Check Out the Can't-Miss Expert Trails for Skiing at Kirkwood


Explore skiing in California with these expert ski trails in Kirkwood, South Lake Tahoe, one of the hardest ski mountains in the U.S. and beyond.

Posted on December 15, 2023

Skiing on a powder day in Kirkwood, CA.

Kirkwood is quite possibly one of the hardest ski mountains in the U.S. and a bucket list destination for skiing in California for advanced skiers and riders. South of beautiful Lake Tahoe, “The ‘Wood” has over 2,300 acres of skiable mountain with tree skiing, gullies, chutes, cornices, powder bowls, and more.  

Kirkwood is widely considered a mountain for the more seasoned skier, with 58% of the terrain listed as either “advanced” or “expert.” Forbes describes skiing at Lake Tahoe as “…the Rocky Mountains with an air of laid-back California cool…” but for those that like their skiing a little less laid back, the expert ski trails in Kirkwood are there to pose a challenge, adventure, and plenty of thrills.  

Look Out Janek 

Look Out Janek is a black diamond downhill ski run, 3,045 feet in length and dropping a stomach-tightening 1069 feet vertically. The steep pitch here means this is for experts only, and it’s one of the most iconic expert ski trails in Kirkwood. The run is steep, and although smooth when freshly groomed, it quickly develops bumps and moguls for a leg-burning workout. 

While skiers can continue down the run to Lower Look Out Janek, you can, alternatively, come off the beaten track into Cornice Express Lift Line Gully for a bumpy, twisting ride to finish off this extreme run. 


Take the Cornine Express lift to the start of Upper Chamoix, a severely steep double black diamond chute with a daring 47-degree gradient. The chute has a couple of entrances, and it’s well worth talking to a member of the resort team about which is the best for your skiing ability. The main entrance is challenging, picking up speed fast and sending inexperienced skiers sliding down the mountain with little control. However, there is an easier entrance that allows you to manage your acceleration better and maintain more control.  

Lower Chamoix is one way to end this run. It's a double black diamond-graded chute that’s less daunting than the steep cornice of Upper Chamoix. After Chamoix, skiers can also traverse right into Lower Oops and Poops, one of the lesser-known expert ski trails in Kirkwood. This “secret” chute is very narrow and challenging, and ideal for those that want to level up their skills and boost their confidence. When the powder level increases, some of the more challenging terrain here disappears, transforming Oops and Poops into a hidden bowl.  

Cliff Chute 

Another chute accessed by the Cornice Express, or chairlift 6, skiers should look for the sign that states “experts only” to access this run. The run isn’t too long at only 0.47 miles, but with a pitch of 37 degrees and a double black diamond rating, it's certainly not for beginners. When the powder isn’t fresh, the run here becomes extremely firm, which could be off-putting to some less experienced skiers. Be prepared for twists and turns around rocky terrain, trees, and moguls, or use the uneven ground to do a few jump turns and show off your skills.  

You can run straight from the Cliff Chute into the Drain, a much narrower and more well-defined chute that allows skiers to get up some real speed. The Drain is graded black diamond and runs for over 0.31 miles. It’s highly popular, so watch out for the traffic! 

The Wall and Connected Runs 

The Wall at Kirkwood is famous—or infamous, depending on your outlook! The Wall chairlift, or chairlift 10, provides access to some amazing expert ski trails in Kirkwood, including the double black diamond-rated Upper Sisters Chute, also simply called the Diagonal Chute. You’ll know which chairlift it is: it has an ominous skull and crossbones sign warning you this lift takes you to expert runs only. The Wall run itself is a double black diamond piste trail that combines fast downhill runs with incredible views of the Kirkwood mountain village.  

Be aware that if there hasn’t been a powder day in a while, snow can quickly disappear on this exposed part of the mountain. Skiers should prepare to take their skis off for a careful hike across the rocky scree to find the snow! There are dedicated instructors who specialize in these steeper runs at the resort. They can help advanced skiers find the best routes to hike to these more challenging areas.  

Exposed rocks on the run itself can make this steep chute even more challenging, particularly as the run is incredibly narrow. Upper Sisters descends into Lower Sisters, a narrow gully with some challenging terrain that really helps skiers improve their technical skills. Other expert ski trails in Kirkwood accessible from The Wall chairlift include: 

  • All The Way 
  • Notch Chute 
  • The Drain 
  • Heart Chute 
  • Once is Enough 
  • Schaffer’s Chute 

If you’re planning to conquer one of the hardest mountains in the U.S., you’ll need to prep properly and plan out the expert ski trails in Kirkwood that you want to experience on visit to Tahoe. Skiing in California is better with a little know-how, which is where Kirkwood's advanced ski programs come in handy. These Camp and Clinics are designed to take your skiing and riding to the next level and focused on providing every skier and rider with the tools needed to tackle all of Kirkwood’s legendary terrain.  

Experience all that Kirkwood offers and plan your next ski extreme skiing vacation to Tahoe’s best destination for advanced terrain.