Its been kind of a weird year here. The major ski areas around here are well under average. However, a week and a half ago, we got walloped by a storm that seems to have dropped as much or more at some of the foothills as it did at Wolf Creek and Purg- we got about 20" on our deck.
Yesterday, I couldn't quite bring myself to drive out to Wolf for mediocre conditions (ok, I'm spoiled), but the old ski hill inside the development still looked to have passable coverage- the past few years it has only flirted with snow depths deep enough to go skiing.
The hill and the housing development are intertwined. The housing development is the largest in the 4 corners area with about 2000 residents-20 miles from Durango, 7 mile Bayfield proper, built on the side of a large foothill. It was originally built by a Phoenix developer, envisioned as a second home community for Arizonians.
As such, they built a ski hill.
The hill is 300 vertical feet of fury, with about 6 slopes. In its day, it was served by a J bar and a Rope tow. The J-bar ran along the small valley to the right of the photo, well protected from the sun by the larger mountain on the right side and the rest of the ski hill to the left. It went up high enough where the hillock seen in the center is accessible via traverse. I have no idea where the rope tow was located because I have never found foundations for it. Possibly it was portable and never had foundations, possibly it was located further down in the flats, flats that are now parking lot and playground.
My partner looks on intently as I get ready to stick on the skins.
It takes longer to stick skins, flip the Dukes to walk mode, (and clean all of the snow out of them up top to get them back into ski mode) than it takes to go 300 vert up a bunny hill. But, it is easier than walking...
Onward. The ski area last operated in 1983 when the developer folded. The housing development languished until the late 1990's, where it shifted to a role as a bedroom community for those that couldn't afford Durango real estate prices. Most houses were either built before 1983 or after 1995 or so.
Scrub oak is starting to reclaim the slopes, but most of it is soft and springy, keeping one from bottoming out to dirt/rock.
Nearing the top terminal of the J Bar. Nothing is left except concrete footings and a counterweight nobody felt like dragging back downhill.
It is always disconcerting with a clumsy 115lb Rottweiler comes barreling in directly at your knees.
I de-skin, Dean Dog evaluates the snowpack. It seems about 1' to 16" deep, of a very nice sugary consistency that got progressively denser. Depth Hoar lacking the Depth.
The traverse to the "advanced" runs.
Ok, that's random. Kids sled a lot of the runs, some of which are pretty ballsy on a sled...
I've never seen a trail map, and no trail signs exist any more (if either map or signs ever existed in the first place). After skiing it, the only name for this run can be "3 turns." Pretty decent pitch, though, and the snow was nice.
I set the camera to snap a picture every 30 seconds. I started down a few seconds after the above picture...
...And was off the steeper section into the runout by the time this picture clicked.
I did three laps of "three turns." Aspect made the traverse further over to other runs dry, and "three turns" looked to have the best snow of what I could reach without clicking out.
The final run, I decided to come down the liftline/bunny hill. Mistake, as for much of the run, the pitch was too shallow to really get moving. If the other run is Three Turns, this was "No Turns." The flat spot to the left is the concrete pad for the upper terminal.
The race was competitive.
The base area. I understand the structure at the edge of frame on the left was a business/real estate office for the development. There was a lodge roughly center frame that was burnt down for Fire Dept. training in the late 1990's as it was falling apart, had not been built to code in the first place, utterly infested with rodents, and could not be salvaged- there was some talk of turning it into a convenience store saving the 7 mile drive to town.
Snowfall for this area is about 100" a year. Snowmaking would be a possibility- the right side of the above photo shows the dam for the adjacent lake that the development also built. I don't know how you would have a reliable season without some capability- snowfall is very volatile at this elevation- which leads me to suspect there was snow guns at one point.
As far as local hills go, this one could be worse. The adjacent mountain keeps the place in shadow through most of the day, and the snow remained largely crust free even with most days getting into the 40's.
Every so often, I flirt with the idea of scrounging a rope tow for this place to resurrect it's lift served status, then I realize I'd need to burn ski days to run it... In any case, I'm happy with my local hill.