or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › EpicSki Community › Trip Reports  › Wolf Creek 11/7/15
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Wolf Creek 11/7/15

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm not really sure how to begin, so I'll let pictures tell the story.

 

 

Huh, that looks pretty good.

 

At the ticket counter, we find out Wolf decided to open most of their terrain and spin all 7 lifts. Lots of expert terrain, including the Waterfall area was open. But, Wolf often has so little f*&^s to give that they will open stuff really aggressively even if 99.99% of people wouldn't dare, so open is often not at all synonomous with "skiable."

 

But damn, this isn't bad.

 

We hit up the ski swap in Durango before turning around and driving to Wolf. My wife, looking for a groomer oriented ski to round out her quiver, found a set of Kastle LX82's for $120, which she then had me tech at Wolf's base. Score.

Yes, i am a season pass holder. Yes, Wolf still issues pass holders wicket tickets. No, they don't scan them at the lift. Yes, that IS a holepunch.

 

Looking at Powder Puff and Charisma. Looks good...

 And Treasure looks good.

 

A ski school on November 7? Probably the best place in the universe for that at the moment.

The trees were as safe as they look. The upper mountain snowpack is about 20" from the storm 2 weeks ago, with fresh snmow built up all week. Venturing off the groom was boot-deep powder on top of a resilient base. Great stuff.

And the groom was super-soft, trench 6" deep type stuff. 

Terrible day.

 

Rock N Robin was very skiable.

 

Legs and Muskrat Ramble under Treasure. With over 1000 acres open, does Wolf have more terrain open today than the rest of the US combined?

 

Alberta Face. Drool.

 

Tranquility. Only it wasn't tranquil as I got a migraine completely out of the blue halfway down. I've never had one pop up skiing or under exercise of any form. I had to go curl up on a picnic table outside of the lodge and it pretty much screwed my ski day.

 

But I couldn't let some of the best conditions EVER for day 1 of the season pass, so after 20 minutes, I pulled myself together and got on Alberta Face. Lightly cut up boot deep blower on top of a solid base. I never hit bottom.

 

 

Alberta Face from the lift. My head told me I had one more left in me.

 

 

 

But I decided I had just enough to get into a developing bumpfield.

My wife took to her new Kastles pretty well.

 

And then I stumbled to the car and had my wife drive me home. Migraines suck. I really wanted to explore more and get on other terrain, because damn, conditions are the best they have been this early since I've lived here.

 

On the way out, I talked to an employee that told me there were less than 600 people on the mountain. They have less than 1000 skier visits for the year. 

 

... And this is the snow update e-mail I got at 11:37 AM. They never posted anything on facebook (or anywhere else) about how much terrain they were opening. Pretty much par for the course with a ski area that cares more about skiing than business.

 

Quote:
 

Hi Jeff,

It is a Beautiful Bluebird day!

*******Snow Report for Saturday, November 07, 2015********

Summit Base Depth: 29"

Midway Base Depth: 29"

New Snow (24 Hours): 0"

New Snow (48 Hours): 3"

New Snow (72 Hours): 15"

New Snow (7 Days): 20"

Latest Storm Total: 20"

Year-to-Date: 46"

 

  • We will are open today Saturday, November 7th thru Sunday, November 8th with 7 lifts running! The Alberta, Elma, Treasure Stoke, Nova, Bonanza, Raven & Magic Carpet will be running from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Lift tickets will be at the Local Appreciation rate of $43.00 for adults, $26.00 for seniors and $24.00 for children thru the weekend.
  • Ski School Hiring Clinic will be this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, November 7th & 8th. Please check Ski School Hiring Clinic for details.
  • Wolf Creek will close Monday, November 9th and Tuesday, November 10th ; but will re-open for the season on Wednesday, November 11th.

Come enjoy the early season conditions! Check www.wolfcreekski.com for the most up-to-date information.

Check out the Wolf Creek online store now offering gift cards, t-shirts, hats and more!

