Kirkwood slides into action
Beginning Saturday, Kirkwood Mountain Resort will host scores of eager skiers and boarders in its earliest opening in eight years.
The fresh dump of snow the Alpine County resort received last weekend helped advance the opening day, which includes the alpine resort and the nordic center’s meadow.
Kirkwood plans to open four chairlifts, including its popular Cornice Express Quad and Nos. 1, 5 and 11. The ski area reports 20 inches at its base and 4 feet on top.
For 1994’s opening on Nov. 11, a 5-foot powder keg was left for Kirkwood President Tim Cohee and his son to negotiate.
“I was reminded of the best day ever, when we had to dig out chairs 6 and 10. All I remember is the most choking experience,” Cohee said, adding he would have considered skiing while wearing a snorkel because of trouble breathing and seeing the mountain.
“I was skiing down (chair) 10, and I remember my skis never came up,” he said.
This week’s excitement has been ramped up among staffers who are prepared to show off the mountain’s conditions, terrain and new amenities.
Kirkwood employees, from groomers to snowblower operators, were out this week getting the resort ready for the influx of visitors — who will find more housing options with 24 new units built for this season as part of the resort’s master plan.
“Seasonal workers especially like to see early winters,” spokeswoman Tania Pilkinton said.
She knows from experience, recalling herself chomping at the bit in the early 1980s when the resort delayed opening until Jan. 6 during a drought year.
Last year, the alpine ski area opened Nov. 22 with the nordic center’s 10 kilometers of meadow terrain. The advanced terrain, situated between the nordic hut and Coyote Pass, opened Dec. 7.
This year, guests will find Kirkwood has added to its reputable conditions and terrain with more amenities designed to position the resort as a destination-visitor location for families.
An outdoor ice rink — which will host skating shows and hockey games — will open at the base next to the Mountain Village on Nov. 28, along with a fitness center and 25-yard lap pool near the Red Cliff’s Lodge.
On the other side of this lodge, a snowskate park should appeal to the young ones looking to use the latest snow-riding gear. The resort will also open Kids Adventure Land off chair No. 7.
Kirkwood has expanded the terrain parks for boarders looking to perform air and trick maneuvers.
The additions point to the evolutionary trend for ski villages across the United States to diversify their offerings and promote their changes in national magazines.
“Great skiing has always been something that’s attracted (people) here. Our problem for three decades is we couldn’t fill out those X’s (in the ski chart of amenities),” Cohee said. “The only X we don’t have is shopping, and no one is going to come out here who ranks that high.”
Kirkwood reports an annual average of about 350,000 skier visits. Ski Lake Tahoe, a consortium of six ski areas in the region, takes in more than 3 million. The ski-area group includes Kirkwood, Alpine Meadows, Heavenly Ski Resort, Northstar- and Sierra-at-Tahoe as well as Squaw Valley, which also opens Saturday.
Ski areas now open include Alpine Meadows, Boreal, Mt. Rose, Soda Springs and Mammoth. Heavenly plans to open Nov. 22 and Sierra-at-Tahoe five days later.
— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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