After Seven Years and $100 Million in Resort and Real Estate Development, Kirkwood’s Vision of Becoming a Four-Season Destination is Now a Reality
Kirkwood, Calif.- This winter, less than a decade after Kirkwood Mountain Resort embarked on a mission to transform itself from a day skier’s mountain to a year-round resort community, the resort will celebrate its 30th birthday with a coming of age, just as original founder Bud Klein and his future partners, Telluride Ski & Golf Company (Telski), originally intended.
The concept was simple: to bring a taste of the Rockies to Kirkwood by creating a Mountain Village at the base of the slopes with full amenities to serve both destination visitors and the community, much like the famous Telluride Ski Resort in Colorado. Even today, no comparable village exists in the Sierra.
The key to Kirkwood was having the ability to build a Mountain Village at the base of several lifts plus expand its lift-served terrain by 100 percent. The resort had struggled financially for years until Telski recognized the potential to create a premiere regional destination resort and purchased a large interest in Kirkwood in 1994, giving the resort the funds necessary to proceed with development.
“Two things appealed to me about Kirkwood right away. One, the mountain itself is simply excellent. Having a great mountain is the key element to having a great resort. Two, because of Kirkwood’s isolated location, there is a unique opportunity to do a real ski village, a real destination resort, like we do in Colorado,” said Ron Allred, president of Telski (San Francisco Examiner, 9/26/95).
Kirkwood has done just that, never looking back since construction of The Lodge at Kirkwood began in 1994. Building by building, the Village began to come to life with completion of The Lodge’s 19 ski-in/ski-out condominiums, Lost Cabin’s 16 town homes, and the West’s first quarter-ownership residence club at a ski resort, The Mountain Club, all connected by the Village Plaza containing numerous shops and restaurants.
In addition Kirkwood built a multi-million dollar children’s ski and daycare center and two new restaurants offering family-style and fine dining at the base. On the mountain they installed a snowmaking system, upgraded Chair #6 to the Cornice Express High Speed Quad, upgraded Chair #4 (Sunrise) to a fixed-grip quad and increased capacity by fifty percent on their beginner Chair #9 (Bunny). The Slide Mountain family tubing hill was added in 2001.
As Kirkwood enters its 30th year, they will add the final piece to the destination puzzle by completing the Village Ice Rink at plaza’s edge, phase one of a fitness and swim complex, Snowcrest Lodge and Meadowstone Lodge, adding 54 luxury slopeside residences. Since the opening of The Lodge, over 200 residences have been built on or near the slopes.
“Kirkwood has the potential most areas envy but only a few areas have,” said Ron Allred (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/24/94). “Having now spent time in Kirkwood, we are even more convinced of its potential to become a premiere North American destination resort” (Santa Cruz Sentinel 11/16/95).
“For the first time since the resort’s inception in 1972 Kirkwood can now call itself a ‘Destination Resort’ credibly because it has all the fundamentals in place that, by anyone’s measures, define a destination. Employees, investors, guests and especially community members have been anxiously awaiting this day,” said Tim Cohee, resort president.
“It will be exciting to complete the picture,” said Klein, Kirkwood’s 68-year-old founder. “Before I die, I want to see the painting.” (Modesto Bee 1/30/96)
Kirkwood is eternally grateful to all of the homeowners who took a chance, buying into the resort in the early years, when there wasn’t much in the Valley but a day lodge, a few chairlifts and a strip of condominiums. Kirkwood didn’t come close to the Hollywood glamorized Vail or Aspen, and it took a certain type of person to give it the benefit of the doubt. The risk paid off once news of the Telluride acquisition hit the media and Kirkwood’s property values skyrocketed, setting off a feeding frenzy as Northern Californians slurped up what they hoped could be a taste of Telluride in their own backyard.
“I bought into Kirkwood in 1989 with the expectation that it would develop into a “European Style” Alpine Village. I am very pleased with the progress Kirkwood Mountain Resort, along with the input from the community, has made toward achieving this,” said East Meadows Homeowner Rich Williams, MD. “The development I have observed during my years of ownership has been tasteful and has been done on a scale appropriate for the Kirkwood Valley.”
“Kirkwood has been passed down through three generations in my family. My parents took a big gamble buying a home here back in 1972 but they realized it was a special place and would always remain so,” said Lodge Homeowner Diane Alexander. “Now I own a place at the Lodge and I share my love for Kirkwood with my own children. While my family enjoys all of the new activities that the resort’s development has provided, we still get that intimate relationship with the environment up here that you can no longer find in Tahoe.”
Prominent Stockton businessmen, headed by Bud Klein, founded Kirkwood in 1972 with an approved Master Plan for resort development, consistent with the Specific Plan which is in place today.
In 1995 the Telluride Group with Charles E Cobb, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Arvida/Disney Corporation, purchased a significant interest in Kirkwood. Bud Klein, Kirkwood’s original developer and largest shareholder remained a major investor. In 1997 Ron Allred and Jim Wells of the Telluride Group sold their shares to Cobb and in 2000 the resort’s current development group was formed. Throughout the ownership changes development has continued according to plan.
For further information about Kirkwood’s Mountain Village log on to www.kirkwood.com.