 
  • Remove Your Pole Straps.  If you are a skier, remove your pole straps before heading down a powder slope.  Trapped skiers have difficulty removing the pole straps, which can hamper efforts to escape or clear an air space to breathe.

Hopefully, your partner will have seen what happened and will come to your rescue within minutes.  If not, experts advise staying calm while waiting for assistance.  Survival chances are improved if you maintain your air space.  Over time, heat generated by your body, combined with your rocking motions, will compact the snow, and you may be able to work your way out.

If you choose to ski or snowboard in the ungroomed, deep snow areas with trees, remember: 

  • If you are sliding toward a tree well or a deep snow bank, do everything you can to avoid going down: grab branches, hug the tree, or anything to stay above the surface. 
  • If you go down, resist the urge to struggle violently.  The more you struggle, the more snow will fall into the well from the branches and area around the well and compact around you.  
  • Instead of panicking, try first to make a breathing space around your face.  Then move your body carefully in a rocking manner to hollow out the snow and give you space and air.  

Fire Danger

Smoking is prohibited on lifts and is only allowed in designated smoking areas. Report fires immediately via cell or on-mountain emergency phones.

Sun Protection

The Sun’s rays are much more intense at altitude. We recommend sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher as well as eye protection.

Lightning and Thunderstorms

Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the mountains. Take proper precautions when you see or hear a storm developing: Seek shelter, keep off ridgelines, and stay clear of chairlift houses, lift towers, power lines, open spaces, lone trees and signposts. Lifts may close on occasion, causing delays.

High-Altitude Environment

If you live at a lower elevation, you may tire more easily. Take it easy at first, plan short trips until you are acclimated and drink plenty of water. Some visitors may experience symptoms associated with Kirkwood’s high altitude. Symptoms may include headaches, nausea, and dizziness, loss of appetite, restless sleep, coughing and difficulty in breathing. If symptoms persist or if you have a concern about your health, you should seek medical attention.

Adequate Clothing

Be aware, mountain weather changes quickly and there is usually at least a 10 degree temperature difference from the bottom to the top of the lifts. Bring a raincoat and consider a sweater or fleece.

Lift Safety

Under the law, you cannot board a lift unless you have sufficient physical dexterity, ability, and knowledge to negotiate or to use such lift safely or until you have asked for and received information sufficient to enable you to use the lift safely. You may not use a lift when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Please lower the bar when riding lifts.

Weather and Terrain

YOU ASSUME THE RISK of unpredictable weather, as well as rugged, uneven, irregular, and slippery conditions.


Be aware that trails and roads on Kirkwood Mountain Resort are used for many purposes during the summer. Mountain bikes, hikers, horses, motorized vehicles, construction equipment, and others may be encountered at any time.

Construction Warning

You may encounter construction equipment, maintenance vehicles or other heavy machinery at any time. Always be cautious and obey posted signs and warnings.

Mountain Biking

Helmets and sturdy shoes with good tread are recommended at all times. Child carriers or tow-behind bikes are not permitted and all bikes must have two working brakes. All loose clothing, bags or packs should be firmly secured so they do not interfere with the bicycle’s moving parts.

Mountain bikers must always yield to other non-motorized trail users. Should you encounter hikers or horses on any trail, you must yield the right-of-way. Ride on designated trails only and obey all posted signs and warnings. Failure to do so may result in lift ticket and/or pass revocation.


Do not litter or feed wildlife. Hikers rarely encounter bears but, if you do, please remain calm and back away slowly. Kirkwood asks that everyone is cautious and respectful of wildlife.


All Kirkwood mountain bikers must obey the NORBA Code.

  • I will yield the right-of-way to other non-motorized trail users
  • I will use caution when overtaking another and will make my presence known well in advance
  • I will maintain control of my speed at all times
  • I will stay on designated trails
  • I will not disturb wildlife or livestock
  • I will not litter
  • I will respect public and private property
  • I will always be self-sufficient
  • I will not travel solo in remote areas
  • I will observe the practice of minimum impact bicycling
  • I will always wear a helmet whenever I ride

Responsibility Code

Mountain biking involves elements of risk that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce. Please adhere to the responsibility code, and share a safe experience with others.

  • Ride in control and within your ability level. You must be able to avoid other people or objects.
  • Stay off the lifts and trails if your ability is impaired by drugs, alcohol or fatigue.
  • All riders must wear a helmet and gloves. Other protective equipment is strongly recommended.
  • Inspect your bike or have it checked by a qualified bike mechanic before you ride.
  • Be sure to have the physical dexterity, ability, and knowledge to safely load, ride, and unload lifts. Ask the lift attendant for assistance if you need it.
  • Be aware of changing conditions on trails and features.
  • Inspect features before use and throughout the day.
  • Stay on marked trails. Obey all signs and warnings. Do not cut switchbacks. Keep off closed areas.
  • Avoid riders ahead of you. They have the right of way.
  • Look uphill and yield to other riders when entering a trail or starting downhill.
  • Do not stop where you obstruct a trail or are not visible from above.
  • If you are involved in or witness a collision or accident, you must identify yourself to the Bike Patrol.
  • Do not feed, provoke, or approach wildlife.
  • Help prevent the spread of invasive species by washing your bike before and after each visit.
  • Do not pick flowers. Leave them for others to enjoy and to seed future growth.

