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Wolf Creek Feb 2015

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

So this was my 2nd Colorado trip ever, this time it was with my east coast ski buddies; Bennett and Bruce, a snowboarder (and myself).  We researched and went in which was typically the snowiest week of the year, of course with our luck it hadnt snowed in days when we finally got to the creek.

 

So we landed in Denver on Saturday at around midnight, got our rental car, checked in a hotel, and got ready for the 3 or so hr dive.  So we woke up sunday morning, loaded up on some recreational party accessories, got some biker jims dogs and hit the road.  After a wonderful ride through the Rocky Mountains and cattle ranch after cattle ranch, we finally crested the mountains and took the long winding road down to Pagosa Springs. 

 

After plenty of reccomendations from Anachronism we found the best bar/restaurant (Riff Raff Brewery, their Lamb Burger was so good I got it 2 out of the 3 days we were there) and breakfast burrito spot in this beautiful picturesque town with an outdoor hockey rink right in the center of town, which was only 15-20mins away from the mountain. 

 

Now on to the skiing, me and my buddies are mainly tree skiiers/boarder so we look for places with great glades, we dont need apres ski, fancy bars, ski on ski off accomodations or that jazz.  We want great untouched skiing, and short lift lines,and that is what Wolf Creek is all about, I dont want to give up all of the secrets, but the waterfall area is amazing and the whole left side of the mountain (when standing at the base looking at the peak) is just untouched deep woods skiing that keeps snow days after the last snowfall.  When I say waist to chest deep powder, I mean this stuff is dEEP and light, pretty much the exact opposite of what we're used to on the east coast. It was arguably the best tree skiing we've ever had the opportunity to rip up, it was so secluded and I feel like we never saw anyone on the mountain other than the lift line operators, then again we only ski weekdays. 

 

Other than being so far from Denver and so secluded (there arent really any other mountains within a close drive) this place is amazing and if you're looking 1 mountain in a beautiful little mountain town and are a big fan of tree skiing then WC is for you.  This is def a mountain we are going to return to

post #2 of 15

As a Denverite who hasn't made it down that way yet this has me super jealous. Great report. Photos?

 

Out of curiosity what is the average snowiest week of the year?Did the brewery seem like kind of place that would serve me a few too many and let me sleep it off in my van (to save on lodging)?

post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmeb View Post
 

As a Denverite who hasn't made it down that way yet this has me super jealous. Great report. Photos?

 

Out of curiosity what is the average snowiest week of the year?Did the brewery seem like kind of place that would serve me a few too many and let me sleep it off in my van (to save on lodging)?

 

I think "snowiest week" is probably getting too granular in the data to have relevance. You just can't predict when it will storm.at that level.

 

March and April are historically the snowiest months. However, the "ridiculously resilient ridge" formation or whatever it is called has a tendency to shut us out of storms- and that has been in play for the past few years. The last 3 years our Marches have been disappointingly dry due to this.

 

In a good year, Wolf will see great early season snow- the average is 155" by Christmas- so it can be a good place to hit early in the season- in a good year we will be 100% open with decent coverage while I-70 still has WROD conditions. 

 

Remember that Winter is the OFF SEASON in South Fork and Pagosa. Room availability is very good and prices are low. Its pretty easy to find rooms in the $60 a night range on both sides of the pass- even on short notice.

 

My recommendation to Denverites-

 

1. Ignore the hype over giant storm forecasts Every so often, we'll get a forecast for 60-80" of snow. Usually those forecasts more or less deliver. The problem is that when that type of forecast gets established 10 days out, Half of Denver books rooms and makes the drive.  The mountain gets "crowded" (crowded to us locals but not to front range expectations). 

 

2. Look for the sleeper storms that we get ROUTINELY. Wolf Creek has a pronounced microclimate, which means normal forecasting will most often underforecast. When the forecast calls 8" a day for 3 days with SouthWest flow, BOOK THE ROOM AND BRING A SNORKEL. Most of those forecasts turn into the same 60"+ storm cycles as the ones forecast for huge storms- and nobody is here.

 

The takeaway is that when huge snow totals are forecast, it usually means that the storm will drop those huge numbers over most of the range- and Wolf's microclimate doesn't seem to be able to wring out more snow.  But those medium sized storms with the right wind can allow Wolf to wring out 3x the snow as the next ridgeline over. 

 

One example is the end of January, beginning of February 2014. Snow was in the forecast all week, but 2-3" a day- with nothing in the double digit accumulation.