Please email wolfcreekski@wolfcreekski.com for other information inquiries.

post #2 of 17
Nice! Thanks for the pics, and sorry about your head, that's a bummer...
post #3 of 17

Looks like a good first day man (minus the migraine). 

post #4 of 17

Good deal.  Pics (and conditions) looked great.  Sorry bout the headache though. 

post #5 of 17

I don't know if this got talked about on some other thread but Ski Magazine had an interesting feature on Wolf Creek.  Having seen @anachronism's many enthusiastic posts about the place on this site, I read it with interest.  I wondered about his impressions of the article.

 

http://www.skinet.com/ski/article/powder-shots-and-family-ties

 

Samples:
 He had a simple business philosophy: make skiing accessible to the people who enjoyed it. By focusing on the less attractive aspects of the operation—parking, bathrooms, lift maintenance—he created a solid foundation for people to build their own skiing adventures.
 
Accumulation starts hard and early, leaving only a handful of roped-off runs by Thanksgiving, much to the rejoicing of locals and patrollers alike. For early-season access, Davey Pitcher and his patrol team put a lot of trust in their patrons. Besides placing a few unmarked hazard signs around sketchy spots, he allows skiers to judge the conditions as well as their own ability and to wisely pick their way down the hill, kind of like a dad trusting the kids to not crash the family car. “People have been thinking of skiing all summer,” Davey says. “It’s important to let them make their own decisions.”
 
the best skiing can be found with a short traverse across the Knife Ridge into Horseshoe Bowl. The expansive and feature-rich back side, which is served solely by the Alberta lift, rarely sees crowds and holds snow well, often providing untouched pillows of powder days after a storm. It’s the kind of place where, once you start skiing, little else comes to mind.
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by river-z View Post
 

I don't know if this got talked about on some other thread but Ski Magazine had an interesting feature on Wolf Creek.  Having seen @anachronism's many enthusiastic posts about the place on this site, I read it with interest.  I wondered about his impressions of the article.

 

http://www.skinet.com/ski/article/powder-shots-and-family-ties

 

 

Thanks. I hadn't seen that article.

 

I think the article does a decent job of capturing the mindset of the Pitcher Family. They are first and foremost skiers, and in a lot of ways, the ski area is run with a DGAF attitude that is well, anachronistic. 

 

Lots of decisions at the ski area reflect the family's personal beliefs and style, rather than what appears to be conventional business sense. Many things that would be considered marketing 101 get ignored here.

 

For one, they basically start the lifts up when they want to, even in cases where you are left scratching your head. 

 

For the 2014/2015 season, they opened November 7 with a 6" base. On that 6" base, they spun 3 lifts and opened about 400 acres of terrain. They can only make snow on 5 acres of terrain. DGAF.

 

This year, they opened earlier than scheduled (October 31), on an 8" base, but the only ran the bunny hill lift and only opened the 5 acres with snowmaking. 

 

Last Friday after a healthy snowfall, they decided to open 600 acres and 4 lifts. They only announced that opening on their website, and didn't bother to make Facebook, twitter, or other social media posts. To my knowledge, despite the fact that they were opening hundreds of acres terrain with 19" of fresh snow and a solid base, they didn't send out a press release. Conversely, Mammoth got tons of publicity for their opening, while Wolf operated with much more terrain open- and nobody knew. The ski area was too busy getting ready to bother to spread the word- skiing often comes before what would seem to be good business sense- like advertising that you have more terrain open than the rest of the US.

 

Saturday (the day of the TR above) they decided to open up to 95% of their terrain and spin all lifts. Again, more terrain open at Wolf than the rest of the US combined. They didn't bother sending out a snow-report e-mail noting the terrain opening until almost noon. They didn't announce the terrain opening on Facebook until almost closing bell. 

 

As for the village development, the ski area has made clear they don't want anything to do with it. In the 1980's, the ski area was a part of discussions, and the resort was to be built right up to the base of the Alberta lift. One thing the ski area accomplished with their support of the land swap is getting the base area OUT of the resort developer's hands and onto an adjoining hill. That way Red Mccombs can have his folly (he will likely be dead before a single building goes up, and I think there is a fair chance the village will die with him), and the ski area can have nothing to do with it.

 

The ski area is solidly profitable. It isn't going anywhere, and I would be amazed if the Pitchers sold it in my lifetime. They are royalty in a town of 1700 people. The ski area is their identity. They have a lot of fun. Davey is a crazy bastard on skis- I've seen him huck stuff at low tide I wouldn't touch with 10' of snow- and generally you only see him around the ski area early season as when the season gets going, he spends many of his days heading out a BC gate.

