The sierras offer a wide array of ski experiences. Kirkwood isn't as upscale as Squaw, as family oriented as Northstar, or as accessable as SugarBowl, but Kirkwood isn't lacking by any means. Kirkwood is all about the skiing and riding. Nobody comes for the bars (though Bub's Sports Bar is actually a great place to catch early season Red Sox games in between sunny spring runs, and Off the Wall Bar has a world class staff of friendly folks). Nightlife at kirkwood is non existant outside of the condos, for that you'll want to drive 45 minutes to South Lake which also offers much more affordable lodging.
The day lodge situation is a little lacking, Red Cliffs lodge is a good little walk from the major lifts and the Kirkwood Real Estate Office has taken over the prime space in the center of the Kirkwood Lodge (the Hotel check in) which was the easiest place for the common man to go sit and get warm for half-an-hour. The new Timber Creek lodge will offer some relief in that area but won't be completed this season. Don't let this stuff phase you. You're aren't going skiing to sit in the bar on the lodge, are you?
The bottom line is that Kirkwood has incredible runs for everyone regardless of level. It has enough terrain of differnt kinds that it'll make you up your game. Want steep steeps and shoots? You got 'em?.Gentle remote tree runs that seem to go on forever? They're everywhere. There's also huge open fields of powder and enough groomed stuff to keep even the most avid easy rider happy all day long. There are powder stashes around for days after a good storm.
Kirkwood is close to the South and East Bay (180 miles from San Jose or Berkeley) up through Jackson, CA when highway 88 is open through the passes. It often isn't open on the heaviest days, but those are the days you'll most want to get to kirkwood. If 88 is closed (often they close it right before the crowds start streaming in on heavy snow mornings) you can almost always get through by going through Meyers, CA and down highway 89. 1-800-GAS-ROAD provides up to date highway information. Put that in your cell phone along with 877-Kirkwood.
The last few years we've seen a unreal amount of snow at Kirkwood. This year we're starting slow, but all of the regulars, staff and locals know it's just a question of time until we're all enjoying the best skiing in California.
Parents of avid young skiiers should check out the JETS program (6 to 12 week sessions) and Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation which offers some of the best season long tranining anywhere.
The best non-paid parking goes extreemly early at Kirkwood, but if you get there in time to grab a good spot go check out the huge breakfast buritio at Monte Wolf's. You can make your own bloody mary there or get a double latte then sit back and listen to the avy control explosions before booting up and getting in the lift line.