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

With my equipment in working order, I could finally take a breath and soak in my surroundings. Compared to Colorado’s popular resorts along the I-70 corridor, Wolf Creek appears small. Unlike at Vail or Breckenridge, where you know a magnificent backside exists out of sight, Wolf Creek is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get mountain. At first glance, the hill might appear to be a disappointing ski day in the making—until you take a closer look.

The base was peppered with skiers and snowboarders of all ages, but the rainbow of puffy jackets straight out of a Burton catalog that I was used to seeing in Summit County was replaced with more modest hues. There was a relaxed, cheery vibe in the air—not the box-out-to-get-into-line atmosphere I’ve experienced at Breckenridge. And no one around me looked like they’d have trouble staying on two feet while getting off the lift. These were not your average Texans in jeans pie-ing down the bunny slope. These were skiers. And a lift ticket—an old-school paper ticket stamped with the word of the day—cost me just $58.

Anxious to experience some of Wolf Creek’s 430 inches of annual natural snowfall—the most in the state—my boyfriend and I hopped on the lift and got our first taste of the billowy white stuff on the blue square Silver Creek Run. It wasn’t thigh-deep, but the powder crept past our ankles. As an intermediate skier who learned to carve on the East Coast’s icy slopes, powder skiing had never come easy to me. But turns were effortless thanks to the freshly fallen fluff and the wider, powder-specific skis I had rented at 8200 Mountain Sports. For the first time since I began skiing in Colorado, I experienced the magical suspension that comes when you lean back into your boots as you’re supposed to in powder.

The fact that we had the runs nearly to ourselves—on a weekend no less—helped. I didn’t worry about dodging ski-wees or being sprayed by some hotshot carving inches in front of me. Though I was gaining confidence in my ability to navigate the deep snow, we stayed on the west side of the hill, which offers more moderate terrain than the east side’s bevy of black diamond runs. We did venture over to those slopes for a look, but one glance at the trails Wolf Creek is known for and I pointed my tips back to the other side. I knew my boyfriend was disappointed; a born-and-bred Coloradan, he had wanted to drop into that famous terrain, but he kindly followed me back to slopes I could handle.

For hours, we weaved down run after run, never feeling like we were limited by Wolf Creek’s diminutive 1,600 acres. (For comparison, Vail boasts 5,289.) This, I thought, is what skiing is supposed to be like: short lines, deep powder, affordable lift tickets, wide-open runs, and unpretentious folks on every chair lift. I will keep skiing the peaks along I-70, but as I zipped up against the chill and headed for a deeper patch of powder, I realized this little ski hill had delivered on all the hype. Wolf Creek may be undersized, but it was the quality of the experience, not the quantity of runs, that had given me one of the best skiing days of my life. And when we were tuckered out, the $4.50 beer made it even better.