 

For better or worse, it is a unique place. Few ski areas reflect their ownership more clearly than Wolf.  

post #7 of 17

Thanks for the response and insight into the way the article is true to your experience.  I never got down to Wolf Creek when I lived in CO and last summer when I drove the through San Juans I was impressed and wished I could see it and ski it in winter.  

 

I live in LA now and can't wait to get up to Mammoth in a couple weeks, the only place with snow right now in the same ballpark as Wolf Creek (YTD snowfall at Wolf is 46 inches, similar to Mammoth - 42 inch base at the top), though I'm sure with the next storm you're getting (that Mammoth just got) you'll surpass Mammoth.  It's a great start to the year!

post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by river-z View Post

I live in LA now and can't wait to get up to Mammoth in a couple weeks, the only place with snow right now in the same ballpark as Wolf Creek (YTD snowfall at Wolf is 46 inches, similar to Mammoth - 42 inch base at the top), though I'm sure with the next storm you're getting (that Mammoth just got) you'll surpass Mammoth.  It's a great start to the year!

I think the point is that Wolf will essentially open without a base. Others don't do that - Loveland is 58" YTD and would have a ton of terrain open by Wolf's standard.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NayBreak View Post


I think the point is that Wolf will essentially open without a base. Others don't do that - Loveland is 58" YTD and would have a ton of terrain open by Wolf's standard.

 

Because Loveland is more conservative than most in what they open. 

 

I assure you, the Wolf Creek base is doing just fine. Knife Ridge before big cornice is very sketch. I wouldn't venture into the Numbered Chutes past 5. Blueberry Hill and GunBarrel face ESE and need another storm.

 

Pretty much everything else is ready to rock and roll, and I know because I got on most of it yesterday. 

 

We have mutual agreement that in many years, what Wolf is willing to throw open is totally nuts in comparison with any other ski area I know. But, Wolf's current status as being 100% open is about 95% legit. Of the 1600 acres, I would rule out maybe 200.

post #10 of 17

Agree that Wolf has a different philosophy than almost any other ski area.  I am impressed, though, that in somewhat similar fashion, Mammoth has opened pretty much the entire top of the mountain after just 2 big-but-not-huge storms.  This includes several double black runs.

post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post

Because Loveland is more conservative than most in what they open. 

I assure you, the Wolf Creek base is doing just fine. Knife Ridge before big cornice is very sketch. I wouldn't venture into the Numbered Chutes past 5. Blueberry Hill and GunBarrel face ESE and need another storm.

Pretty much everything else is ready to rock and roll, and I know because I got on most of it yesterday. 

We have mutual agreement that in many years, what Wolf is willing to throw open is totally nuts in comparison with any other ski area I know. But, Wolf's current status as being 100% open is about 95% legit. Of the 1600 acres, I would rule out maybe 200.

I was responding to the comment that only Mammoth had as much YTD as Wolf. It seems rather that we are in a great overall cycle and places that open quickly or feel the need to (as Mammoth may given the last several seasons) are doing so, while others are doing the step by step as usual.

Here is Al talking about those A-Basin step by steps. Quite the contrast to just opening the gates. But then, A-Basin has had an inbounds avalanche fatality.



I'm not opining on this one way or another. Again, just noting that YTD totals are generally coming along nicely, and the step by step places have a lot of work to do as this storm cycle continues. Demand for terrain is going to get sky high.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Loveland is 58" YTD and would have a ton of terrain open by Wolf's standard.

I suspect not.  Most of that snow up high blows away and it typically takes until late January to get the upper terrain at Loveland or A-Basin open.  The snow stays at Wolf since it's a bit denser and is protected by trees to nearly the top.  Mammoth has the wind and high alpine terrain, but Sierra Cement will stick anyway on the steep leeward slopes.

 

My report from Nov. 11-12 is here http://www.epicski.com/t/143662/mammoth-nov-11-12-2015  so readers are free to compare.

 

Quote:
places that open quickly or feel the need to (as Mammoth may given the last several seasons) are doing so, while others are doing the step by step as usual.

