There are Colorado ski areas, and then there is Wolf Creek. This southern Colorado resort is in a class of its own, not for the terrain (though it offers some of the best hike-to runs in Colorado). It’s the powder—an average of 450 inches a year—that makes it a gem. Through a combination of geography and meteorology, the ski area gets huge dumps when storms thick with moisture come out of the Southwest. It’s stress-free powder, enough of it that fresh tracks can be found two days after a storm if you know where to look. When the storm cycle really gets going, skiers from around Colorado leave their home mountains to flock here. Lift tickets are among the cheapest in Colorado, and several times a year the mountain holds Local Appreciation Days, with half-priced tickets. And everyone’s a local. The area has its share of blue and green runs, but it’s the more inaccessible stuff that makes it legendary. Skiers can take the 25-minute hike up Alberta Peak for a bucket-list plunge down its steep face. Or hike the Knife Ridge for an insane chute run. For tree lovers, two-thirds of the mountain consists of skiable forests. If you love deep powder, then you’ll love Wolf Creek.
“Thirty inches of snow. That was the overnight report. It was a weekday but on such days, who in nearby Alamosa would go to work? Just getting there on dicey roads was a challenge, but that was nothing compared to what awaited us. Skiing in 2.5 feet of fresh snow is hard. Snowboards grind to a halt on anything but the steeper terrain. Everyone in our group wound up swamped at some point. One friend lost a ski for an hour. I lost a ski pole and never found it. It was an exhausting day, but one I’ll always remember.”
- Bring or rent fat skis for Wolf Creek. Skinny racing skis won’t cut it in the deep powder.
- Visit on one of their many Local Appreciation Days – when everyone is a local – for $44 lift tickets. You won’t find more powder for your buck anywhere else in Colorado.
- On those deep powder days, be wary of flat spots, especially if nobody has skied there yet. There’s a reason for that.
- For easiest access to the ski area, stay overnight in South Fork. Pagosa Springs, on the west side, offers more lodging and dining and its famous hot springs, but the drive is steeper and more difficult in the snow.
Recommended season(s): November to May.
—R. Scott Rappold