 

Reality? This is 4 days and 61" in.

 

 

And this is me 3 days later, about 100" into the cycle.

 

 

The end total turned out to be something like 120" over 11 days- and because it wasn't in the forecast, nobody really knew about it until it was over. I got 6 days in that storm cycle and they were some of the best ski days of my life. 

post #4 of 15

Oh yeah- I have heard on TGR that Wolf is pretty accepting of stealth camping. Basically, as long as you A) don't make it obvious to others that you are camping out B) don't interfere with snow removal efforts and C) don't be a trespassing jackass getting into ski area property in the night, I've heard the ski area won't hassle you. However, people have middling results asking the ski area for permission- I think the ski area is hesitant to officially endorse camping up there so they can reserve the right to throw anyone out that they don't like the looks of.  

 

I have never personally tested this, but I have heard from several that have stayed overnight in their lots without any hassle.  

post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kase-1 View Post
 

So this was my 2nd Colorado trip ever, this time it was with my east coast ski buddies; Bennett and Bruce, a snowboarder (and myself).  We researched and went in which was typically the snowiest week of the year, of course with our luck it hadnt snowed in days when we finally got to the creek.

 

So we landed in Denver on Saturday at around midnight, got our rental car, checked in a hotel, and got ready for the 3 or so hr dive.  So we woke up sunday morning, loaded up on some recreational party accessories, got some biker jims dogs and hit the road.  After a wonderful ride through the Rocky Mountains and cattle ranch after cattle ranch, we finally crested the mountains and took the long winding road down to Pagosa Springs. 

 

After plenty of reccomendations from Anachronism we found the best bar/restaurant (Riff Raff Brewery, their Lamb Burger was so good I got it 2 out of the 3 days we were there) and breakfast burrito spot in this beautiful picturesque town with an outdoor hockey rink right in the center of town, which was only 15-20mins away from the mountain. 

 

Now on to the skiing, me and my buddies are mainly tree skiiers/boarder so we look for places with great glades, we dont need apres ski, fancy bars, ski on ski off accomodations or that jazz.  We want great untouched skiing, and short lift lines,and that is what Wolf Creek is all about, I dont want to give up all of the secrets, but the waterfall area is amazing and the whole left side of the mountain (when standing at the base looking at the peak) is just untouched deep woods skiing that keeps snow days after the last snowfall.  When I say waist to chest deep powder, I mean this stuff is dEEP and light, pretty much the exact opposite of what we're used to on the east coast. It was arguably the best tree skiing we've ever had the opportunity to rip up, it was so secluded and I feel like we never saw anyone on the mountain other than the lift line operators, then again we only ski weekdays. 

 

Other than being so far from Denver and so secluded (there arent really any other mountains within a close drive) this place is amazing and if you're looking 1 mountain in a beautiful little mountain town and are a big fan of tree skiing then WC is for you.  This is def a mountain we are going to return to

 

I'm really glad to hear you had a good time. Did you manage to catch a storm? I know things looked pretty damned dire leading up to your visit. Last year was pretty forgettable all told (but we still got some very satisfying storms).

 

"best tree skiing we've ever had" matches my views as well. I am sure there is one somewhere, but I don't really know another ski area that has that amount of acreage (1000 acres) of virgin tree skiing with the only cuts made for lifts. It makes it hard to go back to "glades" 30 yards wide in between cut runs.

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmeb View Post
 

As a Denverite who hasn't made it down that way yet this has me super jealous. Great report. Photos?

 

Out of curiosity what is the average snowiest week of the year?Did the brewery seem like kind of place that would serve me a few too many and let me sleep it off in my van (to save on lodging)?

Here are a few pics, didnt take many, I was too busy deep in luscious powder

 


[img]https://scontent-lga1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xft1/v/t1.0-9/10407310_10152831868084864_5733157133987158816_n.jpg?oh=6ab252dc16c2eeb460ed016980c4591e&oe=5642A3F5 [/img]

 

[img]https://scontent-lga1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/10986986_10152831868109864_2497658619468323453_n.jpg?oh=77f6c966108ee3bb64cad4eeea0b6b8f&oe=563C5E4A [/img]

 

[img]https://scontent-lga1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpf1/v/t1.0-9/10433007_10152831868024864_2634704346617127331_n.jpg?oh=53de7a7db660f9be08a9c9502aadbe4d&oe=5643701D [/img]

 

[img]https://scontent-lga1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpt1/v/t1.0-9/10988940_10152831868339864_2824733784214374442_n.jpg?oh=13b01b38e80cf86c2044636dc9668c35&oe=564C9418[/img]

 

I believe it was the last or 2nd to last week in Feb, of course when we were there it didnt snow once, until we were driving back to the airport :(

 

The brewery didnt seem like the place to crash, but there were plenty of cheap places in town, hell you could probably even park in a hotel parking lot and test your luck

post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

I'm really glad to hear you had a good time. Did you manage to catch a storm? I know things looked pretty damned dire leading up to your visit. Last year was pretty forgettable all told (but we still got some very satisfying storms).

