Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

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Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby snowave » Sat Jan 16, 2016 12:21 pm

So our latest travels look to take us to Pagosa Springs, CO in our search of our long term home. In the last 5 yrs, my wife and I have lived in the mountains of Socal, Leavenworth, WA, Driggs, ID, and Whitefish MT. There have obviously been some great ski areas in those places, namely Targhee/Jackson and Whitefish.... but for one reason or another, the location didn't quite fit. Teton Valley came very close, and we may go back there one day... but for now, it's not on the list. The reason we are leaving NW Montana is it's largely due to the MONTHS on end of winter gray in NW Montana... and the ever expanding population of Flathead Valley, which is now ~100,000. We like small towns, with a little less tourism influx. We both work remotely, so jobs aren't an issue at all, thankfully.

We have been to Pagosa a few times, spent some time there checking it out... and generally like the town, vibe and climate. Not afraid of snow and cold, but looking forward to many more sunny days. I have seen Wolf Creek from across the highway and above, and it looks like an adaqueate enough mountain. I have also looked at a few threads on here and gotten some opinions... 1600 acres and vert is a tad small, so I know I may get bored at times. I'm aware it's a big powder destination, but my biggest concern is actually availability of groomers. =; I know mentioning groomers at a place like WC is almost sac-religious, but after the powder gets tracked, my wife and I tend to migrate back to them. Call us wimps, that's OK. It seems low key/skier use (except maybe weekend and holidays)... so that is a big plus as well. Call us spoiled, that's OK. \:D/ While we love skiing/riding, we're probably closer to 20-30 days on the mtn vs 50+.

I also know that region can have some variability in snow from year to year, even though WC seems to be the best bet for consistent snow in CO overall. I would love to see annual snowfall history for the place for maybe the last 20 yrs or so (paging TonyC).

So, based on my criteria... what do you think about having WC as a home mountain? Any other tips/advice about the area? I analyze things to death, so I do have a pretty good idea about the area, but as always, first hand opinions are always appreciated!

Thanks,
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby tseeb » Sat Jan 16, 2016 6:06 pm

I've never been there but saw Ski magazine had an article on Wolf Creek in a Nov. issue title "All Eyes on the Future"
http://www.skinet.com/ski/article/powde ... amily-ties

I also found this when looking for it http://pagosasprings.com/75-years-pitch ... olf-creek/ a newspaper article about Inc magazine feature that is at http://www.inc.com/magazine/20110301/th ... ness.html#
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Jan 17, 2016 4:42 am

You need to PM "anachronism" on EpicSki. He has a season pass at Wolf Creek even though he lives in Durango.

I've read a lot of his posts and come away with some impressions.

Wolf Creek's stats make it look like a mellow area, but that's an inaccurate description. The terrain is "benchy," lots of short steeps with flat sections in between. You need to learn where the latter are to avoid being bogged down on big powder days.

Crowds are big over Christmas and even worse during Texas spring break around 3rd week of March. Otherwise it's quite deserted and the powder lasts a long time. But maybe not that different from Targhee, which has fewer skier visits on more acreage. Day to day Wolf may be less busy due to the extreme concentration of business during those 2 weeks of the season.

With base elevation 10,600 feet and mostly north exposure, snow preservation is outstanding and much better than west-facing Targhee in the late season.

Wolf will open a lot of terrain in early season on a ridiculously low base. Nonetheless Thanksgiving average base depth is 37 inches and probably 3/4 (I'm guessing) of terrain is skiable on that.

