Ask powder hounds for their favorite California destination, and chances are they’ll say Kirkwood—if they’re willing to share the secret. This stunning resort, roughly 35 miles south of Lake Tahoe, often gets the lion’s share of steep-and-deep cred in the region. Its jagged granite peaks tend to snag heavy dumps of snow, making it the go-to spot for experienced locals, who know where to find the unusually high number of hidden stashes.
When to hit the slopes? Head out early for unforgettable first tracks, particularly on the pristine backside runs. As a relatively rustic and old-school resort, Kirkwood forgoes extensive grooming and over-the-top facilities in favor of a more remote, natural setting, making it a big draw for the hard-core set. Experienced skiers can book a “Progression Session” mountain tour from the ski school to get the lay of the land (map), which will help you to get the most out of your time on the snow.
For a real heart-pumper, take on the notorious challenge known as The Wall, with a dramatic steep start that opens up into a whoop-it-up big-turning dream. Kirkwood also offers an array of build-your-skills experiences with its Expedition Kirkwood program. Choose from private backcountry guides, Snowcat tours (Pacific Crest Snowtours), specialty ski and board clinics, avalanche certification courses, and women’s-only adventures (REI).
It’s not all chutes and off-piste at Kirkwood; the Timber Creek area caters to beginners and families, with an excellent ski-and-boarding school perfect for newbies and a relaxed base lodge.
Insider tip: Consider getting an Epic Pass for access to Kirkwood, Heavenly, and Northstar California; there are various options and pricings, so check to see which one could work for your vacation plans.