Wolf Creek
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Roger Z
April 2, 2007
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Some folks and I skied at Wolf Creek March 24th to 26th. Whatever anyone on this board does, don't ever go there. I'd hate to have to share that place with anyone else.
JohnL
April 2, 2007
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,514 posts
And don't ski Area 54. Or the area beyond Area 54. Snow always sucks there, plenty of rocks. Trees have nasty roots. People have died and been buried there.

And rumor has it the hike-to terrain at Wolf Creek is the most overrated terrain in the Rockies.

Crowds are horrific. Place is way too developed and very, very $$$$$$$$$$

On the plus side, it is really easy to get to and the altitude is easy on the lungs compared to other places out West.
appskiah
April 2, 2007
Member since 09/16/2006 🔗
88 posts
yeah, i was there in march 2005. it like never snows there ever. stay away.

seriously though, its a cool place, so long as texans don't ruin it in the near future.
Roger Z
April 3, 2007
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
If that billionaire builds that village it will be the first time in the history of skiing- I think- that the resort village has a bad relationship with the resort it's serving.

You know, I meant to write a longer trip write-up of the place but laziness dogs me. Sooner or later I'll post something more substantive here... of course John could fill in any time he wanted, but he informs me that he's got "work" to do at his "job." Work? At the office??? What is this world coming to...
Roy
April 4, 2007
Member since 01/11/2000 🔗
609 posts
I was there in January. Can you believe, with 50 inches of snow, that they still let people up there. It was ridiculous.

Heed Roger's advice and never go there. Roger I'll meet you there next year so we can berate the place.
Roger Z
April 4, 2007
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Okay, I've got some time to kill so maybe I can write something a little more substantive here.

Wolf Creek is the "throwback" mountain of Colorado, kind of like Mad River Glen back east. I even got some grease from one of the chairlifts dripped onto my coat. Here are some things you won't find at Wolf Creek: high speed lifts (they have one, but it's mostly a novice lift), a base village, fancy restaurants, things to do besides ski, a terrain park (interestingly enough, Wolf Creek was one of the first ski areas in America to allow snowboarding but there's no terrain park- you do your tricks "au natural" at WC), neon lights, lights in general... well, you get the picture.

The backside of Wolf Creek is served by the Alberta lift and, near as I could tell, has a total of two cut trails running through almost 600 acres of terrain. The first cut trail is a catwalk that takes you back to the front of the mountain, the second cut trail is a catwalk that demarcates the resort boundary. The rest of the terrain is comprised of nicely spaced spruce forest and some open areas where forest fires burned out the trees. Well, and a ridgeline that leads up to some hairy chutes and amazing bowls. The last time I skied a spot like that was at Grand Targhee, and this felt WAY more backcountry than Grand Targhee.

There are virtually no liftlines. We were there on a college spring break weekend and waited a couple minutes once, on the one high speed lift, because beginners were choking the entry to it. Other than that, there are at least two lifts (out of six) where you are virtually guaranteed to be able to ski right to the chair at any time of day.

And this de minimus approach to skiing is reflected in the landscape around you. You are at the top of the pass and in every direction you can see NOTHING as far as civilization is concerned. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure you cannot see a single house from the ski area, much less a town or a gas station or anything. Route 160 runs by the mountain and that's it. There's some Texas billionaire who's trying to change this but so far the locals have held him at bay, and this feels weird to say but I really, really, really hope the locals prevail in this one. If anyone builds a base village (it's slated for the Alberta Lift, the backside where there are no cut trails) it would destroy the mountain, period.

This is about as close to wilderness skiing as you can get without leaving a ski area boundary. When you stand at the top of Alberta Peak, you look out across 13,000 foot peaks in two directions, and can see as far east as the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, over 60 miles away. In one direction you can almost see Route 160, but directly below you is a drainage for one of the branches of the San Juan River that appears to be roadless, so if you skied off in that direction you would literally be heading into deep woods with very little chance of getting out in the next day or two (unless you skinned back up to the peak). It's pretty intense to be skiing on the edge of a wilderness that big- normally you can at least see a farming valley not far away but up there it really seems like there is nothing anywhere near you.

