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Images courtesy of Kirkwood Mountain Resort

Mountain Guide
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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 Reliability

Family Friendly

Snow-Making & Grooming

Ski School

Travel Convenience


Terrain Variety

On Mountain Dining

Extreme / Off-Piste Terrain

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Quick Take

Let's Go

  • 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

Insider Tips

  • 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

Trail Map

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.

Getting To

Closest Major City: San Francisco, CA

  • Distance: ~180 miles South West, Travel time: ~3.5 hours

Nearby  Cities: 

  • 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

Neighboring Resorts

Closest Neighbors (Epic Pass):

  • Heavenly (~40 miles, 1 hour)

  • Northstar (~74 miles, 1 hour, 50 minutes)

Closest Neighbors (Ikon Pass):

*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

Public Transporation: Discover Lake Tahoe runs shuttles on Wednesdays to Kirkwood. They also take requests for private reservations. 

Shuttles: There are no airport shuttles available

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

Mountain Guide
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