Wolf Creek Ski Area

Deep powder at Wolf Creek Ski Resort.

Samuel Bricker

Winter blankets the San Juan Mountains with more snow than anywhere else in Colorado. On average, 430 inches – nearly 36 feet of the white stuff – falls here every winter. While skiers make tracks to busy northern slopes at Howelsen Hill, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Beaver Creek and Vail, a smaller crowd of snowriders seeks winter adventures in southwestern Colorado.

Atop the Continental Divide in the Rio Grande National Forest, Wolf Creek Ski Area is so far south – nearly into New Mexico – that it’s off the radar for many Colorado ski enthusiasts.

That is changing. Online snow-cams broadcasting snowfall totals inspire powder hounds to make the pilgrimage to this ski area situated at 11,904 feet.

The family-owned operation averages only 1,300 skiers a day, a tenth of what many other resorts see. The deep snow, small crowds and, well, deep snow make Wolf Creek a rare winter oasis. There are no luxurious spas here. No long ski lift lines, either. Amenities are measured in foot after foot of prime powder, 133 remote ski trails and the homey feeling that only a family operation can provide.

Running a family business means wearing lots of hats, although Davey Pitcher wears a snorkel. He owns the business

with his wife, Rosanne, and theorizes that the breathing tube could save his life if something ever goes wrong while blasting avalanches.

Instead of running everything from an office, the Pitchers – followed by their snow-loving Labrador retriever, Spencer – help at the ticket booth, troubleshoot mechanical problems, host guests and take care of employees.

Those hard workers with a shared love of skiing were stuck high and dry during the early winter of 2017.

Unusually light snowfall left Wolf Creek’s lifts at a standstill. Sharp crags poked through the thin layer of snow. Knowing that his employees’ finances were stretched thin, too, Pitcher devised a plan. Even though snow was scant on the slopes, workers were told to report for duty.

The crew arrived to find, not skiers, but stacks of 55-gallon trash cans and a pile of shovels. Two-by-two, the workers

searched for snow in the woods. Like a road crew filling potholes, they painstakingly covered the snowless gaps on one of Wolf Creek’s runs to make it ski-worthy.

For the rest of the story see the January/February 2020 issue of Colorado Life.

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