TR: Wolf Creek Colorado (long)
March 29, 2005
I just returned from a weeks adventure in Colorado, probably my last voyage west of the mighty Mississippi for the season and I milked it for all it was worth. I'm only going to describe the two days at Wolf Creek as most have probably visited Vail and know the pure bliss of the mountain's back bowls and six mile wing span.
Sunday morning I rallied the troops early. After calling the ski phone and receiving a half hour of busy signals, I woke my father on the east coast to check the web page. Seven inches fresh on a 170-inch base, enough said. As we drove up the canyon the sky slowly changed from blue to overcast and as we parked small, powdery flakes were settling out of the clouds. I immediately headed up the Treasure quad and was met at the top with near whiteout conditions. While my knowledge of this mountain is not great I remembered that traversing skiers right would take me where I needed to be, the Alberta area. Turns to the bottom were just a taste of what was to become a day of bottomless powder. As the sky puked I made a giant snake track through the trees below Montezuma Bowl, beautifully spaced conifers with deep drifts surrounding tree wells. Steep then moderate, and back to steep as I entered the waterfall area. Big hop turns amidst the slough and I was at the bottom skating through pow to the Alberta chair.
I spent the entire day blasting powder between the tight trees of Tsunami, Area 54 and Abracadabra, deep blower pow getting deeper by the minute, hiding my tracks and turning me into a snowman on the slow, lonesome quad. At one point I took a digger to top all this season. Sweeping a turn to my left an angry pine tree unfurled a low, semi-covered branch to hook my tips. A double ejection followed by a long headfirst tumble out from the tree-defined chute into the open. After a massive effort to flip over and self-arrest, I checked for missing body parts and began the long, humbling climb back up to my skis. The mountain had removed any notion I had of invincibility.
I spent the rest of the day in the Alberta area. The lines stayed consistently fresh, the lift consistently empty. I skied until my quads quivered and my Camelback ran dry. Looking like a snowman and feeling as dehydrated as a raisin I limped back to the base area. There I was promptly met with a round of applause from the three other members of my party. It seemed they had been rather enjoying the 22oz Fat Tires that were on special for the day and getting impatient for dinner.
Day two came out bluebird with another eight inches overnight. I promised to ski with the girlfriend in the afternoon and decided to hike out to Horseshoe bowl for the morning. It's a long slog. Up the boot pack to knife ridge stairs, and all the way out the ridge to the gate, open... beautiful. The postholes were not deep and I knew the bowl would be ripe for the picking. Much sweating and panting later I was at the lip, counting the tracks. There were five. I figured two patrollers and three other nut jobs. I would be nut job four.
After traversing a bit skiers right I dropped in next to a permanently affixed avy gun. A swoop to the right and a huge arc to the left and I was about a third of the way down and flying through boot deep pow. At that moment I was a fighter pilot. Weightless and floating I proceeded to arc a few more big turns, the Explosivs reacted like an F-16, steady and sure, ready for more if I could muster it. I hit the trees at mach 9 and had to scrub some speed. A few quick turns among the pines and I landed on the cat track. I skated back to the Alberta chair looking like the Cheshire cat.
After a few more runs and no more hiking I made good on my promise to actually ski with my friends. We spent the afternoon enjoying the sun, laughing at everyone (especially each other) and practicing our dance moves on skis. It was another great trip to Wolf Creek.
Over and out...
Good deal powderpig!
I love that environment of snowy solitude you describe, but do you ever worry about taking on challenging slopes by yourself? Especially at a fairly large mtn that you are not intimately familiar with? I've done it myself, recently at Kirkwood, and though the skiing's still epic, I sort of would prefer having a companion to commiserate with and so that we could look out for each other. Sometimes I briefly buddy-up with strangers.
A good, equally skilled ski pal is something to hang on to.
I'm heading to New Hampshire tomorrow for one last ski fling. Hopefully the weather will cooperate, but bringing some plastic trash bags to ski in just in case.
Nice dude. Very nice. I totally forgot you were heading out there. Sounds like the trip of the year so far. I hate you!
I fully agree on having a buddy to ski with. Usually having another skier around allows me to pretty much let it all hang out knowing that theres someone to drag my broken butt to the nearest patrol shack. Unfortunately I dont have that many friends that like to get after it the way I do so I find myself making a lot of calculated decisions while Im on the mountain. I also find that I ski in a more subdued manner when Im solo. Let us know how things go up in NH, Ive been licking my chops at a possible late season trip to Wildcat and Tucks.
I've never had a chance to ski Wolf Creek, but I've heard a lot about it (mostly good things.) Ever get a chance to ski the chutes in the Waterfall area? What are they like?