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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Powder, powder everywhere at Wolf Creek

WOLF CREEK, Colo -- It was a powder day at Colorado’s snowiest resort when we pulled in.

Where were the crowds? Not here -- they were in places like Aspen, Vail and Winter Park.

“There are maybe 500 people here,” said our shuttle driver. “Have fun!”

Wolf Creek Ski Area is a delightful throwback situated on the Continental Divide in the southern part of the state. And if you’re shocked at the price of skiing in Colorado’s glitzy mountain enclaves, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how they hold the affordability line at Wolf Creek.

“We’re not out to squeeze every last dime out of our customers,” said Rosanne Haidorfer-Pitcher, vice president of marketing and sales at the resort.

Walk-up ticket prices are $72 for adults, and just $43 for seniors 65-79. If you can still turn at age 80, your ticket is free.

The skiing is phenomenal, especially if you can hit Wolf Creek on a powder day, which is often. Rocky Mountain storms drop more snow here than anywhere else in Colorado -- 430 inches a year.

Tree-skiing paradise

Wolf Creek has a vast array of tree-skiing runs scattered over its 1,600 acres. Topping out at 11,900 feet, its 10 lifts serve a long ridgeline that is steep at the top, but rolls into intermediate pitches for most of the area. All in all, 55 percent of the mountain is rated as beginner and intermediate.

If you’re an advanced skier, hiking along the ridgeline will deliver you into double-diamond alpine drops. Some of the best are off the Alberta Lift, where a 10-minute climb puts skiers into rare territory of steep untracked lines.

You'll find great powder elsewhere at Wolf Creek, particularly in the resort's vast maze of tree-skiing. During my visit in February, I skied untracked powder all day.

Transportation, where to stay

Wolf Creek has no on-mountain village. It’s an unassuming collection of old-school lodges, with accommodations 23 miles to the west in Pagosa Springs and 18 miles east in South Fork. If you don’t want to drive, shuttle service is offered by Wilderness Journeys in Pagosa Springs.

Pagosa Springs offers the biggest variety of lodging and restaurants, and it’s also home to several hot springs establishments where you can soak your quads after spending the day skiing powder.

After our big powder day, we spent the shuttle ride down talking about how much we loved the skiing at Wolf Creek.

“This is my new favorite resort in Colorado,” said Jan Mosman, who was visiting from Minnesota with her husband, Mark. “I love the tree skiing.”

The Mosmans had just come from Winter Park, where they had done battle with 15,000 other skiers.

“What did you like best about Wolf Creek?” I asked them.

“No lift lines,” Mark said.

John Nelson is a freelance writer.