Mammoth's philosophy going back to the Dave McCoy years is to open before scheduled snowmaking opening second week of November any time there is enough natural snow earlier.  The most noteworthy example was Oct. 21, 2004 after a 56-inch storm.  I skied Nov. 13-14 that year in conditions like February of an average year. In 2009 Mammoth opened Oct. 16 on a smaller storm for a few days, even though it melted out and they then had to close until the snowmaking opening in November.

post #13 of 17
^^^^question is how much is philosophy and how much is resorts with preferential avy risk?

It's really not blowing too much with these storms in north central CO and they have been warmer (wetter) storms. I guess we'll see how much terrain opens with the favorable storm track we are experiencing.
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NayBreak View Post

^^^^question is how much is philosophy and how much is resorts with preferential avy risk?

It's really not blowing too much with these storms in north central CO and they have been warmer (wetter) storms. I guess we'll see how much terrain opens with the favorable storm track we are experiencing.

 

Do you really feel Wolf has "preferential avy risk?" 

 

 

 

Look at the Ridgeline. That release is in Glory Hole and about 50' across. Scott Kay, then head of ski patrol, lost his life there around this time of year in 2010.

 

I did find plenty of pockets of sugar snow from the snow a few weeks ago coming down on really warm ground. No doubt it underlies a lot of the surface. That said, I didn't find anything wanting to release.

 

I definitely think Loveland could open up a lot more terrain (as they are starting to do today and tomorrow). I am sure part of that is that Loveland wants everything super well covered wall to wall moreso than most ski areas, part of it logistical (getting people up to start working for the Winter) and I suspect part of it is financial- they can sell just about as many tickets with 1 lift open as 3.

post #15 of 17
^^^the preferential avy risk question is interesting. Or just "risk".

A-Basin had an inbounds death and is now a study area, uses water sensors in the spring pack, closes terrain quickly, opens terrain slowly, etc. Very risk adverse.

Wolf, I would argue, is very risk tolerant. Why? Is it just "culture"? What would happen if Wolf had an early season inbounds avy fatality?

They don't really stay open into the spring risk season, and maybe early season risks are far lower due to lack of slab development?
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NayBreak View Post

^^^the preferential avy risk question is interesting. Or just "risk".

A-Basin had an inbounds death and is now a study area, uses water sensors in the spring pack, closes terrain quickly, opens terrain slowly, etc. Very risk adverse.

Wolf, I would argue, is very risk tolerant. Why? Is it just "culture"? What would happen if Wolf had an early season inbounds avy fatality?

They don't really stay open into the spring risk season, and maybe early season risks are far lower due to lack of slab development?

 

You mean if Wolf killed somebody that wasn't an employee (they have lost 2 patrollers in the past 5 seasons, though one was out of bounds)?

 

Several people have died inbounds, on open terrain, at Wolf over the past decade. To my knowledge, none by avalanche (tree wells) but I haven't seen it make one iota of difference in their terrain opening policy. I suspect nothing will change unless it comes down to a matter of putting the ski area operation at imminent risk.

 

Wolf will also stay open well into May and sometimes June when Spring storms keep rolling in and this they get enough visitation to warrant it, but yes, they don't tend to stay open to the point that wet slabs are a risk. 

 

I can't say that Wolf's terrain open is unsafe from an avalanche perspective, because if you eliminate employees, they hasn't really been a notable incident. But certainly they are aggressive.

post #17 of 17

I'm sure most areas, Wolf included, manage their conventional storm or winter weak layer avalanche risk. 

Quote:
the spring risk season

is a less well understood phenomenon, as was explained when I attended the International Snow Science Workshop in 2010.  That's why A-Basin was caught by surprise in 2005, is now very conservative about spring risk and has installed those sensors to increase our understanding of spring snowpack dynamics. I talked to one of A-Basin's patrol people at last year's May Gathering about us skiing super steep terrain into July at Mammoth. He said that even in spring there are big differences between stable coastal snowpacks and fragile continental snowpacks. 

 

As noted in other discussions Wolf Creek's snowpack is usually Intermountain, more like the Wasatch or Tetons than the rest of Colorado.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Trip Reports
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › EpicSki Community › Trip Reports  › Wolf Creek 11/7/15