Kirkwood, CA Conditions Report: Side Country Slaying

Bevan Waite | BackcountryBackcountry
Quality surface hoar

Kirkwood was INSANE this weekend.  The resort, known for its incredible steeps and big mountain terrain is off the beaten path for most skiers who flock to tahoe on the weekends.  Lines on a pow day are often non-existant and the lift accessed terrain can get as gnarly as it gets.


The first of hopefully many El Nino driven storm cycles broke last Friday and I was there at lift opening to finally experience the Kirkwood that people haven’t seen for years.  Unfortunately, the entire mountain was opened the previous day, and the main runs had all been tracked out.  That said, they were still quite soft and forgiving to warm up on.

The Fingers

The nice thing about Kirkwood is that it can be days after a storm has rolled through and you can still find fresh tracks… if you put a little bit of effort in.  I warmed up on the main drag down Chair 6 and then promptly moved to the traverse from Sentinel bowl to the palisades.  That’s where the real fun started.  Surprisingly, even though el nino driven storms originate from the warmer central pacific, it had stayed cold (8 degrees when I arrived in the morning).  This preserved the quality of the snow and made for fluffy rides through cut up pow in the early morning.


As I was reppin palisade runs, I got an anonymous tip to hike the ridge above the palisades to get to a zone named something I do not remember.. Anyway, I hiked, and hiked, and followed some folks near the top of this large rock outcropping.  I then asked the couple which way had the best snow and which was the way back to chair 7.  They pointed in two directions, so I chose the average of the two and proceeded to rip pow turns to the valley floor.  It was SOOO good I did it three more times in a row before I got tired of the 20 minute hike (See the first ski run shown in the video).

Thunder Bowl
The ridge hike above the Palisades

I then proceeded to make my way to the back side in order to hike up to lookout vista and ski the open rocky terrain next to the Cirque.

Lookout Vista across the way.
The Cirque
From the top of Lookout Vista


The Good:

Kirkwood is filled in!

More snow is foretasted


The Bad:

Core shots are still quite likely


Day 2: Sidecountry


I met up with some friends on day 2 and after warming up we set out from chair 4 to ski Broadway Chute.

The Backside with California chutes in the background.
From the top of Broadway looking at the Cali chutes
Looking down at Broadway chute
From the bottom looking up at Broadway chute. It goes up to the right.
Accross the frozen lake with Pipeline chute to the very right. Looks real gnarly right now.
Broadway chute off to the left and tracks coming down from the Headwall on the right.
Chute of unknown name


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