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Old 03-31-2013, 11:20 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Kirkwood Experience

I'll start this off by saying I almost didn't go knowing they had 6" of Fresh last night and I was only an hour away in Carson City.

CalTRANS put up an R2 on Carson Pass - meaning 4WD and snow tires or you are putting chains on. Having an AWD (borrowed) no snow tires and never having used chains before I freaked out thinking I was going to leave Cali without riding Kirkwood. Oh and I bought a lift ticket online and I dont think they are refundable or transferrable. I toyed with the thought of eating it and shelling out $95 for Heavenly.

In my defense I'm from western Maine and I've done some gnarly winter driving...I've had my fill of being winched out of places. And looking over the Sierras...I'm not stupid. I can only imagine how quick them passes fill up. Getting stuck with an avalanche smiling at you can't be fun.

But it was 50 degrees and the pass to Carson City is 7500 feet and we werent in the snow line. That was totally fine. Still, microcimates. Fast systems..etc. I reaaaallly wanted to go to Kirkwood though so I decided to chance it. Aaaaaand I made it easily over the pass going 45 MPH. It was still 50 degrees..it wasnt even close to winter driving. The drive from Carson City was worse. And they left that R2 up ntil 2 pm. I am kinda pissed they were THAT wrong. Because next time I'll be like...pffft...R2. And I will get myself killed.

Anyway...the stress was well worth it because Kirkwood was BY FAR the most fun of the 4 mountains I have been to in Tahoe. Omg there was quite possibly 500 people there (um...do I thank CalTrans?) And the snow was kinda slow and chunky but it was fresh snow. And it was sunny and in the low to mid 40s. Perfect.

I parked at where the lessons are because I also scheduled a group lesson that day because Kirkwood seemed hard and I didnt have anyone to ride with. I got super early tracks on the blues off chair 7. Milestone! West coast powder! Woot.

So that brings me to milestone number 2. I got myself in a gully! Its like mother nature made a little halfpipe and filled it with powder. How fun! I've never seen a gully before and if you are from Maine and dont know what that is...you really want to come stop around in one! If you have never been to Kirkwood and like gullies you should really go.

So after warm ups I went to this lesson. The whole time I was all worried about being the shittiest in my group with 4 full days off a dozen year hiatus. Only...there was no group. I went riding for 2 hours with just the instructor who bumped me up to chair 5 then 6 then 11. I did the exit for the Wall...called Snowsnake gully which was like if Zachary from chair 6 and the unknown gully from chair 7 had a baby and that baby turned out to be some freakish child prodigy. The nice Kirkwood riding lesson lady told me to take a run down the Wall if I was feeling it. But alas...no. At least not after lunch in light snow/low visibility and have 4.5 days on the hill in a dozen years.

I was a littke freaked at first sight by the Kirkwood blacks. They seemed steeper than the Sugarbowl blacks (of which I rode exactly one.) And way steeper than the Northstar blacks or the blacks back home. Ski Tracks put my steepest pitch at 30 degrees today...which makes milestone 3. I broke 30 degrees for the first time since getting back on the board!

But the awesome thing about riding steeper blacks at Kirkwood on a nice day? It doesnt hurt when you crash. Once you figure that out its likes...oh shit...lets do some steeps! Blowing out of a turn back east usually comes with a not so satifying tailbone crunch or possibly broken wrist. I was getting damn tired pushing around Sierra Cement while practicing dynamic turns and got going at a pretty good clip...I hit something. ..an edge, a mogul, someone's track maybe and just planted. Poof. And it was fun as hell! I just started laughing. Back home that would be two weeks of neosporin for the ice rash and 5 mph slower the next time out. So I would say if you are looking to progress, go to Kirkwood with 6" of fresh. You'll get tons of practice on your turns and you can tryout some steeper stuff and it will be pretty forgiving.

I gotta give props to the snowboard school lady Teri. She was awesome. Really helped me kinda kick it up a notch with dynamic turns, getting form down on tighter turns. I would totally recommend her and will probably write some awesome reviews of her on Yelp and On the Snow and stuff. I wouldnt have otherwise hit a Kirkwood black honestly. The lesons arent very long (2.5 hr for group but they cut it short obviously when you get a 1 on 1) but they also arent expensive ($45) and there's a good chance you'll push yourself way hard if you take a lesson there.

I cant review anything else about Kirkwood because I actually didnt see anything but snow and more snow. Didnt stop for lunch. Didnt even go in to pee.

The parking at the lessons lot was awesome. I was like the 6th car there..so I used my trunk like a day locker. But its a little traversing to get there and back so if you want to head straight to the real deal before it gets tracked out...park at the parking by chairs 5, 6, 10, 11.

