Kirkwood is never "crowded." It is so big, and so far off the lake, that only the serious skiers/riders tend to go there. You don't get hung up with noob families, because it is a pretty intimidating looking mountain. The main areas look pretty scary to first-timers.
I have a Kirkwood t-shirt they sent me when I was designing their e-mail blasts a few years ago, which says "If you find the trail you're on too crowded, pick another one until he's gone." That about sums it up.
Kirkwood can get crowded, especially on Powder Weekends. That being said, there are a ton of stash areas all over the mountain. I've had some long ling waits, but nothing like Colorado. Maybe 15-20 minutes. Ohh, and the drive.....yeah, pretty spectacular! If you catch it when the valley and mtns are snow-glazed, it is pretty awesome.
Points to see......notice:
As you go up HWY 88, just past Red lake, the road is windy and can be sketch. This is very enjoyable and after you go over the crest, you'll see a pull-out at Kit Carson Pass....about 2 miles past things will open-up and Caples Lake will start to appear to your forward left. If you look across caples lake, you'll see most of Kirkwood...The Wave, The top of 10, 6 etc. It is a pretty cool view. If you miss it on the way there, check it out, on the way back....just know you'll have to go most of the way around Caples. Also, leaving Kwoo, as you go back up over Kit Carson Pass, the view from the top as you go over back on that sketch HWY is pretty damn spectacular! Especially if you've stopped at the Kirkwood Inn, first! =) Just make sure to see it in light.