What stuff dreams are made of…
A first impression to a place or a person always seems to have a lasting effect on how you envision it. Sitting on a velvet couch in a friend’s home he begins to describe his trip to Lake Tahoe as he presses the play button on the remote the TV goes from a black glossy screen to transporting you to a deep blue sky, the sound of chains clanking on the road surface, the massive walls of snow, as the car makes the final turn into the meadow it exposes you to the endless steep terrain known as Kirkwood. It seemed pure, untouched by mega-tourism, and most of all had massive amounts of snow. It seemed almost like a mecca for snowboarders. As the video flashed to the backside you are standing atop a large cornice which I would later find out was called “The Wave”. He animatedly described to me the drop off that cornice… how it felt like a dream dropping a massive air into deep soft velvety snow it exploding around you as you make turn after turn which seemed to last forever.
A dream becomes a reality…. The beginning of a great place called Kirkwood
Image above was taken from Ski Magazine – December 1975
This was my first introduction to Kirkwood and I found out once I visited there that reality was even better than my imagination could ever make it. It’s hard to imagine as you drive up California State Hwy 88 through a famous Sierra Nevada snowstorm that this was the same route that many people took with wagons back in the late 1800’s for the famous California Gold Rush. As weary travelers passed the horse-shoe canyon on their way to attempt getting a share of the gold found in California little did they know that in 1971 “white gold” would be found on the chairlifts at Kirkwood. Being the most remote and arguably one of the most rugged resorts in the Tahoe region it makes sense that the start of this resort followed the same path. Bud Klein saw the opportunity that lay in front of him and due to his dream and his hardwork of being a bean broker in Stockton he was able to get over every obstacle that was put in front of him. First, he needed approval of his vision to start a ski resort which he got in 1968.
Next, he needed to get Highway 88 plowed during the winter so snow enthusiasts could get to this legend in the making venue which he did in 1971 with cooperation with the state of California. And finally he needed help to install the first 4 double chairlifts which consisted of Solitude, Snowkirk, Cornice, and the Reut. See the 1975 trail map above to get an idea of the original 4. It is fitting that one of the first chairlifts “The Reut” is named after the man that almost single handedly built it, Dick Reuter. He was similar to the men that discovered the Carson Pass a rugged explorer, a mountain man’s mountain man, a man that stood as tall the Sierra Nevada’s metaphorically.
Tune in next week as we delve deeper into the Apres available around Kirkwood and introduction of how to ride and slide this “Rare Earth”