Yes I have quite a bit of snow data from Wolf Creek. Summary stats here: http://www.bestsnow.net/swconet.htm There is some volatility. 1976-77 and 1980-81 were busted seasons through February, and about one year in 10 there will not be adequate snow on the ground until after New Year's.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby snowave » Sun Jan 17, 2016 11:50 pm

Thanks Tseeb and TonyC

Tony, I have looked at your page quite often for snow stats. I am one of those people with a math tumor, so I have been reading some of your categories wrong. Thanks for pointing out the "explanations of column headings". While WC is somewhat volatile, the 100" standard deviation with a 390" annual avg is still pretty respectful, and makes me feel a little better about still getting decent snow even in low snow years. I know that part of the country can get some significant drought, but WC does seem to really pull in the snow in that little micro-climate it seems to be in. I would still be interested to see an annual snowfall history for WC if you have that available, and it's not too much trouble to compile. You can PM it to me if you don't want to post to here.

Thanks again for the info!
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby ChrisC » Mon Jan 25, 2016 10:11 am

If you are considering that part of the country, Durango is another option worth exploring. The town is a little larger than Pagosa Springs with better air service. Definitely warmer and sunnier than some locations where you have resided.

It also adds Silverton and Purgatory mountains into the mix as home hills. Silverton can be quite fun during its unguided season and heli-bumps. Durango has long groomers when there is not new snow.
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby snowave » Wed Jan 27, 2016 3:53 pm

Thanks, ChrisC

Yeah, Durango is too big for our tastes (we prefer something pretty small- although even Pagosa is growing quite a bit)...It's a fun place to go out to dinner and shop a little though, as well as catch a flight to Denver and beyond. I also plan to hit Purgatory/Silverton a few times, too if/when we move to the area. We are going down there in early March for some house hunting and maybe a day at Wolf Creek.
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby Marc_C » Wed Jan 27, 2016 6:49 pm

snowave wrote:Yeah, Durango is too big for our tastes (we prefer something pretty small-

I think this may be the first time I've heard of a sub-20K population town as being too big!
-marc
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby snowave » Wed Jan 27, 2016 11:39 pm

I can understand that coming from people living in the big city....I used to one of them when I lived in LA! ... But after living in the smallish town's under a few thousand over the last 10 yrs, 20k seems really big. It is kinda ironic, I know. 8-[
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby tseeb » Thu Jan 28, 2016 4:39 pm

I still have never been there, but when googling to see if I could find anything about Notch Chute at Kirkwood, I found a website where somebody made of list of what they thought were that top 100 North American ski areas and are trying to ski them all. On what I think is their first day there, they said "Wolf Creek is known for having the most snow in Colorado and they had received 269″ of snow by mid-January so we weren’t disappointed (in the snow at least). However, we found Wolf Creek very lacking in terrain quality and we were bored by 1:30PM." Your opinion may be different

See http://skinorthamerica100.com/ for more and their list.
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Jan 28, 2016 5:55 pm

Wolf Creek's terrain is controversial. It is not flat but it is "benchy," meaning there are many steep pitches but they are short with intervening flats. So you should definitely check it out thoroughly to see if you would be happy there a whole season.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby snowave » Tue Mar 08, 2016 12:42 pm

Well, I got to ride WC last week. My impressions of the area...

Fairly steep top 1/3 of the mtn, but the rest is relatively flat. I'm not sure I'd even call it "benchy". For a place that only has 1,600 ft vert, that is disappointing.

Hardly any snow in the past month, but snow quality on groomers was great (even with temps in the low 40's- yes, it was outrageously warm all week).

but... major lack of groomed runs.... probably the biggest disappointment, especially when you get long breaks between storms. I know most here like off piste stiff, and I do too... but not every day is a powder day. The stuff that was groomed were also mostly cat tracks and greenies.. so, limited bomber runs, which I enjoy. The fact that ~90% of everyone there was on the groomers reaffirms my point.

It was fairly busy when we went last Thursday (although lift lines were still very minimal)... I think it was the beginning of Texas/OK spring break.

In fairness, we didn't even go up the Alberta lift, which accesses almost half the terrain and is probably where I'd spend most of the time when there is good snow. The reason being, everyone I talked to said it was mostly boilerplate thanks to the lack of snow and softening/freeze cycle. (They don't groom anything off that lift).

