Lifts started spinning at 9:00am on Friday morning, a whole 5 days earlier than originally planned! The early launch is of course owed to the recent snowstorms that dumped a great deal of snow across the Lake Tahoe region, allowing most of the surrounding resorts to open.
“The last two storms that have rolled through the Sierra have dropped a combined four feet of snow at Kirkwood, allowing us to open early for all our passionate skiers and riders,” said Casey Blann, general manager of Kirkwood. “This will be a great start to the 40th anniversary season at Kirkwood, and the first with Vail Resorts.”
Skiers and snowboarders visiting Kirkwood will be greeted with over 40 acres of skiable terrain to ride and glide upon. Open trails include Race Course, Mokelumne, Lower Monte Wolfe, Lower Zachary and Lower Olympic. For now, the terrain will be accessed by Solitude.
The big news from earlier in the year was the acquisition of Kirkwood by Vail Resorts. Kirkwood is commonly regarded as a hidden gem throughout the snow sport community — a remnant from the good ol’ days of skiing. We actually spoke to Blaise Carrig the day Vail announced the sale. He assured us that Kirkwood would retain the same mellow vibe and core focus that its guests originally fell in love with. While there will always be individuals who are resistant to any type of change, it is hard to ignore the positive improvements made over the past few months.
One important safety improvement is the new comfort bars, which have been installed on every lift. Guests now can ride to the top with peace of mind, and anyone riding under the lift can be more confident that they won’t have some skier fall on them!
Vail Resorts Management have also made some significant investments into Kirkwood’s snow removal operations. With an average snowfall of 600+ inches, the mountain is well known for powder pile-ups — which is never a bad thing…unless you don’t have the equipment to move it! This year, Kirkwood will have a brand new Howitzer cannon, which will be used to secure the resort’s signature steeps, and ensure they open in a timely fashion. Snow crews will also have the new Zaugg snow blower to maintain the resort’s parking lots. This is the same type of cutting-edge snow blower used by the California Department of Transportation.
“We’re so confident in the return of big Kirkwood winter,” said Blann, “that we actually invested more resources in snow removal equipment than anything else this offseason.”
Dining facilities across the mountain have undergone a complete overhaul as well. Conditions have been improved and menus feature an even higher quality and variety of options. The historic Kirkwood Inn has been given a slight facelift, but promises to illicit the same charm that it is known for.
Monte Wolfe’s Mountain Kitchen will be open daily in the Kirkwood Village from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and The Wall Bar will be open for après only from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Kirkwood General Store inside the Red Cliffs Lodge will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and the Kirkwood Inn on Highway 88 will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. through Wednesday, November 21, and 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. thereafter.
The most dramatic technological improvement will be the Kirkwood Mountain Resorts implementation of the Vail Resorts EpicMix. Now when you ride Kirkwood, you can keep tabs of your vertical and maintain a log of your run stats. EpixMix utilizes RF technology housed within your pass to automatically check you in when you approach the chairlift. After a day on the slopes, Skiers and snowboarders can review their data online, which can be used to compete against one another for bragging rights, or just to keep tabs on personal accomplishments throughout the season.
Kirkwood will play host to the lone U.S. stop for the new Swatch Freeride World Tour by The North Face, which combines the Freeride World Tour, the Freeskiing World Tour and The North Face Masters of Snowboarding to create one unified global championship series. The new six-stop world tour will hit The Cirque at Kirkwood on February 27 – March 3, 2013.
All in all, it looks as if Kirkwood Mountain Resort is off to a sensational start. The early starting date will kick off the season, and allow skiers and boarders the opportunity to see all the new features the resort has to offer.