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  • Family Adventure On and Off the Slopes
    Kirkwood, California

    By Tammie Thompson

    Photo courtesy Kirkwood It was raining at South Shore. Not a good sign when it comes to a family weekend of skiing and riding. But just as we turned on to Highway 88, the rain turned to snow. Big fat flakes bombarded the windshield as we made our way towards Kirkwood's base elevation of 7800'. The kids were antsy, but I could have driven that road forever. Broad open space with scattered barns and livestock fences, huge buttes jutting out of the sky, and snow - lots of it, with more on the way, what a start to the weekend.

    Kirkwood has morphed into a true destination resort over the last few years. Several condos, a premier lodge, plus a new village, has transformed this once sleepy resort into a viable contender for a winter resort vacation. Small by most standards, the resort still holds its mountain mentality earned by hardcore skiers and snowboarders over the years. The mountain hasn't changed. Still a bastion of double black diamonds, cornices, and chutes, the resort has focused on the development of more intermediate and novice terrain. This has attracted families, making Kirkwood a place where families can park it for a week and discover Kirkwood's terrain as well as a variety of other adventures.

    The big fat flakes continued as we made our way on to Kirkwood Meadows Drive. Check in was easy, just a short stop at Kirkwood Lodge. The kids were stoked to receive a Snow Monsters "Brain Book" along with stickers and other goodies. I was stoked to find the lodge stocked with videos, games and other "snow day" diversions. We stayed at the Snow Crest Lodge. New and spacious, these slopeside condos feature full kitchens, adequate lounge space, and ski-in ski-out capabilities.

    Just in time for Friday night movies, we dropped the kids off and headed to the Lodge's Off the Wall Grille for hors d'oeuvres and a cocktail. After the movie we headed back to the condo. The squeak of the new snow reverberated across the valley. It would be a good day tomorrow.

    We cooked a big breakfast, then headed out for a day of exploring the mountain. Just a short traverse to chair 7, and we were off. Kirkwood, well known for their extreme terrain, also offers plenty of intermediate and novice trails. We worked our way towards the Timbercreek area, home of the Mighty Mountain Children's Center and numerous novice runs. My daughter and I got to giggling over all the new snowboarders. Stacked like rabbits poised for adventure, the Bunny hill was indeed a hot spot of activity. To avoid the crowd we headed right to the School Run to explore Adventureland. An array of ski through pipes and other terrain features are the delight of young skiers and riders.

    Other good options for kids are chairs 2 and 3. A bit out of the way and less crowded, Caples Crest hooks in to Iron Horse on the backside for some scenic cruising. If you are looking for some good vertical, a ride up the Sunrise lift is just the thing. For the more advanced in your group, don't forget to hit the Wagon Wheel lift for a trek down The Wall. Scull & crossbones greet you, as does a large cornice, but once you're over the steeps, there is some great cruising terrain.

    After a hot chocolate break in the new village, we did another sweep on the intermediate runs. At top elevations of over 9000 feet, Kirkwood's snow was smooth and fast. I mapped it so we would come out at the condo. "Wow Mom, you're good," said my daughter. We went in the back door to a lunch break of grilled sandwiches and daytime TV. More from the peanut gallery, "I like this place. Do I have to ski this afternoon?"

    Photo courtesy Kirkwood And therein lies the beauty of Kirkwood. There's plenty to do on and off the slopes. While the boys headed out for more double diamonds, we set out for an afternoon of exploring the village and other snow adventures. Here's what we found:

  • The New Kirkwood Village Plaza: Though small, the village has all the necessary components. A sports shop, restaurant, coffee shop and 6000 square foot ice rink.
  • Snowskate park: loaded with lots of Ramp Logic rails, the park was packed with skate rats and young kids. Rentals are available for $5 per hour. Use of the park is free.
  • Tube Park: Everybody loves tubing! $10 for an hour.
  • Dog Sled Rides: Kids ride for $35;adults $75. A scenic jaunt through the Kirkwood Meadow.
  • Snowshoeing: An easy endeavor, you can snowshoe through the meadow, day or night! 80 kilometers of groomed terrain are inviting, and easily managed by kids and adults.
  • Swim Complex & Fitness Center: We hit the heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi for an afternoon dip just as the sun was setting. The view was absolutely spectacular.

    Heads frozen from the pool, we headed back to the condo for some R&R after all of our adventures. A quick bite to eat at Bub's Sports Bar, a little video game madness, and we were off to bed to prepare for another day on the slopes.

    Look for some enticing offers this season. Winter vacation specials include the "Stay & Ski Free" package, as well as the "Extend the Weekend" package. Families should take note of the kids "Ski Free Sundays", where two free child tickets (12 and under) are available with every paid adult ticket (excludes holidays).

    For more on Kirkwood see

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