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Wolf Creek, CO 3-4 Dec 2011

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I had to go to Albuquerque, so I decided to go to Wolf Creek for the weekend.  They already had well over 100 inches of snow for the season, with a base over 50 inches up top.  The drive was a  bit longer -- a little over 5 hours -- because of snow on the road, but generally not too bad.

 

 Stayed at the Alpine Inn in Pagosa Springs, which I liked.  Comfy bed, nice friendly owner, quiet, early breakfast.  It is on the wrong side of town, which was annoying at first, but I timed it and it only added 6 to 8 minutes to the trip to the hill.

 

Saturday the ski area was pretty empty, in spite of over a foot of new snow.  Sunday had another foot of new snow, but it was also $33 college student day, so I think it was the most crowed I've ever seen WC.  Now mind you, the only actual lines were for the ticket window in the morning and for green chile stew at lunch.  I think the most I ever waited for a lift was 3 chairs.

P1030297.JPG

 

I was huffing and puffing a bit.  Maybe it was living at 97 feet and skiing over 10,000, or maybe it was too few days at the gym.  In either case, I didn't  feel up to climbing up to confront the Knife Ridge Staircase.  Maybe next time.

P1030302.JPG

 

I did make the very easy hike up to Prospector Ridge to work on my cornice drops.  I think this is the best practice spot anywhere.  A wide open steep landing that gradually transitions to a completely flat (wide) road.  I did a couple I was happy with and a couple that I wasn't.

 

Late Saturday I was pretty tired, and decided to skip "last chair" and call it a day.  So I go around behind the lift entrance (to get back to the base).  The lift op is making traffic directing motions onto the (empty) chairs.  I say  "Nah, I'm pretty beat and calling it a day."  He just says "Seriously?" So I get on and have one more run.  It was a bit ragged, though.

 

I realized that the Raven chair, which is usually thought of as the beginner's chair, has some steep trees in between the switch-backs that form the green trail.   The first interval is very steep, very well covered, very nice.  The second interval is a bit thinner, and the third interval is a mistake.

 

First run Sunday morning, I decide to duck into those trees.  To jump to the punch line, I am a now a convert to powder cords.  I come around a tree and see the funnel I was planning to take has some rocks showing.  I try to stay "light" and spread my weight till I am over them, but a rock digs into one ski and it comes off.  I stopped and sat down as quickly as I could, and then looked back where the rock was.  No ski.  Uh oh.  I spent an hour and a half looking for my ski.  A  couple of people helped for a few minutes.  One guy even came back half an hour later to see how I was doing and looked a little more.  I went all the way down to the green run and gridded my way back up.  I was beginning to give up, but I decided to climb back up and see if there were any earlier rocks, so that I would have started looking in the wrong place.  As I went along, I idly scraped my pole back and forth.  I found my binding a few inches deep at the spot where I had stopped -- I had been sitting on it!

 

The dumb thing is, I had powder cords in my pack but hadn't been using them.  Last year in Tahoe, when it snowed a foot a day, there was exactly one fall out of the whole group over the whole week when cords would have been handy, and even then we found the ski in 5 minutes.  (Someone was sitting on it, in fact.  I guess this means the first place to check is under your stopping place).  And powder cords are a pain.  I never was able to get them tucked under my cuff without taking my gloves off.  Cold wet fingers - argh.

 

 

Sunday afternoon was snowing like crazy at the top of the Treasure chair.

P1030316.JPG

 

Here is one skiing picture - a random person skiing under the Treasure chair near the top.  Best I can do when I am by myself.

P1030323.JPG

 

Wolf Creek definitely has the goods.  The web site snow report is no exaggeration.

And it definitely has some good steep pitches.  (I won't deny that you have to ski a fair amount of low-angle stuff every run, but that is a small price to pay for all that snow, isn't it?  And its kinda fun to cruise that runout, anyway.)

 

A great weekend.  

 

So far this season, every ski day has been a powder day.

 

post #2 of 12

Thanks for the report.  So your pictures are from a week ago?  A lot of places, East and West, are hurting for snow and cold right now, but obviously Wolf Creek is doing pretty good even compared to many Colorado ski areas?!?

post #3 of 12

Wolf Creek bills itself as "The most snow in Colorado" and usually lives up to it. Steamboat and Silverton can equal it at times. It's often the most snow in the southwest and sometimes the entire west, some times the most snow of any resort, anywhere. It's on the Continental Divide and it just pukes snow there often. I've skied there for over 30 years and am bummed I'm not going this week!

post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post

Thanks for the report.  So your pictures are from a week ago?  A lot of places, East and West, are hurting for snow and cold right now, but obviously Wolf Creek is doing pretty good even compared to many Colorado ski areas?!?


