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Kirkwood or Sugar Bowl or Sugarwood??

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I am new to the Sierras and am having a hard time deciding which pass to buy. Having eliminated Squaw Valley because of the expense (as well as the distance), I am attempting to decide between a unlimited season pass at Kirkwood and a restricted 'Sugarwood' pass which would allow me to ski both Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood, but that would not be valid on Saturdays or limited holidays (xmas, president's day, etc.) Can anybody offer any advice on the two resorts? Is the highway up to Kirk (from Sactown) closed often? How are the crowds at both resorts? Access to b/c? Snow?

FYI - I live in Sacramento and have a 4WD truck. My job allows me to ski a weekday now and again, but I will mostly be limited to weekends. I am an expert skier and I love steep terrain and good snow (I was born and raised in Utah). I can deal with crowds, but not huge ones (I go to the b/c on the busiest days).

Any and all advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
post #2 of 19
I am more familiar with Kirkwood, although Sugar Bowl is going to be an easier drive.
Saturdays will be crowded at both areas.
The road to Kirkwood does close, but more often from the Tahoe side over Carson pass. If you come up from the West on Hwy. 88, you're better off.
There is great BC all around Kirkwood, Round Top, Red Lake, Stevens, Elephants Back etc.
If you are think you could spend most Saturdays in the BC, I would go for the Sugarwood pass. They are both great areas.
JF
post #3 of 19
I agree with 4ster. One important consideration is that HWY 88 is gonna have much better traffic. 50 can be a zoo with all the Tahoe traffic from Sacto. 95% people who take 88 in the Winter are basically going to Kirkwood.
post #4 of 19
my 2 cents.

I had the same questions as you when I first moved to the Sacto area foothills about 5 years ago. I picked Kirkwood after the first year and have been a season pass holder ever since driving up nearly every Sat/Sun & the odd weekday for storm chasing.

That being said....get a decent map and study it. The obvious ways up are 1) 50 to Myers, then 89 South, then 88 East to Kirkwood. This takes you over Carson Pass, the primary road closure zone en route from Meyers. Also, sometimes Echo Pass on 50 can close due to Avy's but not nearly as frequently as the Pass.

2) Hookup to 88 East in the foothills and take it all the way to KW. This however takes you through Carson Spur which is the prime avy soon about 5 miles just before Kirkwood.

Depending on which route you take get to 88 East, #2 is generally less mileage and faster than #1. If you're in Sacto, the obvious way is Rt 16, 49 South to Jackson, to 88 East. However, there are a few shortcuts that you take you through winding foothill backgrounds that can save alot of mileage and time. I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you , but again, maps are your friend. (Warning however, these backroads are generally not plowed before hwy 50 or rt 88, so on cold storm low elevation storm days, road conditions need to be taken into condsideration)

On storm days, Carson Spur will close 90% of the time before Carson Pass. So when it's dumping, before you leave the house, check the weather reports, caltrans and see what roads are open. If the Spur is closed, you'll have to go via 50 and hope that the Pass stays open. OR, if you think the weather is going to clear (i.e. perhaps the storm blew through overnight and its a bluebird morning), you might want to chance it and go over the Spur anyway hoping that it opens by the time you get there.

Program the Caltrans highway update phone number in your cell phone as well as the Kirkwood snow phone. Kirkwood will update on road openings closures, but they're typically one step behind Caltrans. However, Kirkwood sometimes gives optimistic reports on potential timing of when the Spur opens. You generally have to read between the lines in Cohee's road updates, but with some experience, comes wisdom

So picking which way to go on a storm day is a game of cat & mouse. You typically have to commit to either route #1 or route #2 early on because once you get too far into the foothills, you cannot cross back over to the other route...and you'll most likely lose cell coverage if you're taking the backroads in route #2 so it can be difficult to know if the Spur is going to open.

So all that crap being said, despite the difficulties that getting to KW can pose from foothills, I chose KW over Sugar Bowl and everywhere else because I just dig the vibe of the place. Higher elevation usually equals better snow, the terrain is awesome, although the vert is small at 2,000 and the mountain flattens after the first 1,000, there are so many nooks and crannies to explore and scare the **** out of yourself it makes up for it. And BC access through patrol controlled gates (typically open a few days after a storm) is usually pretty good with amazing terrain in all directions. Becoming a Kirkwood skier will quickly have you swearing at the roads, swearing at the lifties, swearing at the parking (what parking?), swearing at the growing condo development, laughing at Cohee and his unintentionally hilarious snow reports, and swearing at the patrol for not conducting avy control on powder days fast enough...but IMO something about KW makes it all worthwhile.
post #5 of 19
You just had to say that didn't you

Kirkwood has only one high speed lift. Weekends can be a real zoo, especially when the backside lift opens and everyone seems to be there. The terrain is incredible, but its also volcanic. You need a lot of snow cover to make those sharks toothed rocks skiable. I have my pass there too.

