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.
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.
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.
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.
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.