Now, the skiing. Oh man. There are some seriously, seriously sweet ski runs there. I'd count about a half dozen that (named and unnamed) that would rank up there with the experience you'd get at almost any other mountain, including some chutes that are Taos-worthy. Horseshoe Bowl is phenomenal. There are so many opportunities to get fresh tracks without hiking (or with minimal hiking) that few make the effort to get up to Horseshoe. John and I made the effort, though, and were rewarded with one of the most incredible powder runs that I've ever skied. We skied untracked, 18 inch deep powder from the top of Horseshoe Bowl to the Coyote Loop runoff, over 1,000 vertical feet below us. The first few hundred feet of vertical were in the open bowl and the last several hundred feet consisted of some long lopes and nice drops through the woods. We crossed maybe two other ski tracks the whole time, in probably close to a mile of skiing. This was two days after a snowstorm. And, should Horseshoe Bowl for some bizarre reason ever get tracked out, there are some open burns even further down the ridge that appear to NEVER get skied, so if you want it there's a near-endless opportunity for inbounds powder skiing there.

The one thing that leaves a bit to be desired is that there are some long run-outs, particularly at the bottom of the Alberta Lift. Frankly, I think the run-outs discourage people and help keep the snow fresher, but they are hard to manage on a warm spring day (particularly for snowboarders). It's kind of funny that a place known for it's snowboard-friendliness has runouts that rival anything outside of Winter Park. The terrain up front could be a bit steeper, too. At times you find yourself slowing down a bit much as you ghost through the trees, but on the other hand for intermediates it is GREAT confidence building ski terrain. On the other hand, if you're an intermediate who likes to stay on groomers, this place probably isn't for you. We didn't, admittedly, do a lot of sampling of groomed terrain , but there didn't seem to be a lot of it, so a groom-lover could get bored there (further evidence of why a resort village wouldn't work there- there just isn't a large enough skier base for the type of terrain that WC serves up to accomodate much- if any- of a village. That suggests they'd have to change the mountain even more to attract new skiers, which- again- would ruin the mountain).

There's also an unusually large number of Texans there. Don't know why they don't just press on to Keystone- maybe they do- but given the type of terrain at the mountain John and I were surprised to see such a large number of seemingly-okay skiers (as opposed to a large number of great skiers that you would find at, say, Jackson Hole).

I'm pretty sure you couldn't get yourself bored in three days of skiing there. We certainly didn't. The snow was phenomenal, the views were spectacular, the folks pretty friendly (except for all the Texans), the lodge battered and run down, the terrain varied for all levels of powder hounds, the woods open, the hikes fairly mild (compared to some of the ones you can find in Utah and elsewhere), the weather spectacular. It was a great trip and a great way to end the season. Hopefully my powder skiing will improve with a few more trips to places like this!
jimmy
April 5, 2007
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
2,650 posts
Quote:

Heed Roger's advice and never go there.




If i promise to never go there will you tell me what's the best way to get there? I had wolf creek confused with monarch mountain as far as location; denver to durango/pagosa springs is quite a drive in the summer, could be ultimate adventure in the winter?
Roger Z
April 5, 2007
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
Quote:

If i promise to never go there will you tell me what's the best way to get there?




Second star to the left, straight on to morning.
Roy
April 6, 2007
Member since 01/11/2000 🔗
609 posts
No it's the 4th star on the right

Probably the easiest is to fly into Durango airport. Then it is approximately 1 hour 45 minutes to Wolf Creek. Durango is a small airport (ala Steamboat, Jackson Hole) so you have the issues of flying into an airport.

To stay the night, stay at Pagosa Springs. There are lots of hotel options, restaurants, and it's a cool small town.
Roger Z
April 6, 2007
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
2,181 posts
We flew to Denver and drove out, stayed in South Fork. Pagosa is cute but if you're looking for no-frills, inexpensive lodging South Fork is a good place... plus if you're coming from Denver, you can avoid going across Wolf Creek Pass which can be a bear in a snowstorm.

The drive in from the east is really good. One small pass to come across- but a pretty low and dry one- other than that good road with lots of passing oppportunities, flat, good speed (watch for cops in the towns on the way out, of course), and you get to see what has to be the longest graveyard of old rail boxcar carriers in the United States. John can vouch- I think we followed this line of rusting rail carriers for 25 or 30 miles. We actually started watching it instead of the scenery it was so fascinating.
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