The unstated option is Sierra at Tahoe. There are really good BC lines off the top and the off-piste between the lifts is rarely talked about here, but is excellent. It is the closest to Sacraemento and least affected by road closures. Heavenly is just 15 - 20 minutes beyond Sierra and has a $350 season pass. They have also put in BC gates that access many miles of terrain, and of course there is the Mott / Killebrew Canyon area. I realize its futile to talk you out of KW, but I thought I'd take a shot.
post #6 of 19
That pass is perfect if the price is right. Kirkwoood has the great terrain. Time of travel, nearly all non-freeway road through small towns (Hwy 16 to 88 east), tiring windy road, active CHP, and frequent road closure during and even the morning after storms are downsides. The Bowl terrain is good. It is also a quick straightline shot up the freeway and is rarely closed during or after storms. I think you'll find you'll be able to sneak away for weekday morning pow sessions during and after storms - and hopefully you're boss will be none the wiser in the afternoon.
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Tyrone Shoelaces,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply--this is exactly what I was looking for. After a lifetime spent jockeying for position in the eternal queue of cars headin up the cottonwoods in Utah, I am ready to play some backroad roulette on my way to Kirk this winter. I'm beating that by the end of the season I'll know many of those secret routes that you're keeping from me!

Is it safe to say that it usually takes 2 hours to get to Kirkwood from Sacto? 2 1/2? Is Sugarbowl considerably closer?

Thanks,
post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lone Pine View Post
Is it safe to say that it usually takes 2 hours to get to Kirkwood from Sacto? 2 1/2? Is Sugarbowl considerably closer?
2 hours is a good average...could be quicker if you leave early and the roads are good and you don't get stuck behind any slow cars...but on a storm day however, all bets are off and it could take much, much longer depending on road conditions and luck.

Sugarbowl is closer I think mileage wise and definitely WAY easier sanity wise. Just hop on 80 and you're there. And you'd have no pass closures to worry about during storms.

And don't worry about leaving that queue of cars behind in Utah. Last year there were many lineups heading into Kirkwood's box canyon. There were days on weekends when they were actually turning cars away. Kirkwoods parking, for a lack of a better term, sucks, and when it becomes compounded by huge piles of snow and managements ever expanding $20 VIP lots it gets even worse.
post #9 of 19

Sugar or Kirkwood

Tyrone is right and obviously has spent some time on the Kirkwood traffic problem.

Sugarbowl and how to manage. Leave early and be in the Judah parking lot at 0745, you will park right in front of the Lodge. Go inside and have breakfast. Pancakes and breakfast burritto are really good. At 9 the lifts open, easy to be lst in line. Sugar bowl probably has the best snow and most in the tahoe area (except for the higher Kirkwood). Even on weekends you will beat most of the traffic on 80 and skier traffic at Sugar. You won't notice a real lot of skiers until about 11 then dodge them by skiing harder terrain or early lunch, back out at nooon AND ski till whenever. Sunday afternoons aren't bad at all. Time from Auburn (don't know where you are in Sac) 1 hour drive if youre early like I stated.

Sugar has a lot of off piste skiing some of it so steep and knarly I won't venture down the fingers. Racing Sugar has a race arena off Christmas tree lift that is greaat for training and racing.

Anyway, just a little more info. Yes I know I live in Idaho but skied Sugar etc. for over 30 yrs. Have a great winter.
post #10 of 19

Sugar or Kirkwood

Forgot 1 thing. As you drive into sugar bowl on old hwy 40 you will pass Java Mountain Sports (on right side). Good shop, tell the owner Buck I mentioned to you. Great coffee, excellent boot fitting etc. eetc.
post #11 of 19
Kirkwood has a parking crisis. On the weekends, this is what you should expect after 9:00 AM



Carson Spur is subject to frequent avalanche closures, and the snow accumulations are impressive.



The Carson Pass entry is easier:


Both TS and I live on the Hwy 50 corridor right at the Foothills. Getting to I-80 is not easy, and that is one of the key reasons we aren't often seen at the North Shore. Depending on where you live, and your access to I-80 Sugar Bowl and even Alpine Meadows is closer than Kirkwood in mileage, and much closer in time. I'm serious, Sugar Bowl should be less than 1-1/2 hours from most places in Sacramento. The backroads we are talking about are not wide enough for 2 vehicles in places and are not plowed or sanded. When they are in this condition, we go all the way south to Jackson and pick up 88. Even Hwy 88 is mostly winding 2-lanes. It can be as little as 2-hours from Sac, or a really crappy drive that becomes impassible. The skiing is great once you are there. In past years I have had two season passes because Kirkwood is so hard to reach on a storm day, and they often have the top of the mountain closed for long periods of time during storm and wind events. TS has a ski rental up there, does not need to drive both ways and can get ahead of a storm.
post #12 of 19
Nice pics CR.

That pic of the snowbanks on the Spur looks gooood and brought back a memory from 2, maybe 3 seasons ago now.

I was heading for the big-mountain qualifier in late March and it was DUMPING. It was super early in the morning as I wanted to get up early and get my bibs, register for the comp, and get course inspection in and of course, wanted to beat what I thought would be a pending Spur closure later in the day.

Turns out that by the time I made it to the Spur in the morning they were about to close the Spur for the day and they decide to let me and 3 other cars through. "Sweet! I made it!", I thought. heh.

