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Stockton man built Kirkwood

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

In the 1960s, a team from the U.S. Forest Service first skied slopes that would eventually become Kirkwood Associates.

Bud Klein, a resident of Stockton, Calif., took the cue from the Forest Service and delivered mountain master plans to the agency in 1968.

Klein made money as an agriculturalist in the Central Valley. Contacts in the business world allowed him to form an investment group called Kirkwood Meadows Inc., which supplied cash to build the resort.

So skiers could actually get to Kirkwood, Klein set out to make Highway 88 an all-weather road. By 1971, two state maintenance stations opened, which enabled the road to stay open when it snowed. The same year, the Forest Service issued Klein a special-use permit that allowed the construction of a ski resort on public land. Then the building started.

Kirkwood needed power, water and a sewer system before it could operate. With those facilities in place, Klein built four chair lifts: Snowkirk (No. 1), Caples Crest (No. 2), Iron Horse (No. 3) and Sunrise (No. 4). Red Cliffs Main Lodge, employee housing and private housing were also constructed and the resort opened in 1972.

More than 20 years later, after bad drought years, the resort heeded the advice of its bank and reorganized its finances in 1994.

“(19)91, ’92 and ’93 all were poor years and put the company in pretty deep financial trouble,” said Kirkwood President Tim Cohee. “I arrived in May of 1993 and my role was twofold: to resurrect skier visits and refinance the company — sell it or find a partner.”

After exploring many options, Kirkwood decided in 1995 to partner with Chuck Cobb and the Telluride Ski and Golf Co. Cobb, who also owned part of Telluride, bought out Telluride’s interest at Kirkwood in 1997.

“They had spent some many years building Telluride and they knew Kirkwood was a long haul project,” Cohee said. “They decided they didn’t want to do it, but Chuck said, ‘Well, I’ll do it.'”

Today, about 80 percent of Kirkwood Mountain Resort is owned by Cobb, and two business partners, Gary Engle and John Temple. Klein still owns about 20 percent.

Klein, who is in his 70s, is vice chairman of the Kirkwood Board of Directors. He also owns a Sonoma County winery, Rodney Strong Vineyards.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com.


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