When you get a consistent pattern like we have now with cutoff low pressure systems moving across AZ/NM out of SoCal it favors resorts that do well in a southwest flow - in Colorado this is the San Juans, e.g. Wolf Creek.  The northern resorts (I-70, Winter Park, Steamboat) do much better in a strong Northwest flow, e.g. last year's La Nina.  It's all about 'orographics' - one has to be relatively dry for the other to be very wet.  Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on where you are located, this current weather pattern seems to be pretty static, so at the major CO resorts it is seasonably cold, but relatively dry.

 

We skied Winter Park for the first time this season yesterday - some perfectly decent blue packed 'powder' groomer runs and a bluebird day.  I guess the good news is that it has been cold and snow blowing is possible 24/7.

 

Still it was great for a fix with the family....I guess that's the value of being an intermediate and enjoying skiing with the kids and working on the skillz on the long Blue groomers.ski.gifSaw a lot of rock skis yesterday...and I'd say a lot of Christmas vacations are in serious jeopardy for having good terrain access...

 

post #5 of 12

I got to bid on a foreclosure in Pagosa Springs two summers ago. Sometimes I wish I had gone higher. Sigh!

Nice report. Guess you know WC has been open since October.

post #6 of 12

hey mdf! looks like your timing was perfect and glad you found your ski.....next time maybe we can try to coordinate a bit better when I am in CO Springs next time around...enjoy

post #7 of 12

My husband and I were there that weekend. Sunday especially was one of those never-forget-it days. definitely a day for powder cords! 

 

Next time, look into the Fireside Cabins. they are on the "right" side of Pagosa and really nice and good value.

 

Also, there is a relatively inexpensive motel accross the street from the Springs that looks just a bit ragged from the outside, but rooms are clean and comfy. The "spa" next door is a locals' less expensive place to soak in the sulpher water.

 

They are expecting a huge dump today through wednesday and then another blast on Saturday and Sunday. May have to head there again! (although Taos is lookin' pretty good too)

 

Guess La Nina is laying low for now.

post #8 of 12

Thanks for the Report, back in the day when we went to Adams State College, Wolf Creek was the Place, 120" in 3 days a long time ago, but will never forget!

  Glad you had a Fine Time!

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom View Post

My husband and I were there that weekend. Sunday especially was one of those never-forget-it days. definitely a day for powder cords! 

 

Next time, look into the Fireside Cabins. they are on the "right" side of Pagosa and really nice and good value.

 

Also, there is a relatively inexpensive motel accross the street from the Springs that looks just a bit ragged from the outside, but rooms are clean and comfy. The "spa" next door is a locals' less expensive place to soak in the sulpher water.

 

They are expecting a huge dump today through wednesday and then another blast on Saturday and Sunday. May have to head there again! (although Taos is lookin' pretty good too)

 

Guess La Nina is laying low for now.

Thanks for the recommendations.  I don't think I want to stay that close to the Springs though -- they are interesting and amusing, but I don't want to smell sulfur all night.

 

I'll have at least one, maybe two more ABQ trips.  If there is enough snow, I'll go to Taos instead (only been there once, over ten years ago).  If not, back to WC.
 

 

post #10 of 12

Its great that you had a good time.  I use powder cords which are held in a pouch clipped around the boot cuff.  Its much more convenient than just packing the wrapped cord under your pant cuff.  That said the first time I used them I asked a mate to clip them onto the brake, to save me having to bend down, and he put them under the boot buckle.  I was skiing in Niseiko Japan and of course from the highest point which you have to climb up to for 300 yards.  Soon after take off my uphill ski was grabbed by bamboo leaves and removed.  The powder cord was ripped loose so was of no use... I skied on for 30 yards before a face plant and spent one and a quarter hours digging up the hill.  An hour and a quarter later a member of my group made the circuit and picked up my ski back up the hill exactly where it was plucked from me.

 

I had one day out of a season pass I purchased at Wolf Creek about 5 years ago.  Great powder off Alberts lift,  did not enjoy the double pole plant and skate traverse back to the lift base.  Unfortunately I was, as a passenger, in a MVA on the way up the following day and got a ruptured lung, 13 days in Durango Hospital, a medical escort back to Australia business class and without involving a lawyer $US 55K compensation.  Not a recommended way of getting a buck.

 

Wolf Creek were generous enough to refund my season pass cost.

post #11 of 12

I keep staring at the snow amounts and talking about it on the blog, but really I need to just get up and get some guys together and make a weekend out of it.  No way we can ski that and drive 5 hours back to colorado springs, we'd all be walking like neanderthals from the cramps.

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

WC is up to 180 inches for the season.

I don't know of any place to get their statistics, but this seems to be way more than usual for this early.  I wonder if it is a record for them?

 

Oh yeah, and another eleven inches of new just for frosting.

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