Wolf Creek and the soul of skiing

Staff photographer and ski sherpa Kevin Edwards taking in the incredible views from atop Knife Ridge at Wolf Creek

In my endless pursuit of powder I’ve traveled all over North America and sampled many a ski area but the one place that has rewarded me the most and feels like home is definitely Wolf Creek, located in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. It’s more than the just the fact that they average 465″ of snow a year, the most of any ski area in Colorado, or that it typically falls several feet at a time. It’s the whole vibe of the place, from the totally backcountry feel of the terrain to the incredible effort that ski patrol does to keep it all open to the reasonably priced and very tasty food they serve, Wolf Creek always does its best to always make you feel like your a special guest in a winter wonderland. I’ve been going to Wolf for over 15 years now and as I always say — the Wolf never disappoints.

Kevin enjoying more than just the view - the Dog Chutes, Wolf Creek

This trip was no exception to the rule – having missed the last several storms at Wolf I was determined not to let another one pass so when Wolf called 8″ and snowing hard Sunday morning, we hopped in the car and headed down. At any other ski area, I would never consider arriving at noon on a powder day no less during spring break but Wolf is different. While there were a ton of Texans in the parking lot, cafeteria, ski school and on the groomed runs, there were none where we were headed  – in the trees and on the ridge lines and bowls. In fact, the tourists seemed to have scared away the locals so there were lot fewer folks than normal on all the prime terrain.

Don't believe it when people tell you Wolf is flat - behold Knife Ridge

Now if you don’t like to hike at a ski resort, then Wolf Creek is a fairly small mountain with slow lifts and a lot of flats. However, if you don’t mind earning your turns, Wolf is as fun as it gets. Their terrain is situated on the Continental Divide and the ridgeline trails you hike are actually part of the Continental Divide trail that you can hike in the summer. In the winter though, they lead to exciting steeps and powder filled bowls. We immediately started climbing and found ourselves virtually alone atop Knife Ridge which soon lead to face shots galore – and the best was yet to come.

On the long...

and winding road...

to Horseshoe Bowl

If you look at a map of Wolf Creek, you’ll notice that on the eastern most point of the mountain, as far away from the base area as you can get, there’s a big wide open bowl named Horseshoe. Now on a normal day day, the hike to Horseshoe is at least 20 minutes, but since this was the first day of spring break, the wonderful folks at Wolf Creek decided to run a cat out there, and since none of the tourists were venturing up on the ridge, it was like having our own private cab; whenever we showed up it was there, empty and ready to go. On top of this, also because it was spring break and the first day of daylight savings time, they kept the ridgeline open till 4 and the mountain open till 5 (!) meaning that although we only got there at noon we didn’t get off the mountain till 5:15 making for an epic half day.

Enjoying the fuits of our labor in Coyote Park, Wolf Creek

By Monday morning they called another 8″ making for 16″ total, a relatively small storm for Wolf but more than enough to make us happy. The cat was not running today so we reverted back to the old fashioned way, hoofing it up Knife Ridge and going out further and further each time till we finally hit the boundary line and nirvana at about the same time. The hike without cat to the farthest point is about an hour loop but worth every minute as the stunning views make you forget how tired your legs are and the run down makes you want to do it all over again.

The happy camper on top of Horseshoe Bowl - that's Alberta Peak, which is also hike to terrain, in the background

On the one hand, I’m very reluctant to publish this post as I want to keep Wolf a secret and uncrowded for as long as possible. On the other, the word is already out and I feel I owe it to all the great folks at Wolf (including the snowboarding owner Davy Pritchard who I’ve met numerous times on the mountain) to give them a public shout out for all the fantastic work they do that’s led to all the incredible days I’ve had there. So as I said more than once this weekend at the top of my lungs while slicing through knee deep snow in a beautiful untracked glade – I LOVE WOLF CREEK!!!

4 Responses to “Wolf Creek and the soul of skiing”

  • Geoffrey Gilbert Says:

    You’re very fortunate to have an understanding boss who gave you the day off on Monday so you could go wolf wild. Overall, a very interesting and passionate posting from the boy who cried Wolf Creek.

  • Werewolf in London Says:

    I felt exhilarated, yet exhausted just reading about all that hiking. Now, all you need to do is spend your summers surfing. I think Maverick’s has a beginner course, which only lasts a few minutes. But what a way to go! Keep up the reporting and enjoy the healthy version of white line fever.

  • Carrie Says:

    And we serve gluten free beer!!!

  • Jerry Hoffman Says:

    Gotta make up for the pow you didn’t get on your heliski adventure. Heading to Sun Valley next week. No fresh in the forecast. Bradley, you need to check out http://www.nasja.org. It’s right up your alley bro.

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