17 December 2012
By Vicki Olds, aka Shibumi – “Snowpals Reporter At-Large”
What does this mean for us Bay Area Snowpals, and the local Kirkwood crews who have faithfully served us for years–some of us for decades? Find out in this exclusive, two-part Snowpals report.
When Vail Resorts, a premier mountain resort development company based out of Colorado, and Kirkwood Mountain Resort, announced in March 2012 that they were joining forces, some fans of the Kirkwood resort community in California braced, defensively, for big changes; others took a big sigh … of relief.
Kirkwood is a four-season township and recreational services development, located just 11 miles south (as the crow flies) of the Lake Tahoe basin and a 35-mile drive from the city of South Lake Tahoe, on Hwy 88 in California. In the winter, Kirkwood Mountain Resort focuses on skiing and snowboarding, and hiking and mountain-biking activities in the summer. A long-time favorite of San Francisco Bay Area snow riders in-the-know, Kirkwood is famous for its epic vistas (more reminiscent of European valley ski experiences), deep snow, and challenging stacks of terrain. Now, Kirkwood is Vail Resorts’ most western and southern star for this corporation whose mission is the “experience of a lifetime” for luxury, destination-based travelers and property owners.
WHAT’S UP WITH NEW MANAGEMENT
Kirkwood opened their 2012-2013 ski season with all ski lifts operating on Friday, December 7, 2012. It was a shake-down week; a trial run for newbies and employee associates that had stuck around after the Vail Resorts buyout. We spoke with some “olde timers” who have lived, and worked, on the mountain … trying to ascertain the local’s zeitgeist in the valley.
“A lot of people wanted to leave when the new management came in. They’re really liability-minded. I mean, Kirkwood (old management) used to be ‘OK, whatever, make it work,’ and now there are all these rules and regulations. But it’s probably for good … I mean, Kirkwood was losing its ass; up to here in a lot of debt and big ideas. They had a vision for development of the valley that just didn’t fulfill as fast as it could … all these time-shares, condominiums. I blame it on global-warming.”
— 4-yr Kirkwood Maintenance Associate
“Whatever everyone says, I love it. They’re coming professional and we’re in it for the long haul. Now we don’t have to worry about the Big Picture. Vail knows what’s it’s doing. This place is going to be more beautiful than ever.
— Kirkwood Meadows homeowner, since 2002
“A lot of my friends are all ‘no’ … but they just don’t know what’s going to happen. Personally, I think things will get better because if VR hadn’t bought us, no one would be skiing Kirkwood this season. It was that bad. Now we’ll be able to do the right thing for the valley (environmental) development and us skiers. You may not notice it but by this time next year you’re going to see some changes!”
— 3-yr. Kirkwood Ski Rentals Dude
Vail Resorts also owns the venerable California mountain ski resorts of Northstar at Tahoe and Heavenly (aka The Heave) which spans Kingsbury Grade in Nevada to the east, and Ski Run Blvd. in South Lake Tahoe, California to the west. All three resorts are recognized world-class snow riding destinations, with Northstar being more “chic; family-oriented”; Heavenly serving “the masses”; and Kirkwood having a higher concentration of locals saying, “WTF! Let’s ride!” … IMHO.
So, expect Kirkwood to be spruced-up a bit; the facility equipment better maintained (not left out overnight); the walkways and byways around the Mountain Lodge ‘chopped & trimmed’; and signage for services, escapes and splurges a bit more defined. Around Kirkwood Valley, Caples Resort is under new management, and valley restaurants, and the venerable Red Cliffs Lodge, are having face-lifts, too (more on this in Part II of this report).
Safety and guest service considerations are paramount for the sugar daddy, Vail Resorts, whose affiliate, Rock Resorts, is a hotel development concern with operations in the U.S., Caribbean and Jamaica. I couldn’t find much on Vail or Rock Resorts environmental track records, operating in some of the world’s most pristine environments as they do. Yet, the slick “Echo” program video at http://www.vailresortsecho.com/ indicates a long-term, “local ecology”, marketing savvy.
Let’s hope the new mountain resort management comes through for the locals and the communities around NorthStar and Heavenly … and now, Kirkwood, in California—good for us who have been patronizing this year-around, off-the-beaten-path, treasure, and for all who care about preserving the unique environmental resources of Kirkwood Valley, Caples Creek and Silver Lake wilderness areas—and, HECK, the whole Lake Tahoe Basin, in general!
Kirkwood Under New Management:
What FUN! — Part 2 of 2
Kirkwood Mountain Resort opened its ski lifts in 1973. Now Kirkwood is a year-round resort, headquartered in the hamlet of Kirkwood, California, 1501 Kirkwood Meadows Drive, Kirkwood, CA 95646, 209-258-6000.
Kirkwood has 2,300 skiable acres, 12 lifts, and 65 trails. With lodge accommodations in the valley (tel. 800/967-7500), and dining options, this is a great year-round destination. The shuttle service to downtown/State Line, South Lake Taho, is $5 each way.
Kirkwood Tickets, Passes, Frequent Flyer Programs
Vail Resorts, management company
Vail Resorts, resort sales & information
Kirkwood Mountain FaceBook Friends (please “like” on Facebook: it’s good for the locals and will prompt Vaile Resorts to pour more money in to Kirkwood Valley’s future)
Map of Kirkwood Valley: