Kirkwood beyond the slopes |

Kirkwood beyond the slopes

KIRKWOOD — Four years ago at Kirkwood Mountain Resort, there was tons of snow and astounding terrain, as it’s been since the resort opened in 1972.

Today there is all of that and more. There’s a high-speed quad, an ice rink, a heated pool, gym and a growing village at the base of the mountain.

“Now we offer pretty much anything a destination visitor would want,” said Tania Pilkington, spokeswoman for the resort. “We have summer activities, too. So we have something to offer 12 months a year.”

The pool is a stone’s throw from the village. Last weekend, Berry Dillon and her 6-year-old son decided to spend the day swimming instead of skiing.

Dillon owns a place at the Kirkwood Lodge, which is part of the village. She and her husband bought the property prior to the recent building boom at the resort. The Dillons live in Santa Cruz and come to Kirkwood every couple of weeks, even in the summer.

“We knew it was going to happen — that’s partly why we decided to buy,” Dillon said. “They put the rink in and the pool in, and we’re up here having fun, really enjoying it.”

Having things to do other than skiing or boarding is important at Kirkwood because the resort is isolated. It sits in rural country split between Alpine and Amador counties and relies on its own power, water and sewer systems.

Utilities aside, Kirkwood is also continuing to expand its snowbound activities. Dog-sledding rides, snowshoeing, tubing and cross country skiing are all options. And there are five terrain parks on the mountain, including a snowskating (skateboarding in the snow) park.

The Snowbomb Terrain Park next to lift No. 5 expects to open a superpipe this month.

“It will be one of the best pipes in the nation,” said Kenny Grant, a terrain park supervisor who has worked at the resort for 10 years.

Kirkwood recently purchased a grooming machine called a Zaugg. Built in Europe, they allow groomers to make precise, deep cuts in the snow that produce “bigger walls and bigger air,” Grant said.

But if tricks and jumps aren’t priority No. 1, there’s plenty of free riding through chutes or off cliffs.

Eric Arnold, who grew up in Placerville and lives in Christmas Valley, has been snowboarding at Kirkwood since 1982. He is loyal to the mountain because of the amount of snow it gets and the terrain.

What’s a dream day on the slopes for him?

“Two feet of fresh snow on a Monday,” the 32-year-old said.

Ben Brown, 27, who lives in South Lake Tahoe and sometimes boards with Arnold, said he’s been riding at the mountain for seven years for a couple of reasons.

“It’s got the steepest lines at South Shore and most exposed rocks,” Brown said. “And it’s the homiest place. And less crowded — even on a Saturday there’s barely a lift line.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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