Inside Line: Kirkwood, CA - Ski Mag

Inside Line: Kirkwood, CA

Kirkwood is off the grid in more ways than one. The whole place runs on generators. Lift lines are six people deep on a powder day. Sierra storms fill the ski-porn-worthy terrain, closing roads and shutting down lifts for days. But with inbounds runs slanted up to 42 degrees, the most reliable snow in the area, and chutes that make big-mountain skiers queasy, it’s hard to believe the resort stays so low-key. Thank the hourlong drive from South Lake Tahoe’s packed casinos and resorts, which ensures Kirkwood remains unsullied by the masses. Just the way skiers there like it.
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The Subaru North American Freeskiing Championships were held at Kirkwood, California on Sunday, Feb 27th and Monday, Feb 28th—two beautiful bluebird days after a storm
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Powder Day: From Chair 6, hit the rocky, 40-degree chute called Chamoix to skier’s left. Once through the crux, bite hard right through a keyhole into Oops and Poops, a steep, 10-foot-wide, and often overlooked corridor.

Three Days Later: The last run to get skied out along Kirkwood’s six-mile ridgeline is Palisades, a far traverse skier’s left of Chair 6. It also gets hammered by the sun, so ski cold north-facing areas in midwinter or south-facing corn in spring.

Park and Pipe: The park isn’t the reason you come to Kirkwood, but you’ll still see kids hucking 40-foot tables and greasing rainbow rails and boxes under Chair 5.

Backcountry access: Bring avy gear. Head out the gate near Glove Rock for wide-open, powdery terrain. Hike 10 minutes or hitchhike back to the resort. Stop by the Expedition Kirkwood office in the village for conditions or a guided backcountry tour (from $85 per hour).

Weather: They call it the K-Factor. Storm totals average two to four feet, coming in consistently December through March. Even mild seasons, like 2006 to 2007, yield over 300 inches.

Après: Your best option is Bub’s Pub, which offers California microbrews, bar fare, big screens, and live bands on the weekends. Try the 9.9-percent-alcohol Brown Sugar Scottish Ale and the jerk-spice fries.

Fuel: In the morning, grab coffee and a breakfast burrito at Monte Wolfe’s in the village plaza. For lunch, visit the Off the Wall Bar in the main lodge and indulge in a Wall Sandwich—ahi tuna with Old Bay seasoning and portobello-mushroom relish on ciabatta bread.

Up All Night: If “all night” means until 9 p.m., hit the historic Kirkwood Inn (built in 1864, hardly updated since), a roadside saloon that shuts down early. If you really want to party, stay a night or two in South Lake Tahoe before flying home.

Digs: Find polished hotel rooms and three-bedroom condos at the Lodge at Kirkwood or Snowcrest, both walking distance from the lift (from $230). If lady luck took a bite out of your wallet at the casinos across the state line, try the Sun Meadows condos, where doubles start at $160 per night (

Elevation: 9,800 feet

Vertical Drop: 2,000 feet

Snowfall: 473 inches

Acres: 2,300



Sugar Bowl, CA

Inside Line: Sugar Bowl, CA

Opened in 1939 with help from Walt Disney, Sugar Bowl retains its old-school charm with a 1950s-style gondola and a rustic base lodge. But it’s plenty modern too. It offsets 100 percent of its energy through wind credits and has a remodeled 35,700-square-foot lodge and a new skiercross course that’s home to Olympian Daron Rahlves. The best thing about Sugar Bowl, however, may simply be the snow. Each year, the resort gets around 500 inches of Californian fluff.

Hit hard with a strong Pacific front, Revelstoke Mountain Resort has been hammered with nearly 15 inches of snow in the past 48 hours. Recent southerly winds have left North Bowl and Greely Bowl feeling like they have even more fresh powder than that.

Inside Line: Revelstoke, BC

Following Revelstoke’s grand opening last winter, first-time visitors identified a series of problems that the resort’s developers had failed to anticipate when they created a ski destination integrating 500,000 acres of cat- and heli-skiing with North America’s longest lift-served vertical. Among the quibbles: (1) The runs are “too long.” (2) There’s “too much powder.” (3) The absence of lift lines “prevents skiers from resting between runs.” This may sound like a joke, but these are actual complaints logged by management—and they underscore the stunning enormity of Revelstoke’s terrain. Our advice: If you aren’t prepared to go huge, don’t go at all.

Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C.

Inside Line: Blackcomb, BC

With the 2010 Winter Olympics around the corner, all eyes are on Whistler Blackcomb. The masses will descend on Whistler Mountain, where the official events will take place. Which means Blackcomb will be the place to ski. Locals know that Blackcomb outperforms its better-known neighbor when it comes to off-piste terrain and jibbing. Plus, Blackcomb’s lift lines are shorter, its park and pipe bigger, and its backcountry steeper. And with the new Peak-to-Peak gondola—a record-setting 2.73-mile-long feat of engineering—now connecting the two mountains, you can easily zip over to the big W. But with Blackcomb’s terrain, why bother?

What a great way to open the season!! Magic Mountain got 14 inches of new snow this week.

Inside Line: Magic Mountain, VT

Some folks in southern Vermont have a “tragic” nickname for Magic Mountain because they think the 135-acre ski area—which has suffered closures and sketchy management in the past—deserves better. But last summer, loyalists came together to buy the mountain and run it as a cooperative, similar to Mad River Glen. Their intent: to keep the legitimate steeps and trees open and spruce up the ski area’s infrastructure and snowmaking. Now the only thing tragic about this mountain, located in Londonderry, would be passing by it on a powder day.