Sunny With A Chance Of Powder

Find giant snowfall, smaller crowds, and a dash of nostalgia during a weekend escape to Wolf Creek.

December 2013

Hint: Where to sleep, eat and gear up if you go

I dropped my skis onto packed powder near the Treasure Stoke lift at Wolf Creek Ski Area and leaned down to tighten my boots. My heart was racing, but I couldn’t tell if it was a result of the 10,300 feet of elevation or the anticipation of a beautiful ski day. The weather was ideal—sunny with a few puffy white clouds and a temp that was hovering around 30 degrees—a thick layer of fresh snow covered the ground, and after years of listening to the hype about Wolf Creek, I was finally going to experience the thigh-deep fluff and heralded terrain.

But as I went to clip into my bindings, my boot wouldn’t secure. I pushed down hard. No luck. Having rented my skis 30 minutes away in South Fork, I knew it was unlikely I would be able to adjust the settings without driving all the way back to the ski shop. Dejected, I plodded to the base area rental store hoping someone there could help.

Scooting past a couple trying to manhandle three youngsters into their gear, I approached the counter and asked the rental technician if she could adjust my bindings. As I suspected, she couldn’t help me. “Did you try knocking the snow off?” she asked. Duh. “Yeah,” I said. “Still didn’t work.” She persuaded me to let her try. She grabbed a ski, and as I held my legs one at a time in the air, she whacked away at the soles. My eyes widened at the amount of snow that piled up on the floor. I shoved my toe into the front of the binding and stomped down. Click. My cheeks reddened with embarrassment. “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” she said. “It happens all the time. We’ve just got so much snow here at Wolf Creek.”

Most people who decide to make a weekend out of Wolf Creek’s famous powder stashes make hotel reservations in Pagosa Springs, a cute but touristy town situated 25 miles southwest of the ski hill, which has almost no base village to speak of. Hot springs, shops, restaurants, and art galleries draw in vacationers looking for amenities to bookend daylight hours spent on the hill. But Pagosa Springs isn’t the only—or even the most reasonably priced—option for an overnight stay. From Denver, the tiny hamlet of South Fork—a three-mile-long, one-stop-sign town just 17 miles from Wolf Creek—is 45 minutes closer and less frequented.

My boyfriend and I had decided on South Fork after seeing the website for Riverside Meadows, a property with three small cabins and an even smaller price tag. The Master Cabin, a log structure with a queen bed and a full bathroom, was only $95 a night. At that price, we booked it for the weekend and figured even if it wasn’t great, we’d still come out ahead.