KIRKWOOD MOUNTAIN RESORT GUIDE
Images courtesy of Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Kirkwood Mountain Resort Overview
Known for its distinct terrain, relative isolation and skiing-first mentality, Kirkwood Mountain Resort is a must for avid skiers and riders. Located about ~3.5 hours drive from the Bay Area and only 2 hours by car from Sacramento, Kirkwood is ideal for a weekend or even a day trip. Kirkwood takes more effort to reach than other Tahoe ski areas, but is well worth the trek 45 minutes south of Lake Tahoe. The snow quality is amongst the best in the region and the advanced/expert terrain is legendary. Kirkwood averages more than 350 inches of snow annually.
Pure skiing and riding are the main draw here. The low-key village has a welcoming, small-mountain feel with all the modern conveniences you'd expect from an Epic Pass resort. Accommodations are limited to Airbnb’s and resort-owned rental condos. Many visitors opt to stay in the bustling town of South Lake Tahoe.
For a longer trip, consider visiting Kirkwood along with neighboring Tahoe resorts (see our Complete Guide to Skiing in California here). Families often find that spending the weekend at Kirkwood is a refreshing change of pace compared to the more hectic nature of a weekend in South Lake.
Snow-Making & Grooming
On Mountain Dining
Extreme / Off-Piste Terrain
The "K-Factor." Reliable, high quality snow, buffered by the 7,800’ base elevation and North facing slope aspects
Home to some of the best expert terrain in Tahoe
Appreciably less crowded than most Tahoe destinations; lift lines move quickly and the slopes feel open
Learning. The season-long ski teams program for kids are outstanding and the ski school is modestly sized
Though groomed terrain is somewhat limited, the grooming itself is top-notch and includes some steeper terrain and bowls
Relatively isolated and harder to reach, especially during storms (see travel tips section)
Accomodations in close proximity are limited. Look to South Lake Tahoe for additional options
There is little to no après or nightlife in the village and surrounding community
Short runs and slow lifts. Kirkwood's runs have typically less than 1,300 vertical feet and many of the best areas are only accessible by slow, fixed-grip chairs
There are no views of Lake Tahoe
Arrive early during peak times; though lift lines never feel too long, parking may be full on busy weekends and holidays
If the forecast calls for snow, bring powder skis! Like most resorts in the Sierra's, storms can drop feet of snow in a single day
Plan to have reliable personal transportation to the mountain and make sure your gas tank is full
Head to Chair 4 (Sunrise) for early morning laps and to Chair 10 (The Wall) and Chair 6 (Cornice Express) on powder days
Visit the Kirkwood General Store for all of your food, beer, and wine needs
For an in-depth breakdown of Kirkwood's terrain, head to our Mountain Guide. Top trails and mountain stats included.
Getting To & Around
Kirkwood is located between two mountain passes along Highway 88. This road is less travelled than Routes 50 and 80. Though beware, big winter storms can shut down the highway in both directions. Check the CALTRANS website for road closures and updates frequently when visiting this resort during periods of snow. Be prepared, road closures may require guests to stay at the mountain overnight.
Closest Major City: San Francisco, CA
Distance: ~180 miles South West, Travel time: ~3.5 hours
South Lake Tahoe, CA: Travel time: ~30 miles, ~45 mins drive
Reno, NV: ~80 miles, Travel time: ~1.5 hours drive
Sacramento, CA: ~100 miles, Travel time, ~2 hours drive
Closest Neighbors (Epic Pass):
Heavenly (~40 miles, 1 hour)
Northstar (~74 miles, 1 hour, 50 minutes)
Closest Neighbors (Ikon Pass):
Palisades Tahoe (~60-80 miles, ~1.5 - 2 hours*)
*Travel time depends on road conditions around the lake; traveling south around the lake is sometimes restricted for days after big storms
Other Nearby Resorts:
For great advanced terrain: Mt. Rose
For great lake views: Homewood or Diamond Peak
For great tree skiing & terrain parks: Sierra at Tahoe
Travel by Plane
Closest commercial airport: RNO (Reno-Tahoe International Airport)
~45 miles North East, ~50 minutes
RNO has 100+ daily departures with non-stop service to 22 U.S. cities and Guadalajara, Mexico.
Closest major commerical airport: SFO (San Fransicso International Airport)
~205 miles South West, ~4 hours
Other nearby major commercial airport: SMF (Sacramento International Airport)
~115 miles South West, ~1 hour, 50 minutes
Other nearby regioinal airport: SMF (South Lake Tahoe Airport)
Private planes may come in and out of South Lake Tahoe Airport.
Travel By Bus
Travel by Car
Having a car is essential to get to Kirkwood.
Free and paid parking are generally available.
Ride share services (e.g., Uber and Lyft) are not available. It is unlikely that a driver would take a passenger to/from South Lake Tahoe