Kirkwood — Snowboarding, Parks and pipes
A snowboard trip to Lake Tahoe would not be complete with out a day or two at Kirkwood Resort. This mountain has the potential to challenge all riders in any aspect of riding. From 60-degree chutes to the super technical rock faces, Kirkwood is the perfect place to work on “big mountain” riding. If this seems like too much, not to worry, Kirkwood also has the other terrain options that are eagerly sought by snowboarders. Long wide groomers, excellent glade riding, and curvy natural halfpipes and gullies will make a day at Kirkwood the highlight of any Tahoe trip.
From the Kirkwood Mountain Village, the mountain wraps around the base like a horseshoe. Looking up at all of the options may be overwhelming at first, so here are a few tips. The Cornice Express offers advanced to expert terrain only. The groomed slopes under the lift are the easiest way down, and traversing to the rider’s right leads to some steep, technical rocky sections with a few good chutes. If snow conditions are icy, make sure edges are sharp. A slip in the wrong spot could be interesting when falling over the cliffs below. A little bonus to this area is the natural halfpipe that all these runs drain into. The “Drain” swerves and curves at a perfect pitch for about 700 vertical feet. The gully has an endless supply of wall hits and hips, and gets more fun with every run.
Traversing to the rider’s left off of the Cornice Express accesses hundreds of acres of some sick riding. A couple hundred feet down the ridge line is the wide open Sentinel Bowl. Between the lift and Sentinel, a bunch of technical chutes drop off of the ridge line and are then followed by some rolling terrain to the bottom of the run. With a little exploration, tons of natural gaps and hips can be found. Traversing out further on the ridge line is the iconic Glove Rock. A little skating and booting around Glove Rock will be rewarded with some powder stashes in the Palisades’ glades.
Experienced riders looking for a little excitement should check out the Wagon Wheel/Wall Lift. From the top it is mandatory to ride through some double-black diamond terrain to get to the bottom, so be prepared. On a good powder day, this is the place to be. Super steep shots roll off of the ridge and are then followed up with some perfect gullies. Going out the ridge leads to The Sisters. This ridge line rock band has several cornices dropping into a number of chutes. Just as it appears from the bottom, this area is steep and technical and should be left to expert riders only. About half-way down the Wall, Dick’s Drop is one of mother nature’s best terrain parks. Diving board cliff drops, hips, and gaps seem to be everywhere, and with good snow almost everything is doable. Under the lift is another double-black diamond slope called the Headwaters. This area gets bumped up quickly and is a good challenge and workout for most riders. Traversing above the Headwaters to the Eagle Bowl opens into a whole other part of the resort.
The Eagle Bowl rolls back into another horseshoe shaped canyon. This is the preferred way to access the back part of the resort. This large area empties out through a flat meadow to the Caples Crest Lift. Caples Crest rises to another ridge that overlooks the far boundary of the resort. In this other expansive area, the Sunrise lift accesses some of the gems of the mountain. A lot of intermediate runs wind down from this area, and it is a nice place to escape the crowds. Down the ridgeline from the top, “The Wave” cornice is there for those wanting to huck themselves into the void. With the sheer vertical drops off the ridge, riders have the opportunity to go as big as they want before landing in the perfect bowl below. Another sweet little shot is the Hully Gully off of Sunrise lift. From the top of the lift the terrain funnels into another twisty halfpipe that drops for a couple hundred vertical feet.
Traversing rider’s left off of the Sunrise lift heads into some killer terrain on the other side of the ridge. This area leads back to the Caples Crest lift and to the base of the resort. From the ridge line a number of technical chutes and rock drops roll into the giant valley below. Riding down the ridge, the chutes tend to get more difficult and have greater consequences for blowing it. Riders really need to have it together before jumping into this super steep and rocky terrain. If not, prepare to be a pinball bouncing from rock to rock to the bottom.
Parks and pipes
The parks and pipe at Kirkwood are just as impressive as the natural terrain that surrounds them. Directly above the Kirkwood Mountain Village, the superpipe is easily seen from below. The huge transitions allow riders to boost well above the deck and with the large spectator crowd below — a lot riders are there to impress.
The Solitude chair is the lift of choice to lap up the Stomping Grounds Park. This is the “big-boy” park on the resort and most features are for advanced riders only. The park changes occasionally, but most of the time there are at least 5 table tops all with different sized lips. The largest ones have 40-50 foot gaps and are pretty serious. The Stomping Grounds also have a number of technical boxes and rails and a huge wall ride at the bottom. Next to the Stomping Grounds, the Mokelumne run usually has another park for intermediate riders. Here the features are not as severe, and it is a good place to warm up before hitting the Stomping Grounds.
The TC Express lift has another park more suited for intermediate and beginner riders. The “Playground’s” rails and boxes are of low consequence and most of them have the ride-on option. This is the perfect spot for riders who want to practice jibbing without risking their lives.