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TR Wolf Creek, CO - Dec. 11-17, 2022

marzNC

Angel Diva
My early season trip to Wolf Creek Ski Area was even more fun than last year. The crew was a bigger and ranged from 4 to 8 people. We opted to stay in a big house on the east side of Wolf Creek Pass. It was fun to introduce WCSA to a few new people, including an older intermediate starting to ski more out west now that he’s retired. @Olesya Chornoguz and @TNtoTaos were the Divas who joined me, along with other skiers I know from connections unrelated to ski forums. Unlike mid-season trips, most people drove instead of dealing with airports.

The ski days were Dec. 11-17, 2022 although not everyone was around for the entire time. Once again Dec. 11 was the first day that WCSA was 100% open, but there was a LOT more snow than in 2021. Mid-mountain depth was around 40 inches to start with. We caught a big storm on Monday, Dec. 12 so there were powder turns to be had all week. Daytime temps stayed under 20 degrees so the snow conditions stayed good all week even after the sun came out. We planned for semi-private lessons early in the week and they were powder lessons.

For those who have never heard of WCSA, it has 1600 acres (half the size of Northstar or Keystone) spread out along a ridge that has several places for short in-bounds hikes. WCSA gets more snow than most Colorado mountains (on average almost as much as Alta). Per usual for Colorado, the altitude is high with the base around 10,000 ft. There are essentially 6 chairlifts, with 2 high-speed quads out of the main base. There is relatively little lodging near WCSA and nothing less than a 15-min drive up a mountain road that is often snow covered. This time we chose to get a house on the east side of Wolf Creek Pass between South Fork and Del Norte (pronounced “nort” by locals). The drive time was about the same as from Pagosa Springs but there was less mountain driving and no worries about snow at the pass.

Wolf Creek trail map 2019-20.jpg

For an idea of how things went last year:
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
We didn’t take many pictures because it was so cold. Besides I was having too much fun exploring new powder stashes to want to stop. WCSA has all sorts of tree terrain, from mellow and wide open to steeper areas that are best when the snow is deep. A favorite new run I discovered a day after the storm was Snow Shoe, a blue tree run off Raven. Advanced skiers don’t ski there much since most of the Raven terrain are long greens. The untracked was knee deep on me. :becky:

A bonus on the final day was bring able to free ski with Sumiko on Saturday afternoon. She's a ski instructor we met last year who grew up near where I live in North Carolina. She guided us up the short walk (skis on) to Prospector.

Sumiko and Jason, top of Prospector, December 17
WCSA Prospector Dec2022 - 1.jpeg
MarzNC, Olesya
WCSA Prospector Dec2022 - 2.jpeg

Assorted views, see all the trees?
WCSA terrain Dec2022 - 3.jpegWCSA terrain Dec2022 - 4.jpegWCSA terrain Dec2022 - 5.jpegWCSA terrain Dec2022 - 6.jpeg
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
The new feature for WCSA for 2022-23 is that RFID gates were installed for lift access. There are gates on all the lifts, not just the ones at the main base. It's possible for someone who has a pass or already has a lift ticket to park in a lower lot and start skiing without stopping by the main base. There was probably a learning curve during the holiday weeks as people got used to gate scanning.

RFID gates for the Alberta lift, little building has two restrooms with waterless toilets.
WCSA bases Dec2022 - 1.jpeg

Alberta Grill is open 11:00-3:00 for lunch, snacks, and beer
This was the crowd on a Saturday during early season
WCSA bases Dec2022 - 2.jpeg

The main base is fairly compact. On weekends it pays to arrive at least 30 minutes before lifts spin if you want prime parking. There are shuttle buses for the lower lots. We opted to boot up in the main restroom on the lower floor of the main lodge. There is a bench and pay lockers inside the restroom. The lockers take quarters.

Raven and Treasure are the high-speed quads. Raven serves mostly green/blue terrain. Treasure Stoke serves mostly blue/black terrain on the front side. Bonanza is an old triple that probably rarely has much of a line. There is a lot of fun blue and black terrain off Bonanza, including Windjammer and Treasure that cross. Nova is a very short, slow double chair that serves two short greens used mostly for children's lessons. It can be a way to get over to the Treasure lift without having to walk up a short hill.