 

"best tree skiing we've ever had" matches my views as well. I am sure there is one somewhere, but I don't really know another ski area that has that amount of acreage (1000 acres) of virgin tree skiing with the only cuts made for lifts. It makes it hard to go back to "glades" 30 yards wide in between cut runs.

Of course we didnt catch a storm, when we got to Colorado it had dumped a decent amount the week before but when we were there it didnt snow once, so we were VERY skeptical but once we got to WC we knew we made the right decision.  Considering we're NYers who crave the trees and untouched pow I feel like it could have been WC's worst week to you guys, but probably the best week to us.  Even though it didnt snow there was still a TON of untouched snow and like I was saying before, since half of the mountain doesnt have trails and is all open for your own exploration it was the coolest thing we've ever seen and could NEVER go back to the 'glades' back home after seeing what true tree skiing really is

 

If it were up to me we would do the exact same trip we did last year, 3(or more) days at WC and 2 or 3 days at Winter Park.  Steamboat was nice, but WC is what we were looking for

post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kase-1 View Post
 

 

Other than being so far from Denver and so secluded (there arent really any other mountains within a close drive) this place is amazing and if you're looking 1 mountain in a beautiful little mountain town and are a big fan of tree skiing then WC is for you.  This is def a mountain we are going to return to

 

A comment about no mountains within a close drive- It depends on what your expectations are. If you are coming to Wolf you will have vehicular transportation because there is no other way to get here. If you stay on the South Fork side, Taos is about 2 hours South, and Crested Butte 2 hours N. Crested Butte, Wolf, and Taos will kick the ass of anyone looking for technical terrain.

 

You can also link up Wolf, Silverton, and Telluride on the other side. Silverton is 3 hours away from Wolf, Telluride is about 3 hours from Durango and about 2 from Silverton. Purgatory is also in there, but it currently is much more of a groomer-zoomer place at the moment, but the new owner could change that.

 

So, you can't stay in one place, BUT- you are in the nexus of some of the greatest ski terrain in the country- Telluride, Silverton, Taos, and CB all enter conversations of top ten terrain almost universally- and you can structure a trip to hit several of those just by moving the base camp around.

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

If you stay on the South Fork side, Taos is about 2 hours South, and Crested Butte 2 hours N. Crested Butte, Wolf, and Taos will kick the ass of anyone looking for technical terrain.

 

 

I thought that sounded to good to be true and a quick map check has South Fork to CB as 2:53/153 miles.  South Fork to Taos Ski Area is 2:51/148 miles.  Of course those are good weather travel times too.  All three are great ski areas but at nearly 3 hours apart, they're hard to string together unless you are moving lodging.

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by nathanvg View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

If you stay on the South Fork side, Taos is about 2 hours South, and Crested Butte 2 hours N. Crested Butte, Wolf, and Taos will kick the ass of anyone looking for technical terrain.

 

 

I thought that sounded to good to be true and a quick map check has South Fork to CB as 2:53/153 miles.  South Fork to Taos Ski Area is 2:51/148 miles.  Of course those are good weather travel times too.  All three are great ski areas but at nearly 3 hours apart, they're hard to string together unless you are moving lodging.

 

I have skied all three of CB, Wolf Creek, and Taos, but separately - I've never combined two in the same trip.

post #11 of 15


Your best bet for the "too many at the pub" is Pagosa Brewing. It's a bit more off the beaten path and has a big parking lot... kind of nestled against the pines. Wolfe is great, as is Riff Raff, but both are on the main drag. Pagosa Brewing has great beer and is a little more incognito. I've seen plenty of people come in there on x-country skis and stumble out.  But, honestly, depending on what kind of van you have, I don't think you'll get harassed. I hope you have heat... it gets pretty cold at night. 

