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TR Wolf Creek, CO - Dec. 11-18, 2021

marzNC

Angel Diva
For an early season trip out west, I decided during the summer that Wolf Creek was a better bet than destination resorts on Ikon. The overall trip for me spanned Dec. 8-21 because I opted to drive from North Carolina to Colorado. Wolf Creek Ski Area (WCSA) has the advantage over many destination resorts in the Rockies because it typically has good snow coverage by early December. I learned how to get around during our first visit in Feb 2021. We worked with a very good instructor that week who happens to be from NC, so that’s another reason WCSA has become a favorite.

My primary travel/ski buddy this time was Jason. We’ve done trips together since attending Diva West in North Tahoe in 2010. He joined me for most of the long drive in my RAV4 Prime to/from Colorado. The added flexibility because we weren’t tied to flights allowed us to get in bonus skiing on the first and last Saturdays. The original plan was to ski Dec. 12-17 but the actual ski days were Dec. 11-18 because of snowstorms that started Dec. 9.

Fair to say that given the relatively low coverage due to lack of snowstorms in November, we were lucky that two snowstorms meant WCSA could be 100% by Dec. 11. The second storm midweek that was a foot of snow made skiing in the trees far more fun the latter part of the week.

For an idea of how much it snowed, look in the Wolf Creek conditions thread:

Snowy road driving up from South Fork on Sat morning, Dec. 11, after two feet of snow Dec. 9-10
Wolf Creek arrival 11Dec2021.jpeg

RAV4 from North Carolina in 4x4 parking lot on Day 1, Saturday at 8:30am
WCSA RAV4 in 4x4 11Dec2021.jpeg

Fresh snow on Alberta side on Sunday, Dec. 12
WCSA fresh snow 12Dec2021.jpeg
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
In order to make an early season trip out west worth the effort, I like to have at least one lesson. We did a full day lesson with Sumiko on Tuesday. The idea was to have a chance to ski for at least a day or two before the lesson. Also provided time for me to finish adjusting to the high altitude. The base of WCSA is around 10,000 ft.

We worked on assorted fundamental skills like side slipping and what to do with poles and arms. Since we’d done a lesson together in Feb 2021, Sumiko had a headstart for deciding what skills to focus on. The bonus was that we had a chance to do the short, steep hike to the Ridge for the first time. Sumiko carried my skis and her own while I carried her poles. Jason also got some help carrying his skis from a friendly local. We took a walk on the metal stairway without our skis just as a preview for future reference. It was quite windy and there was too little snow on that side, so we hiked up a bit more in the other direction for the short run down off the ridge. Sumiko had a way to carry three pairs of skis for that section. Fresh tracks in snow dense enough that I had no issues using my Stormrider 85s . . . good fun!

We opted to do another 2-hour lesson on Friday morning. Improving upper/lower body separation was one of the skills of interest for all of us. Also had a review of kick turns, which Jason hasn’t done that much. Became clear that the best kick turn technique in soft deep snow is different than on hard snow commonly found in the northeast.

Snow started on Tuesday
The restrooms in Wolf Creek Lodge could be used as a locker room. There are 75¢ lockers and quarters are easily available at any ticket window. We booted up at the car the first weekend but by Monday I decided it was worth using a locker.
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Sumiko and Meimei, at the top of the hike above Alberta lift
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Ridge stairway after the storm was over, Dec. 17
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marzNC

Angel Diva
It’s fair to say that over the course of the week, snow conditions went from early season thin cover to decent coverage even in the thicker and steeper tree terrain. It helped that the snow was on the denser side so it packed down quite nicely as the locals skied out their favorite glades. There was about two feet of new snow Dec. 9-10 and another 14 inches Dec. 14-16.

The groomers were wonderful all week. The difference between machine grooming and skier-packed surfaces was pretty obvious on Monday between storms. While there is limited snowmaking at WCSA, it’s mostly on the trails near the main base. I don’t think there is any snowmaking on the Alberta lift side, which is where we spent most of the time after the midweek storm.

During the first few days, we explored assorted trails off every lift. Bill was determined to figure out how to get to Lower Treasure. Took a while to find the best landmark. We rode the Bonanza triple more than we had last February. There is a lot of fun terrain off that lift that can also be reached from the Treasure high-speed quad.

At the start, there were many trail signs that weren’t really set up yet. By Monday we’d remembered enough from the trip in Feb 2021 to be able to find off-piste terrain we enjoyed before.
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Exploring off Coyote Park Trail on Thur, Dec. 16 after 14-inch storm passed through Tue-Wed, Dec. 14-15
Jason in blue, Bill in green
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Sdg5ixqig2lA3ACw4p5tHMrKZRioSzjOOgbggONRFiZy43nzwa68KWbxPFnEoZ0iZzRN_4UIXlwZQ7cf-tf8j6andRhrsLDw34En-h9L0QW1bCOi_eOilMDUY1YJaiDg-cRyl27f



Not much of a wait for Bonanza (far left) or Raven HSQ on Saturday, Dec. 18, at 11am
Locals with season passes and travelers who wanted to ski in the morning had already spread out around the mountain. There was a ticket line at 11:00 but on the advice of an instructor, we waited until noon to buy our tickets and there was no line by then. Only $43 for a Senior Afternoon ticket.
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The Wolf Creek Lodge cafeteria has quite a variety of food to choose from. That’s one reason Jason and I opted to eat lunch there the day we left and then get an afternoon ticket, which started at 12:30pm.

