Pacific Northwest Ski blog (and a few other places!)

Lots or reports from skiing around the Pacific Northwest, with some East Coast excursions thrown in for good measure

A Tale of Two Powder Days at Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. With the most snow in Colorado, a reputation for some serious terrain and extensive tree skiing, it seemed a compelling place to sample. A surprisingly cheap flight on New Year’s Eve suddenly made all this possible. Getting through Denver airport and the car hire on Dec 31st was as painful as watching a Two and Half Men marathon, but we eventually rocked up in the parking lot at Wolf Creek, sleep deprived, at 9am on New Years Day in the middle of a 15+ inch storm. That woke us up pretty quick!

Exploring a new ski hill during a serious storm is complicated. Navigation is harder when you can’t see much, and standing around working routes out is simply not an option on a powder day. If it looked deep, we skied it, and regathered at the lift for the next assault. Amongst a cacophony of explosions, it took a while for all the lifts to open, so initially we just mined the terrain off the Raven and Bonanza chairs. Gentle, rolling open runs with trees were fun for warming up, and face shots galore. It was deep everywhere. A blue groomer face shot day – how bad is that?? 😉

About 11am the Treasure Stoke chair opened, giving access to the steeper Alberta Face, Glory Hole and Holy Moses trees. Flying down these in knee deep Rocky Mountain fluff was superb skiing. The trees still had a few obstacles on the steeper terrain, but we escaped mostly unscathed. Lunch was fast and difficult to eat because it was impossible to wipe the smile off our faces.

In the afternoon we headed out to explore the wilder terrain off the Alberta chair. The trail map makes this area look like it has defined runs, but in reality it’s natural, gladed, stepped terrain where you just head down and pick a line. And man, there were some great lines to be found. The trees around the marked Shazam and Tsumani were spectacular, loaded with fresh pow everywhere. Perfect for lapping about 8 times. And amazingly, there was no lift line. In fact we never rode the chair with anyone else. Big pow and no folks is a recipe for a heavenly day.

By mid afternoon, the weather started to clear, boding well for Friday. An early night (after 4 hours sleep, no shock there!), an efficient morning, and at 8.30am we were on a lift on a clear, 0F day, with yesterday’s pow still blanketing the mountain. Now exploration was easy, and we found innumerable fun shots through trees all over the mountain. Short hikes brought great rewards in Bonanza and Boundary Bowls, and until 11am or so it was still quiet, with no lift lines. Then Texas turned up. Literally. We had an early lunch and headed to the Alberta chair.

With good visibility and still no lift line, we spent a good two hours digging around nooks and crannies looking for freshies. This included a couple of excursions into the seriously gnarly Waterfall area. Red Mountain-like lines plunged down narrow chutes, providing some serious adrenalin rushes. And face shots. Lots of face shots. Another foot of snow was really needed to cover a few of the rockier hazards, but with a little care, my Prior Husumes escaped unscathed.

Wolf Creek isn’t like a typically commercial Colorado ski experience. First, it’s not big – vertical off most lifts is around a 900-1200 feet. Width makes up for a lack of vertical, creating a broad, expansive ski area littered with trees and chutes and creeks that beg to be explored. Its small day lodges, lack of accommodation, and  clientele comprising Texans on skinny skis provides a quirky experience, more akin to a local’s hill than a destination resort. The green chilli in the day lodge is hellagood. And cheap.

Skiing, like comedy, is all in the timing, and we couldn’t have timed a first trip to Wolf Creek much better. Fewer people and a slightly deeper base would’ve made it the perfect introduction. Wolf Creek is out-of-the-way and remote, but on this experience, well worth the effort

Thursday 6000m, Friday 7100m vert

Season totals: 11 days, 77,700m vert, 2 powder days

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