Kirkwood's potential to be a world class ski resort was first recognised in the 1960's by Bud Klein, former chairman of Klein Bros International. After the tremendous success of the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics there was a huge upswing in interest in Californian skiing and it seemed that everyone was out looking for a place to build the perfect ski resort. Together with a group of prominent Stockton business men, who were also avid skiers, he formed Kirkwood Meadows Inc and in 1968 submitted a combination of 2 master plans which were approved by the US Forest Service. In 1972 Klein's vision culminated with the opening of Kirkwood ski resort. What started off with only 4 ski lifts has grown steadily over the years and in 1995 the Telluride Group purchased a significant interest in Kirkwood, launching the resort into a new phase of development with further new lifts and mountain village facilities. Today there are 12 lifts, luxury ski in/ski out condominiums and townhomes, and all the facilities you would expect from a world class resort. As well as its manmade facilities Kirkwood has excellent snow records. You could say this region of North America has the perfect formula for plentiful high quality snow. Kirkwood's geographic location in the Sierra Nevada , which literally translates as "snowy mountains", combines with its low humidity to create a weather pattern that produces perfect quality snow in huge quantities. During winter, weather systems from the nearby Pacific are carried north via the Polar Jet Stream to the Gulf of Alaska where they cool before heading south and tracking towards Lake Tahoe. When the weather systems meet with the Sierra Nevada mountains they cool rapidly and the moisture condenses to produce more than 500 inches of snow annually. Most of the mountains top 10,000 ft which produces even lighter powder and for 6 of the last 7 seasons Kirkwood has laid claim to having the deepest powder in North America. This, along with around 300 days of sunshine a year would explain why Kirkwood has been voted in the top 10 American ski resorts by Ski USA magazine. Kirkwood, combined with the 5 other Ski Lake Tahoe resorts—Alpine Meadows, Heavenly, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Squaw Valley USA—offer over 17,000 acres of skiing and riding serviced by more than 100 chairlifts, including more wide open bowls and high speed chairlifts than any other ski destination in North America. Located around the largest alpine lake in North America, the Ski Lake Tahoe resorts offer unparalleled scenic beauty as well as an array of different resort experiences to suit the preferences and style of every winter sports enthusiast. In the past five years, Kirkwood has invested $100 million in developing the mountain village. Last year, the resort focused its efforts on the mountain by building a family tubing park and installing the first high speed quad. This year, improvements will be centered on the base area, with development of the ice rink, recreation center, swimming complex and two new ski-in/si-out condominium complexes - called Snowcrest and Meadowstone. Originally a meadow surrounded by mountains, the resort takes its name from Zachary Kirkwood who arrived here along with emigrants and fortune seekers during the Californian Gold Rush Days of the mid 1800s. He loved the place so much that he stayed on and opened the Kirkwood Station, now known as the Kirkwood Inn. Its hard to imagine it now but the Inn, which was then mainly frequented by Washoe Indians, travellers and cattle ranchers, was once the site of occasional shoot-ups, bootlegging, gambling. The Washoe Indians , renowned for their intricate basket weaving, were indigenous to the area around Lake Tahoe which they considered to be a sacred place and where they would gather each spring for a sacred ceremony. The name Tahoe derives from the Washoe meaning "big lake".
With the highest base area in northern California, Kirkwood has a European feel. All of the accommodation is condo-based and there is a large amount of cross-country skiing.