There is separation between employees and the customer line. Even a microphone (like a drive-thru) for placing orders. Pretty smooth operation. Credit card sales must be over $10. The pricing is designed so that the only coins needed are quarters.

In general, masking is required indoors and people are following the rules for the most part.

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marzNC

Angel Diva
Overall, we had a great time at Wolf Creek in spite of lower snow coverage than usual for mid-December. WCSA was open 100% for the first time on Saturday, Dec. 11, which we added at the last minute as a bonus day. It was well worth driving 800 miles one of the days on the way to Colorado in order to reach South Fork by Friday night. The extra few hours of skiing on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 18, was also worth it. The food is so good at WCSA that it was an easy decision to have lunch there before the PM ticket was good at 12:30pm. Jason and I explored some new terrain for the first time.

In comparison to our trip to JH/GT and Alta in Dec 2020, Wolf Creek was a better way to start the season even though we had to pay for lift tickets. Since we were all over 65, a day ticket was $51.

Midweek storm, delayed opening but no lift lines, very little wind on the Alberta side.
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View looking west towards Pagosa Springs, Sat, Dec. 18
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Bonus afternoon before heading to Salida, CO for Saturday night
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marzNC

Angel Diva
Great report!!! Glad you had a fun trip!
After this trip, I think Wolf Creek has become my go to destination if I want to do a trip out west before Christmas. It's about the closest driving from NC. Between South Fork and Pagosa Springs, there are plenty of options for lodging. Having stayed at both places, there are advantages to both. Since the drive from Albuquerque is about the same, it doesn't make any difference to Bill.

We also had a friend of Jason's join us for a few days who lives near Denver. He turned out to be a tele skier who is a powder hound. Bonus is that he likes to cook. So if he's part of the crew then the lack of restaurants in South Fork doesn't make much difference.
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Since I drove, I brought more than one pair of skis. Jason and I both had rock skis. We only used them the first day since it wasn't that obvious how the snow coverage would be in the trees. As it turned out, the two feet of snow just before we started skiing did a pretty good job of covering up little stuff. So we skied our good skis for the rest of the week.

I used my Zeldas after the midweek snowstorm. They live in NM with Bill so I don't have to lug them around airports. But the snow was dense enough that I didn't really need wide skis. Even with my Stormrider 85s, I could easily stay on top of fresh untracked snow on the sides of groomers. But there were times off-piste that it was a bit easier to have more float since the Zeldas are 105 underfoot. What became more obvious is that the Zeldas are quite good on skier-packed groomers. That confirmed the reason I bought them instead of the wider Yvette after demo'ing DPS skis at Alta Demo Days in April a few times.

Bill and Jason both bought new skis recently. So they were being pretty careful off-piste to avoid messing up the bases.
 

MissySki

Angel Diva
Bonus is that he likes to cook. So if he's part of the crew then the lack of restaurants in South Fork doesn't make much difference.
That's a great asset in a lodging buddy!!!

I absolutely hate cooking and almost never do it, luckily my fiancé does. I've made it my mission in 2022 to start on a very basic note and try to grow my understanding of cooking science as a way to want to do it more. I'm terrible at cooking, and perhaps fixing my basic ignorance to why things should be done certain ways and how to achieve what I want will help overcome some of it, or that's my theory anyway. This came after doing a work sponsored Paella cooking class with a chef in Barcelona that I really enjoyed participating in from home. The final product turned out really good which made me feel accomplished, something I never feel in the kitchen! lol It also made me think that perhaps I'd actually enjoy cooking if I tried more and find a style of dishes that speak to me. We'll see how it goes.

Quite sure I'll ever be the gung ho cook on a ski vacation though!
 

Black Pearl

Diva in Training
Looks like you had a great time at our beloved Wolf Creek—Sorry I missed you, hope to see you next year. I'm not a tree-skier, and am staying on the groomers after this wreck I had last year. But hey, I'm out there and just so happy to be back out breathing in the high-altitude air!
 

marzNC

Angel Diva
Sounds like Wolf Creek had a good season. Not too surprising based on what I experienced in December. WCSA management has a solid understanding of what works for their market, with or without pandemic considerations. Looking forward to returning next season.

April 19, 2022
" . . .
Wolf Creek visitation was close to 275,000 in 2021-22, the all-time high set the previous season.

“We managed to have a big year and we did not have any days with overcrowding. Our lifts and team handled it very well,” Wolf Creek owner Davey Pitcher said.
. . ."
 
Last edited:

Black Pearl

Diva in Training
Wolf Creek is just the best place. We love it. I managed to enjoy 6 days this year! For someone who thought she may never ski again due to injury, that was a huge deal. We usually ski at least 30 times, but hey, I'll take the six just to have been out there again.
 

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