KNOW THE CODE—be safety conscious. It is your responsibility. Park privileges will be suspended for breach of this code.


In accordance with a USFS Supervisor’s closure, private snowmobiles are prohibited on any of Kirkwood Mountain Resort’s trails during or after hours of operation.


Sledding or tobogganing can be a fun winter pastime, but this activity is not appropriate on our ski slopes and trails as they aren’t designed for this activity. Sledding on ski slopes and trails can be hazardous due to: 

  • The steepness of the slope
  • The firmness of the snow
  • The presence of skiers and snowboarders
  • The presence of vehicles such as snowmobiles and snow grooming equipment
  • The presence of obstacles such as trees, fences, buildings, snowmaking equipment, and lift towers
  • Limited or inadequate run-out to slow or stop the sleds

No Sledding on Ski Slopes.

Please follow the link for a list of approved sliding devices.

Click here for more details on Ski Resort Winter Vehicle Restriction in El Dorado National Forest.

Play it safe when you use the park and pipe. Nothing ruins a great day on the mountain like an injury. Read up. GET SMART

Smart Style is a terrain park safety initiative, which you need to understand in order to use terrain parks safely. The orange oval on our signs is a symbol, which identifies freestyle terrain on the hill:

Terrain Park Safety, Kirkwood Mountain Resort

Smart Style

  • Freestyle Terrain contains man-made and natural terrain variations
  • Freestyle Terrain changes constantly due to weather and use.
  • Inspect Freestyle Terrain before using and throughout the day.
  • In jumping and using this terrain, you assume the risk of serious injury.
  • Be courteous and respect others.
  • One user on a Terrain feature at a time.
  • Never jump blindly - use a spotter when necessary. Look Before You Leap!
  • It is your responsibility to control your body on the ground and in the air.

Freestyle terrain may contain jumps, hits, ramps, banks, fun boxes, jibs, rails, half pipes, quarter pipes, snowcross, bump terrain, and other constructed or natural terrain features. PRIOR to using Freestyle Terrain, you are responsible for familiarizing yourself with Freestyle Terrain and obeying all instructions, warnings and signs. Freestyle skills require maintaining control on the ground, and in the air.

Know The Code- Your responsibility code

Skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed in many ways. At ski areas you may see people using alpine, snowboard, telemark, cross country, and other specialized ski equipment, such as that used by disabled or other skiers. Regardless of how you decide to enjoy the slopes, always show courtesy to others and be aware that there are elements of risk in skiing that common sense and personal awareness can help reduce. Observe the code listed below and share with other skiers the responsibility for a great skiing experience.

  • Always stay in control.
  • People ahead of you have the right of way.
  • Stop in a safe place for you and others.
  • Whenever starting downhill or merging, look uphill and yield.
  • Use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
  • Observe signs and warnings, and keep off closed trails.
  • Know how to use the lifts safely.
  • Be safety conscious and KNOW THE CODE. IT'S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

ATML Method

Smart Style ATML

A - Approach Zone is the space for setting your speed and stance to use the feature.

T - Take-Off Zone is for making moves that start your trick.

M - Maneuver Zone is for controlling your body mid-air and setting up for landing.

L - Landing Zone is the prepared slope between the knuckle and the run out beyond.

For more information on uphill access please call the uphill trail hotline at 209.258.7444.



  • Uphill travel is prohibited during daytime operations
  • No emergency services outside of "normal" operating hours 
  • Uphill activities may present a high danger of personal injury 
  • Contact the TRAIL HOTLINE prior to access at 209.258.7444
  • Motorized vehicles, snowmaking and other ski area operations may be encountered 
  • Avalanche mitigation may be in progress 
  • User assumes risks and acknowledges that runs are not maintained for uphill travel.  Avalanche hazards may exist


  • Call the TRAIL HOTLINE at 209.258.7444
  • Dogs are prohibited 
  • Stay towards the side of the trail 
  • Position yourself so that you are visible from above 
  • Wear brightly colored and reflective clothing 
  • Obey all pertinent signage 
  • Avoid all areas where machinery is operating 
  • Be aware that ski area emergency services are not available
  • No motorized vehicles 


In accordance with a USFS Supervisor’s closure, private snowmobiles are prohibited on any Kirkwood Mountain Resort trails during or after hours of operation.


Use of sliding devices, including but not limited to, sleds, tower pads, plastic sheets, or plastic disks and the like are strictly forbidden.