Skiing Kirkwood: What to Know


Kirkwood Mountain Resort is known for its thrilling runs and laid-back atmosphere. Read on to find out if Kirkwood really is a good place to ski.

Posted on December 18, 2023

Family skiing in Kirkwood, CA.

Located about 35 miles south of Lake Tahoe, Kirkwood is a hidden gem and a local favorite among the area's ski resorts. 

Kirkwood is California's snowiest resort, with the highest average snowfall record in the state (and one of the highest in the world) — making it a favorite among avid skiers and snowboarders. This resort features a laid-back, relaxed vibe. 

Kirkwood Mountain Resort opened in 1972 and features 2,300 acres of skiable area and more than 65 runs (over half of which are Black Diamond or above). Kirkwood boasts the second-highest resort elevation in the Lake Tahoe region, with a top elevation of 9,800 feet and a base elevation of 7,800 feet. It features a variety of different terrain as well as a two-mile-long ridgeline. 

If you're planning a ski trip to the Sierra Nevada, you might be left wondering — is Kirkwood a good place to ski? The answer is yes, and here's why. 

Kirkwood Ski Culture 

Kirkwood is a resort centered around more skiing and boarding than après-ski activities. The Village is not as large as Northstar's or Heavenly's, although there are laid-back bars and restaurants where you can fuel up before a big run or enjoy refreshments after a day on the slopes. 

Instead, Kirkwood attracts faithful powder hounds due to its heavy snowfall, high elevation, and unique ridgeline. Kirkwood is a perfect place to ski for advanced skiers and snowboarders, as over half of its runs are expert-level.  

Kirkwood is an excellent place to ski and has an adventurous, laid-back culture. Kirkwood is a great place to go for skiers who want to get as many runs in as possible, thanks to its short lines. 

Now, for one of the most critical questions when choosing a resort: is Kirkwood Ski Resort crowded? Typically, no — especially compared to its Tahoe neighbors. Its rustic charm, semi-secluded location, and abundance of expert runs make Kirkwood a good place to get in a lot of skiing, away from the busier slopes. 


Kirkwood Village is home to several restaurants and bars, including The Cornice Pizza, The Wall Bar and Grill, Monte Wolf's, and K-Bar. Timber Creek Base Lodge, located in the beginner-friendly Timber Creek area, is home to Snowshoe Thompson's. If you want to spend as much time as possible on the slopes, you can refuel at Sunrise Grill, located on the back side of the mountain. 

For a taste of history, head just outside the resort to the Kirkwood Inn and Saloon, a bar and restaurant situated in a log cabin dating back to 1864. 

Kirkwood is a Good Place to Ski for Beginners 

While Kirkwood offers plenty for the advanced skier, there are still plenty of beginner-friendly terrain and activities for the less experienced in your party. You can learn to ski at Kirkwood's Ski and Ride School and enjoy their Green Run Guarantee — which has you able to ski by the third lesson or the fourth is free. 

Another upside, because Kirkwood Ski Resort is not crowded, is that students have more one-on-one access to instructors — even during group lessons — than they might have at other resorts. It also means that beginners have space to themselves on the slope and can practice their turns without running into or in front of fellow skiers. 

In addition to a bunny slope (the Funny Bunny run), Kirkwood has a separate training area so beginners can get comfortable in their gear and learn the basics before even riding a lift. 

The Timber Creek area is home to both blue and green runs and the Kirkwood Ski and Ride School. Since Timber Creek is separated slightly from the main Village, it's the perfect spot for beginners to get comfortable on the slopes without maneuvering around expert skiers or accidentally stumbling onto the wrong run. 

Intermediate skiers and boarders are in luck, too — blue runs are abundant in both Timber Creek and the central Mountain Village. Kirkwood is a good place to ski for those trying to learn new skills, thanks to its varied terrain. 

Kirkwood is a Destination for Advanced Skiers 

Kirkwood Resort is an advanced skier and boarder's delight since there are many classic advanced runs designated as Black Diamond or higher. 

Kirkwood Resort's unique two-mile ridgeline is the perfect spot to find runs with cornices and cliff drops. One of the best-known is The Wall, an exhilarating double Black Diamond run that boasts gullies, cliffs, and steep chutes.  

If The Wall sounds too thrilling for your taste, there are still many advanced runs to choose from across different terrain, making Kirkwood a good place to ski for those searching for a challenge and a variety of terrain.  

Kirkwood is also home to many ski and snowboard clinics and Progression Sessions for expert skiers and boarders — guided tours for those interested in off-piste adventures over progressive terrain. 

For added adventure, you can experience the Expedition Kirkwood program, which features guided backcountry tours that take you to the less-traveled side of the ski resort.  

Expedition Kirkwood is a top avalanche education provider and offers multiple avalanche preparedness courses led by instructors certified by the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE). 

Where to Stay at Kirkwood 

Kirkwood Resort features plenty of lodges and rental properties, ranging from luxury townhomes to hotel-style resort accommodations. 


The Sentinels is a luxury townhome complex just outside the Village. The two-bedroom, 1,500 sq. ft townhomes feature full kitchens and are perfect for families.  

For larger groups, the Timber Ridge complex offers luxury three-bedroom, 2,200 sq. ft accommodations within walking distance of the lifts. 

Hotels and Condos 

The Mountain Club is the best place to stay for easy mountain access. You can ski right up to your door and enjoy a hotel-style room or a larger condo. 

The Meadows Region is one of Kirkwood's most popular accommodations. Located within walking distance to the Village lifts and with shuttle service to Timber Creek, the Meadows Region offers both hotel and condo-style lodging. 

For a luxury experience, the Snowcrest Lodge offers one to three-bedroom stylish condos.  

What Can You Do Besides Hitting the Slopes? 

While the resort is known for its slopes, there are other activities if you want to kick off your ski boots and try something new. There's plenty of winter activities for the whole family to enjoy. 

The Village features an ice-skating rink and plenty of eateries. Kirkwood also features snow tubing, snowshoeing, and even dog sledding tours. And since Kirkwood Ski Resort is not crowded, you can make the most of your time in the Village without long waits. 

Visit Kirkwood Ski Resort This Season 

If you're looking for a laid-back resort with exciting runs and some of the best powder in the region, look no further than Kirkwood. 

While you won't find slope-side luxury, you'll find adventure, seclusion, and pristine snow. For those in the market for understated excitement, fantastic snow conditions, and lots of variety in terrain, Kirkwood is the place to ski in Tahoe. 

Get ready for a skiing adventure and plan your winter getaway today!