Hi Jack- Glad to hear you are getting into snowboarding. I just wanted to let you know that while, yes, 50 can be an easier drive because you avoid Donner Pass on 80, Kirkwood is still a drive from South Lake Tahoe and it may be difficult to get to on storm days. I live in North Lake Tahoe but I have never been to Donner Ranch. I have heard it is small. Have you looked into a pass at homewood mountain? It is also small, but well groomed, friendly locals place, and easy to get to from north lake tahoe. It's about 18 miles north of south lake tahoe on the west shore, but again, in a storm situation, Emerald Bay road is closed and that makes taking 50 the longer way. My favorites are Alpine and Squaw but I would guess at this point in the season their passes are expensive. My advice is to call Tahoe Dave's Snowboard shop - 530.583.0400. They are very knowledgeable about any questions you might have about riding in the area. My impression is that most of the staff have ridden at a variety of mountains in the area and are not shy about giving opinions. We received 10" last night- I am off to homewood to ride some powder! Have a great season.