Well, I'm halfway down the Spur, inching along in near zero visibility, barely able to see the brakes lights of the car ahead of me when all of a sudden, the cars brakes just dissappear completely in a sea of milk, and my car is bumped on the passenger side and I start sliding towards the guardrail on the right..."what the hell?! Holy ****! SLIDE!!!"

So my car gets pushed right to the leftside snowbank and snow starts piling up on the passenger side. Turned the engine off, turned on my beacon, and stayed put. Luckily, it was a small slide and only covered half the road and buried 1/4 to 1/2 of the my car and the car in front of me. 5 minutes later the cal trans plow was digging us out.

Ahhh...good times, good times
post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
Great stuff gang!

I am located right off the business 80 in Sac, near McKinley Park. So, going either way (towards Sugar or Kirkwood) is simple.

After all the advice, I'm leaning towards the Sugarwood pass. That way I'll have options and I won't be out of luck on those days when the I the route into Kirk is closed. It'll suck not to have a pass on Saturdays, but like I said, that'll give me another excuse to hit up the b/c.

On another note (and this might deserve a new thread)... I am looking to mount some 2006 K2 seths and am looking for a good, proven shop in the Sac area to get it done. Any of you Sacto/Foothills folks have any rec's?
post #14 of 19
Another way to look at those Saturdays, not only are you giving up the busiest day of the week, I think the Sugarwood pass becomes unrestricted before Christmas and after Mid-March. Also, passholders can buy tickets at the afternoon rate on your blackout days. There are other discounts out there that will get you to look at some other ski areas. I agree, that is great to have the option to choose where to go, and maybe have the incentive to try other places and the BC. Anyway, hope to see you up there this year.
post #15 of 19

Sugarwood

Lone Pine, Closest shop to you is toss up. Either Helms at Howe and Marconi or Land Park Ski and Sports on Freeport just so. of Sutterville. Either one will do a good job. Have a great year!
post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lone Pine View Post
On another note (and this might deserve a new thread)... I am looking to mount some 2006 K2 seths and am looking for a good, proven shop in the Sac area to get it done. Any of you Sacto/Foothills folks have any rec's?
I missed this earlier. You are very near the store where SierraJim is a buyer, and he has actually worked on my skis.
Send him a PM with this request. Let us know how it works out.
post #17 of 19
CR:

interesting take on Sierra.

i may have to give it another go.

the few times I've been there I've found it to be too punky/thug snowboarderish with baggy pants wearing (don't get me wrong, I've been sporting baggy Burton/Volcom snowboarding pants for the past 3 seasons), tattoo having, chain smoking wannabe thugs posing in the parking lot while blasting 50 Cent and other commercial rap (don't get me wrong, i love rap, just not the bling-bling crap that passes for it these days) out of their brand new Escalades.

i did have a good time once i got on the mountain, but the parking lot vibe was enough to turn me off.

for KW, sadly, I only make it there once a year, but love it.

my family has a cabin in Truckee, so we tend to gravitate toward Sugarbowl (i learned to ski there and my dad was a weekend patroller way back in the day) and Alpine, which I find similar to KW both in attitude and terrain/the way the mountain is set up.

that said, i also have a Heavenly pass (which gets you 3 free days in Colorado, btw).

At any rate, LP, if you're looking for cheap ticket deals, sadly you missed out on the Tahoe 6 packs (6 tix for 6 different resorts with an average price of $42 a ticket).

Still you can find some cheap deals here if you decide to opt against a pass:

http://www.slidingonthecheap.com/deals/all.shtml

see you all on the hills!
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lone Pine View Post
Hi all,

I am new to the Sierras and am having a hard time deciding which pass to buy. Having eliminated Squaw Valley because of the expense (as well as the distance), I am attempting to decide between a unlimited season pass at Kirkwood and a restricted 'Sugarwood' pass which would allow me to ski both Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood, but that would not be valid on Saturdays or limited holidays (xmas, president's day, etc.) Can anybody offer any advice on the two resorts? Is the highway up to Kirk (from Sactown) closed often? How are the crowds at both resorts? Access to b/c? Snow?

FYI - I live in Sacramento and have a 4WD truck. My job allows me to ski a weekday now and again, but I will mostly be limited to weekends. I am an expert skier and I love steep terrain and good snow (I was born and raised in Utah). I can deal with crowds, but not huge ones (I go to the b/c on the busiest days).

Any and all advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
Kirkwood rocks! But plan on getting there early - something like 7:30 - 8:00 am. Parking sucks big time and last year, these jokers had to turn away some cars. In addition, the lifties are real stupid, "management" tends to open some lifts only after noon (like the backside) which can cause huge crowds on the frontside before noon and then huge crowds on the backside lifts when they finally open.

That being said, Kirkwood, because of its higher elevation, gets the best snow in Tahoe - and definitely worth it. Somehow, the parking, lifties, access roads don't seem to keep the crowds away :-).
post #19 of 19
Alpine Meadows weekend tickets are a relatively low $46. You should definitely check them out once this season. A very worthwhile mountain with steeps, remote terrain and backcountry.
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