Planning a ski trip to Colorado this year? If so, and if pow is what you’re after, don’t fly into Denver and drive to Vail or Breck. Leave that to the crowds. Instead, take a jumper flight to Durango and head 84 miles east to Wolf Creek.
With an average annual snowfall of 430 inches, this under-the-radar resort lays claim to the most snow in Colorado. And, as usual, it’s sitting pretty (at a base elevation of 10,300 feet) to be one the first North American resorts to open for the season.
Wolf Creek is no-frills. There’s no village. Heck, there isn’t even a hotel. But there are minimal crowds, an “I’m just here to ski” vibe and 1,600 acres of diverse terrain at $63 per day.
Unlike its above-average snowfall, Wolf Creek’s mountain stats are skimpy. It clocks just 1,603 vertical feet. But don’t let that dissuade you – it’s got the goods. And the upside of the small vertical drop is that when you find those goods, you can quickly return back to find the area just as you left it.
Head up the Treasure Chair to the Alberta Face. It’s a short, steep section right under the lift, and it will get you stoked. Then make your way to the Waterfall Area. Tips up – the pitch is steep, the lines are tight and there are cliffs to be found. Come back and drop into a few different entrances. You’ll find that the higher-numbered ones are a bit more technical and less tracked.
If it’s bigger mountain turns you’re after, the Bonanza Bowl skis smooth like butter. Hike up a little rather than just traversing – with Wolf Creek’s characteristically short runs it will make this a bit more rewarding.
You’ll want to spend a good chunk of your time in terrain off the Alberta Lift. Tsunami and Abracadabra are fun, but not particularly challenging and likely to get skied out quickly. Similar to the Waterfall Area, the Numbered Chutes are a fun place to be.
After a good amount of laps, you’ll probably be ready to slow things down a bit. Take a very short bootpack and walk up the Knife Ridge Staircase. The first few chutes are skinny, spiny and exposed. A ski patroller who laps this area recommended, unless you know exactly where the rocks are, don’t risk it.
Continue along the traverse and check out the Dog Chutes, or any of the areas around it. The tight trees open up quickly. Your other option is the full 30-ish minute hike to Horseshoe Bowl.
If you pack all of that in, you’ll feel like you’ve explored way more than 1,600 skiable acres.
The only downsides are that many expert lines include a traverse, which can be challenging for snowboarders, and you’ll likely be staying in Pagosa Springs, 24 miles away and through the Wolf Creek Pass. But that’s what helps keep this ski mountain underhyped.
Bottom line: This is the non-resort resort, perfect for anyone 1) tired by the inauthenticity of ski villages, 2) on the hunt for a budget-friendly trip and 3) looking for snow that will start early in the season and keep coming
Currently, development plans are underway at Wolf Creek. Learn more about the Wolf Creek Ski Development.