I recently took my first trip to Tahoe and decided on Kirkwood after reading several reviews/posts on the mountain. I was joined by my wife and two kids, 7 & 11, as well as another family with children of similar ages. The trip took place from the 20th to the 24th of February, 2013. I figured I would give my review of the resort in the hopes that it helps others thinking about making a trip to the South Tahoe area. Be advised, this is a review from a family trip and not from someone on a strictly hard core snowboarding trip seeking out the best terrain and exploring the mountain to its full extentÖ
We decided to drive up from San Diego. What can I say; itís a very long 9 to 10 hour drive. The worst part about it is 5.5 to 6 hours in you pass Mammoth. The drive to Mammoth from San Diego is pretty horrible. Itís extremely boring and honestly not very scenic until you get past the Bishop area. The drive from Mammoth to Kirkwood is actually really nice and scenic. It had snowed approximately 8 to 10 inches the night before so there was plenty of snow on the ground but the roads were clear with no restrictions. You also pass June Mountain, itís closed this season but looks like a good spot to hit if you ever stay in Mammoth and want to avoid the crowds. The 88 up to Kirkwood is surprisingly mellow, Iíve heard it can be a nightmare after big storms but other than being a bit wet, the roads were clear and easy to navigate.
Accommodations, Nightlife, etc.
We actually rented a house off VRBO so I donít have much to add about the resort hotels/lodges other than they looked nice from the outside and were very conveniently close to the slopes. Kirkwood is a very small town centered around the resort so you only have a few options. The shuttles are very convenient and will pick you up from virtually anywhere in town so there really is no need to drive unless youíre like me and like having the car/truck available. Parking is easy and within walking distance even if you get there late. Iím not sure there is much nightlife to speak of. Itís not about that in Kirkwood in my opinionÖheck, even the resort bars, etc. were dead once the lifts closed. If youíre looking for a party you probably should head somewhere else.
Lift Tickets & Lessons
My assumption is that the purchase of Kirkwood by Vail has resulted in the resort being a little more costly and with fewer available discounts than in the past. This being our first trip I have nothing to compare it to but I did notice they no longer took part in the ski for free program (2 for 1 Tickets when you purchase gas) or have any affiliations with discount lift ticket web sites. We did receive a nice discount by purchasing multi day passes, in advance, online. I believe the single day ticket window price was $89 for adults. We paid right around $65 per day for the 3 day pass. I was a little surprised by the price of the 5-12 year old childís tickets. Typically resorts will offer extremely cheap tickets for young kids; however, Kirkwood wanted $69 at the window for their Childís tickets. I think we ended up paying $42/day for the 3 day pass. They do have a rewards program and we did earn a free lift ticket already with our purchasesÖhopefully they carry over because I wonít have a chance to use it this year. They do use a card that scans through jackets, etc. so it was very quick/convenient through the lift lines.
Lessonís are fairly pricey but they offer a significantly discounted price for multi day lessons. I believe a single day lesson was $125, full package with rentals and lunch, while a 2 day lesson was only an additional $60. The only problem is the lessons must be consecutive. My youngest son took 3 days of lessons but we had a day off in-between so we had to pay full price for the 3rd day. The resort wouldnít budge on that consecutive dayís requirement even though their multi day passes are good over an extended period, 3 days over a 5 day period for example.
As I mentioned my son took 3 days of ski lessons. He has taken 7 or 8 lessons before and honestly we have him in lessons for daycare purposes as much as we do for him to learn to ski. Past experiences at local Southern California resorts and a couple other trips, including Mammoth, havenít resulted in much more than him either asking to be picked up early or telling us he doesnít like being cold, etc. With that, I couldnít be happier with the results from Kirkwood. My son went from border line crying before the first day of his lessons to begging me to stay and do runs with him after a full day on the mountain. Kirkwood is intent on teaching kids, or adults, to Ski, Snowboard, etc. Over the course of 3 days my son went from plowing down the bunny runs to skiing Snowsnake Gully and other black diamond runs off of Chair 11. I was amazed at how fast he learned and how absolutely dedicated to teaching these instructors were. Never has my son been so excited to go skiingÖ.hopefully Iíll be able to convert him to a snowboard next year. Long story short, your money will be well spent with lessons at Kirkwood. Be advised, the lessons donít start until 10:15am or so, guess thatís my only complaint.