Kirkwood — Mountain layout
Kirkwood has both named and numbered its lifts. Locals and staff tend to use the numbers, so we list those in parentheses in the following terrain description.
|Expert, Advanced: Kirkwood locals know to follow the sun. And if the snow is fresh, head to the Sunrise chair (Chair 4). As you ride up this painfully slow chair, scout for untracked powder (or read the historical trivia posted on the lift towers). Since it takes two chairs to get here, and the Sunrise chair closes when its too windy, powder often remains for days after a storm.
But beware, it can be heavy too, or sunbaked. To return to the front side, drop down to Thunder Saddle and pick one of four north-facing chutes to return to the frontside.
Back at the main base area, pick from the Wagonwheel/The Wall (Chair 10) or Cornice (Chair 6) lifts. Both serve steep, wide-open bowls and white-knuckle chutes. For a real thrill, traverse from Chair 10 to the top of Notch Chute in The Sisters. The first “step” is the crux; make that, and the rest is easy. Relatively, that is. Cornice serves single-diamond runs that feel like double-diamonds (e.g., Lost Cabin). From the top of Cornice, you can also traverse right to Palisades Bowl for some good powder shots.
Both Sentinel Bowl and Zachary are groomed every day, a draw for anyone looking for super-smooth steeps. If you want bumps, try Olympic, Look-Out Janek, or Monte Wolfe, on either side of the Cornice Chair.
In general, intermediate trails progress in difficulty as you move from skiers’ left to skiers’ right on the mountain (from Chair 7/TC Express, to Chair 4/Sunrise). Intermediates can stay on the lower sections of the face, using TC Express (Chair 7) and Solitude (Chair 5), or work their way over Caples Crest (Chair 2) to the Sunrise section, where there’s plenty of groomed intermediate terrain.
The entire lower mountain, with just a couple of exceptions, is perfectly suited for intermediates. When you
Beginners will find gentle trails served by Snowkirk Chair (Chair 1) to the east, and Bunny Chair (Chair 9) and TC Express (Chair 7) at the far west.
First-timers should head straight for the Timber Creek Lodge, a right-hand turn before you reach the main parking lot (theres a sign). Here novices will find a rental shop and ticket window, plus Chairs 9 and 7 (Bunny and TC Express) that serve novice and low-intermediate terrain.
Experienced skiers should park in the main lot and get their tickets in the main lodge farther down the road, but if there’s a novice in your group, you can get to the main area using Chair 7. Kirkwood has—by far—the best setup for novices in the South Tahoe region.