Bud Klein, former U.S. Volleyball Team member for the 1956 Pan-Am games, stumbled upon the Kirkwood region while visiting a friend’s cattle ranch in the 1960s. He observed that Kirkwood Meadow (El. 7,800 feet) was surrounded on three sides by north-facing peaks, including Thimble Peak (El. 9,850 feet)—it created a natural amphitheater and the perfect layout for a world-class resort. After surveying the area, Klein and his investors formed Kirkwood Meadows, incorporated (KMI) and submitted two master plans that were approved by the Forest Service. In spite of good intentions, California 88 was often closed after heavy winter storms, and just getting to Kirkwood seemed impossible. The problem was overcome when KMI posted a hefty bond and signed an agreement with CalTrans to build winter maintenance stations nearby, opening the road to year-round travel. But there was still no electricity to operate the lifts and neither sewer system nor water lines. The corporation dug in, built a power-generating facility and a sewage system, and became a fully self-contained community. Kirkwood was finally able to open in December of 1972, operating with four lifts, the Red Cliffs Lodge, and employee housing. Voted one of the top ten ski resorts in North America, sporting the best Tahoe powder, and the highest base elevation in California, Kirkwood offers some of the best vertical and freeride terrain in the Tahoe area. They are exceeded only by Squaw Valley for steeps, by Mammoth for altitude, and are matched by Sugar Bowl for annual snowfall. The altitude makes rain a rarity, and spring conditions are usually late to arrive. Notorious for high winds, the upper chairs often close when gusts become excessive, but these same winds build up some of the best cornice jumps in North America. Out of the mainstream and not big on change, Kirkwood installed their first high-speed chair for the 2000–2001 season. In spite of the faster ride up the mountain, the remote location keeps the crowds smaller, the lift lines shorter, and snow untracked for days. This eTrail contains a thorough description of the resort including driving directions, mountain statistics, trail profiles, extensive lodging & dining information, travel tips, and much more.
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