At the top of Raven there is a building called Raven's Nest. There is a bar on the top floor. Can use the snow level entrance to get to restrooms. They are indoors but have waterless toilets.
WCSA bases Dec2022 - 3.jpeg
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
A few more photos and stories . . .

Last season Sumiko used a blue trail called Summer Day as a good area to practice skiing backwards and 360s. Parts of Summer Day are quite flat, but there are no beginners to dodge as is the case on the greens off Raven. I wanted to find Summer Day. Turns out the trail map is no help. However, @SarahXC remembered how to get started. You have to head towards Navajo Trail but keep an eye out for the trail sign for Glory Hole and the sign that says "To Summer Day." Then turn left to get to the upper section of Summer Day. Usually when I and my crew were taking Navajo Trail, we were heading to a trail that cuts through the woods called Pitch's Gate that leads to the terrain accessed by the Alberta lift. You have to keep up speed and stay to the right. So we never noticed the trail sign for Glory Hole. As it turns out, lower Glory Hole is another area with mellow trees, a gulley or two, and plenty of untracked powder days after a snowstorm.

@TNtoTaos and friend from Boulder at Glory Hole sign
WCSA Misc Dec2022 - 1.jpeg

Middle of Summer Day, next to crossover point from Tranquility (blue groomer)
WCSA Misc Dec2022 - 2.jpeg

Skis used for skiing powder
Didn't really need my Zeldas, 106 underfoot, but since Bill brought them I used them. Did the full-day lesson on Monday with my Stormrider 85s and the afternoon powder lesson on the Zeldas.
WCSA Misc Dec2022 - 3.jpeg

@Olesya Chornoguz enjoying soft bumps on Dec. 17, 5 days after the storm, we came down through the trees
WCSA Misc Dec2022 - 4.jpeg
 

Iwannaski

Angel Diva
@marzNC - Is Sumiko in her late 40s? I think I went to college with her! I knew a Sumiko in college who had grown up in Chapel Hill.

If yes, just a funny small world thing.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
I didn't realize until recently that WCSA has been around for over 80 years. The chairlifts installed based on the 2012 Master Plan make the place far more interesting for me as someone who has to travel by flying or driving a few days in order to ski in Colorado. The slow triple, Elma, that is the best way to get back to the main base from the Alberta side apparently used to be the Treasure lift. Being able to ride a high-speed lift on the frontside in the afternoons makes a difference. After the sun gets low, it can feel pretty cold riding a slower lift even when it's not windy. Lapping one of the high-speed quads, Treasure or Raven, at the end of the day is a much more fun way to finish. Skiing the terrain off Alberta usually means also riding up Charity Jane and then skiing down to ride Alberta again, or riding Elma to go back to the main base.

When Bill first skied WCSA, the Charity Jane lift didn't exist. Neither did the groomer Orion's Belt. That meant a run from the top of Alberta would require a hike back to the base of Alberta. Getting back to the main base without skiing black terrain meant going on the long cat track that gets pretty flat in the middle. Still, adding Alberta in 1999 probably shifted the possibilities for WCSA in the long run. We made the mistake of taking the cat track on the frigid day that it was so cold that even well-waxed skis or Phantom bases wouldn't slide well.

For advanced beginners who enjoy the terrain served directly by Charity Jane, there is a pretty flat green that goes from the base of Alberta over to Charity Jane. An intermediate who wants to ski the mellow trees off Charity Jane is probably better off riding up Alberta and taking the cat track, Park Avenue, to the blue groomer Orion's Belt. The trick is not to miss the sharp hairpin turn back under the Alberta lift soon after unloading. Otherwise you end up going straight on Coyote Park Trail. While that is sometimes groomed, the "easiest way" down after going out Coyote Park Trail is Feather Duster, which is a relatively narrow run that probably always is bumped up. Feather Duster is a blue, but isn't fun for someone who is mainly interested in cruising green/blue groomers.

Little sign says "Easiest Way"
WCSA Feather Duster 14Dec2022 - 1.jpeg

Bill heading down Feather Duster on Dec. 14, 2 days after the storm ended
I skied Feather Duster on Dec. 11 before the storm when it was medium-size soft bumps, would be considered blue bumps at Taos too
WCSA Feather Duster 14Dec2022 - 2.jpeg
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
A local news outlet just did a story about the independent nature of the the owners of Wolf Creek. The third generation of the family is actively involved on the management team. That bodes well for WCSA staying independent for years to come.

January 6, 2022
 

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