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by mojo280 View Post
 


Your best bet for the "too many at the pub" is Pagosa Brewing. It's a bit more off the beaten path and has a big parking lot... kind of nestled against the pines. Wolfe is great, as is Riff Raff, but both are on the main drag. Pagosa Brewing has great beer and is a little more incognito. I've seen plenty of people come in there on x-country skis and stumble out.  But, honestly, depending on what kind of van you have, I don't think you'll get harassed. I hope you have heat... it gets pretty cold at night. 

 

So, maybe I am the odd-man out here, but I haven't been hugely impressed with Pagosa Brewing (compared to Riff Raff) and I have found Pagosa Brewing pretty mobbed both times I have gone. Our middling experience both times has kept us from coming back. 

 

But if the goal is to score a parking lot to stay in overnight, RIff Raff isn't going to be a candidate due to the tiny parking lot.

 

I've only been to Wolfe Brewing once. Good beer, decent pizza, and that parking lot always looks PACKED so it appears other people like it too.

 

Regarding heat, if one is camping in a van, I would expect burning a lot of propane keeping things warm. I second that things will be quite chilly. 

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

 

So, maybe I am the odd-man out here, but I haven't been hugely impressed with Pagosa Brewing (compared to Riff Raff) and I have found Pagosa Brewing pretty mobbed both times I have gone. Our middling experience both times has kept us from coming back. 

 

But if the goal is to score a parking lot to stay in overnight, RIff Raff isn't going to be a candidate due to the tiny parking lot.

 

I've only been to Wolfe Brewing once. Good beer, decent pizza, and that parking lot always looks PACKED so it appears other people like it too.

 

Regarding heat, if one is camping in a van, I would expect burning a lot of propane keeping things warm. I second that things will be quite chilly. 


No, you're not the odd man out here... not to turn this into a beer thread. I was just speaking from the view of having a bit too much to drink and wanting to park. Although, there is a Tire shop within walking distance from Wolfe... there are always vehicles parked there... one could blend easily. The other option is to grub some Kip's tacos, head down the street to Riff Raff and grab a growler or a few Cannons, and head on over to Walmart for free camping. Personally, I would do the first two, skip Walmart, and head back up to Wolf Creek to the parking lot and camp there. I don't think anyone would notice.

post #14 of 15
Re: combining WC and Taos- I've done this more than once, because we have family in Santa Fe
and friends with a house in Pagosa. We fly into Abq, spend a weekend in SF visiting grandkids, then up to Pagosa for a few days at WC, then down to Taos for a few more, or the reverse. Having done it, it doesn't seem practical to use either as a base for the other. You really have to take a travel day in between. One year we packed up in Pagosa, skied the morning at WC, then headed east on 160 all the way to Ft Garland, then south on 159. The advantage of this is the view of Blanca Peak, a 14,000 footer from the 7,000 foot plains, a real treat for an easterner. But these are little two-laners in empty country and I wouldn't want to do it in drifting snow. And you can't go west from Taos to the road north to Pagosa in the winter because Rt 64 is closed in the winter. You have to backtrack all the way to Espanola and then head north.
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by evansilver View Post

Re: combining WC and Taos- I've done this more than once, because we have family in Santa Fe
and friends with a house in Pagosa. We fly into Abq, spend a weekend in SF visiting grandkids, then up to Pagosa for a few days at WC, then down to Taos for a few more, or the reverse. Having done it, it doesn't seem practical to use either as a base for the other. You really have to take a travel day in between. One year we packed up in Pagosa, skied the morning at WC, then headed east on 160 all the way to Ft Garland, then south on 159. The advantage of this is the view of Blanca Peak, a 14,000 footer from the 7,000 foot plains, a real treat for an easterner. But these are little two-laners in empty country and I wouldn't want to do it in drifting snow. And you can't go west from Taos to the road north to Pagosa in the winter because Rt 64 is closed in the winter. You have to backtrack all the way to Espanola and then head north.

 

 

I agree- I may have been misunderstood (and I underestimated driving time a bit).

 

What I meant was that you can combine several of these in one trip by moving one's home base. You can ski Wolf and drive to a hotel in Taos- and be there by 8:00. Or ditto for CB. What is also nice about a trip like this is lodging is so damned cheap! Lodging in South Fork is cheap. Lodging in Gunnison (1/2 hour from CB) is cheap, and lodging in Taos is pretty cheap.

 

IMO, these mountains offer some of the best pure skiing experiences that exist- great terrain, little crowds, little BS- great snow at Wolf and better snow that expected at Taos and CB (snow stays soft long after storms at these places due to lack of sun on the steeps and much less crowds that the I-70 corridor).   

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