So... yes, I was disappointed, but I can also see this place being a lot of fun when the snow is good. There is some nice hike-able stuff as well. I can see it being better for skiers, thanks to the hiking, traverses and flat areas, but I'm sure once I get to know the place, it will be OK... and I really hope so, as we are now in a contract now to buy a house just south of Pagosa. :shock:
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby EMSC » Tue Mar 08, 2016 2:15 pm

If you haven't skied the Alberta lift then you've missed the majority of terrain worth skiing. Although very few groomers over on that side.

Although there is a long very flat run-out for the bottom of pretty much all of that terrain. If (when?) you get bored you can always day trip to Purgatory or do the occasional Silverton day.

Pagosa is a nice, but odd town. Lots and lots of sprawling random homes and neighborhoods in the last 20 years of development vs more logical 'town' building has been my impression.
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby snowave » Wed Mar 09, 2016 4:00 pm

I don't really disagree with any of your comments, EMSC. I know I missed out on a good part of the terrain at WC, and that's why I mentioned "in fairness" to my post.

Unfortunately, it seems like many ski/ towns over the past several years are having a lot of growth issues as more an more people like my wife and I (both can work from anywhere) infiltrate places that were once only accessible to the ski bum/wealthy. Some do better jobs of development than others. The good thing about Archuleta county is that about 70% of it is public land, and will likely not be developed... however, there is still a lot of open space/lots around Pagosa that if every fully developed, will likely ruin the place. It's already more sprawled that I would like... which is a big reason why the house we're buying is 20 minutes south of Pagosa on 35 acres.

And while on the topic of ski/mountain towns.... One of the things I like about Pagosa is it doesn't try to be something it isn't. It seems like a very live-able place and not as much as a "resort" town. Sure, it gets the tourists for the hot springs/ski area, etc.. but it doesn't feel like it's overrun all the time compared to most of the other places I've lived/visited. (And I've been alot of places in the last few years looking for our long term home). Teton Valley was another place I've lived that felt like that... but Pagosa has better amenities/attributes etc... albeit not as good a ski area IMO as Teton Valley (Targhee/Jackson Hole).
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Mar 15, 2016 8:42 am

snowave wrote:In fairness, we didn't even go up the Alberta lift, which accesses almost half the terrain and is probably where I'd spend most of the time when there is good snow.

Anachronism spends most of his time there, and supposedly there's plenty of elbow room even during Texas spring break as the Texans are mostly on the other lifts.

snowave wrote:The reason being, everyone I talked to said it was mostly boilerplate thanks to the lack of snow and softening/freeze cycle. (They don't groom anything off that lift).

Wolf Creek is not immune to Southwest dry spells. The current one has lasted 6 weeks so far with no end in sight. The first half of the 2015-16 ski season was outstanding.

snowave wrote:I can see it being better for skiers, thanks to the hiking, traverses and flat areas, but I'm sure once I get to know the place, it will be OK.

I forgot snowave is a snowboarder. This unfortunately magnifies Wolf Creek's flaws. It is traverse/runout intensive and he will be very likely to get bogged down on powder days. I would be renting not buying if I were in snowave's shoes to see how it goes over the course of a full season. Compared to Targhee I think he will find Wolf Creek a big step down. The few alternatives accessible from Pagosa are quite flawed also.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Wolf Creek as your "home mountain"

Postby snowave » Wed Mar 16, 2016 6:57 pm

Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I agree... overall it will be a downgrade on just about every level from Targhee... however, we're not just moving to the area for the skiing alone (even though I realize this is a ski forum, and that's what I was asking about). In the big picture, there are a lot of other benefits for us to move to the area, so hopefully it all balances itself out enough to be a good move for a minimum of 3 years. (We're also tired of renting, and have other reasons for buying, too... so maybe this will make us stay somewhere for a while)!
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