The lifts were fast and in good working order. All the lift ramps were soft and not icy. None too steep. Could use more strap in benches though but I stand strapped today as I was hitting runs at a quick clip.

I will say that last few hundred feet in elevation were tough for a flatlander. I was really panting hard at points but no actual elevation sickness.

Thats my awesome Kirkwood review. Hope it helps anyone on the fence talk you into this spot over any other in Tahoe!
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Last edited by EastCoastChris; 03-31-2013 at 11:29 PM.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:05 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice post.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:31 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Wow can't wait until I get a chance to ride Tahoe now.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:32 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm glad to hear you had fun

Kirkwood is by far my favorite resort in Tahoe.
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Old 05-22-2013, 02:11 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Nice post.
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Old 05-22-2013, 10:28 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Sweet post. I plan on going to Tahoe for the first time this year, I was unsure which resort I was going to ride, but I think that just sealed the deal. I had already posted asking people about which resort to ride (Kirkwood, Heavenly, or Northstar), and most said Kirkwood, but just hearing a person so stoked on it just makes me want to shred it.
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Old 05-25-2013, 08:25 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I rode Heavely, Kirkwood, and Squaw about 6-7 years ago and liked Squaw the best, followed by Kirkwood and then Heavenly. Squaw has a really cool vibe to it that's hard to explain. Plus they have their beginner area at mid-mountain so noobs get to see more than just a bunny hill at the base of the resort.
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Old 06-03-2013, 05:55 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I rode Kirkwood the first time this late February, I flew in to Carson City on a Thursday, the snow condition was not looking promising. So, I hit the casinos...Friday comes around, nothing. Saturday still nothing, but got visit Virgina City, NV (cool little mining town).

Finally, Sunday it started to rain in Carson City and the snow report was reporting new snow at Kirkwood. My best friend and I packed up his Ford Ranger and we were on our way. The scenery was spectacular on the way up...as we got close the snow was coming down in a study pace. I was happy that I was able to get some riding in.

We got to the resort, I was like a kid in a candy store. I also parked by the lessons area, I was going to take a private lesson to learn more about board control and work on some spin tricks.

I was shock to see there were tree runs in the bunny slope...I took a couple of laps with my best friend (6 yrs ago, he knew how to snowboard and I didn't). Met up for my private lesson and noticed that California snow was wetter and heavier than the Southern CO/ Northern NM fluffy dry snow that I've learned on for last 6 years.

The terrain was something else and it added more challenge with the wet and heavy snow (recommend matching your wax with condition, I was sticking when I was there). I also rode the gully as mentioned by OP, it was fun experience. As got I comfortable with spinning, my instructor pushes me to ride across this run and came up to a side hit and attempted a front side 180s. However, instead of launching my board, I end up driving my nose into the wet heavy snow and end up lean back on my ankle and end up rolling my ankle. Did managed riding the rest of the lesson and rode couple of runs with my friend. My ankle puffed up like a balloon when took my boot off.

Even with injury, it was an awesome experience...I would recommend to anyone. I'm planning another trip when snow starts fall again at the end of this year.

Last edited by abqmike37; 06-03-2013 at 05:59 AM.
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Old 06-05-2013, 11:15 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Kirkwood about 4 years ago was my first real experience with powder. To be honest the first day I hated it. There was about about 2 feet of fresh on the ground. I was on my old 1997 Burton Custom, which was beat to shit and a bit narrow for me. Didnt realize how hard I would have to lean back to plow through the shit. Day two we were greeted with an additional 2 feet of fresh! First stop was the wall. Was nice and steep and made the float much more enjoyable. From then on I was hooked. Bought a Raptor 2 seasons ago and seek it out as often as possible. But of course the last two CA winters have sucked ass!

Rode Heavenly this season. It was decent. Large mountain with nice long ass runs and was great for building on my speed. No new snow in over a week, but still plenty of goo left on Firebreak. (for those who arent familiar, Firebreak is basically the face of Heavenly that you pass on the gondola ride up) Rode with a local friend who finished off our first day with a ride down that beast all the way to Harrahs Casino. It was mostly tracked to hell but managed to find some decent riding there. Took my first few gouges on my Raptor over some boulders on that ride. After about 6 solid hours of riding I was fucking spent after riding Firebreak! Day two at Heavenly and we had about 4" of fresh snow. Just enough to piss you off. Off piste spots looked great until you hit em with speed, only to be reminded that week old tracked out hardpack lie just beneath the surface. So I used the day to build more speed confidence on tracked ass on piste runs. Another day of asswhipping but I felt good about it.

Now that I have my old school Premier T5 swallowtail project, I will be looking forward to another go at either Kirkwood, or just skip NorCal altogether and head to Whistler!

Nice writeup OP on Kirkwood. Fantastic riding when theres fresh snow!
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