Kirkwood, California: Mountain Tour

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Most of Kirkwood's lifts run from valley floor straight up to the top of the ridgeline, and most runs lead straight back down again. Translation: Whether you're a beginner or an expert, Kirkwood's layout makes it easy to take lap after lap and get in a lot of vertical.

Kirkwood's trails are open and spacious, with plenty of room to move. Beginners should base themselves out of the Timber Creek Lodge area, which houses the beginner's rental shop and new Mighty Mountain's Children's Ski and Snowboard School.

Intermediate skiers will want to start the day by taking either Chairs 5 or 7 on the frontside to wide fall-line runs such as Hole 'N' Wall, Lower Zachary and Lower Monte Wolfe. As the sun makes its way higher into the sky, take Chair 1 to Chair 2 and head to the backside, for midday sunshine in the spacious, intermediate basin to skier's right of Chair 4.Advanced intermediates and lower level experts can bang out laps on Chair 11 in the morning, starting with a warmup on Snowsnake Gully or Buckboard. Next, head to black-diamond Wagon Trail, Short Spoke, Conestoga and Shotgun. Later in the day, move to Chair 6 and Sentinel Bowl. Start skier's left and work toward skier's right for a steady progression in difficulty.

Experts can warm up with laps on Chair 6, first skiing Sentinel Bowl (a black diamond groomed freshly every morning) and Zachary (usually groomed) then Olympic and Monte Wolf (a little steeper, less likely to be groomed), before heading over to Chair 10 and skiing The Wall. Those who like venturing off piste can try skiing the seven named chutes and half dozen other unnamed routes in Wagon Wheel Bowl, accessible from either Chair 10 or Chair 6, and then head out to Palisades Bowl to work the dozen different lines¿chutes, treelines and gullies¿beyond Glove Rock.