Depending on how you look at things, we either got a lovely extended fall or were robbed of primo skiing due to unseasonably warm weather. If your thinking falls into the latter camp, you'll be glad to know that resorts are finally opening – and offering more than ever this year.
In this year's edition of Edge, our snow-activities guide to resorts in Colorado, we've told you about what’s new at every major ski area in the state, must-do experiences and insider tips. We’ve also done our own tireless research all over the state and reached out to some experts for suggestions on how to make the most of it all, whether you’re looking to drop some coin for something special or just trying to get by as a dirtbag ski bum like the rest of us. We'll roll those out at resorts open, like Wolf Creek Ski Area, which opens Thursday, November 24.
WOLF CREEK SKI AREA
What’s new: The drive from Denver to Wolf Creek is no joke, and can take five to six hours or more, depending on the route and road conditions, but — much to stormchasers’ delight — its storms tend to be big and predictable. Pay close attention to Joel Gratz and his powder forecasts at opensnow.com to time your trip right, because he keeps an especially close eye on Wolf Creek and knows that season-making double-digit dumps are common from opening day to closing day. Get there on the biggest day of the year and you’re likely to find that he already beat you to first chair.
Signature experience: “Wolf Creek is known for an abundance of snow and finding fresh tracks on a powder day,” emphasizes spokeswoman Sarah Stephens, touting the resort’s “Most snow in Colorado” tagline. To make the most of it, take the free Horseshoe Bowl shuttle to some of the resort’s most advanced terrain, to the east of the area known as Knife Ridge. “The shuttle service runs during storm cycles for some epic turns on one of many deep powder days at Wolf Creek,” Stephens says.
Insider info: When you realize you’ve underdone it on your layering game, head for the new Voormi outpost in downtown Pagosa Springs to stock up on base layers, mid-layers and outerwear, all made in Colorado from locally sourced wool. And plan to stay in Pagosa Springs for a night or two, because Wolf Creek’s storms tend to stick around for a while. Your powder legs will thank you when you soak them at one of the three main hot-springs options in town: Try the vast selection of outdoor pools at The Springs Resort & Spa, the more modest Healing Waters Resort & Spa or Overlook Hot Springs Spa, which offers indoor pools, private pools, and even rooftop pools with a view of the river.
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Splurge: There aren’t a lot of frills at Wolf Creek, but Stephens recommends starting your day off with a double-shot espresso, homemade waffles and freshly baked pastries from the Continental espresso bar at the top of the Treasure Stoke lift. When you find there’s more snow than you know what to do with, a frequent occurrence here, consider the $90 one-hour private lesson for some powder pointers with a pro.
Ski bum tips: Check the calendar for College Days (bring a student ID and current class schedule) and the ever-popular Local Appreciation Days (no ID required), when lift ticket prices drop to $44. First-timers can get a four-hour lesson and a beginner lift ticket with packages starting at $67 through the Wolf Creek ski school’s “Guarantee to Learn” program. To save on lodging, stay on the South Fork side instead of venturing over to Pagosa Springs.
Drink local: The decks at the Raven’s Nest and Pathfinder Bar come alive toward the end of the day, particularly in warmer weather, and feature local brews from nearby breweries including Pagosa Brewing & Grill and Riff Raff Brewing Company, Three Barrell Brewing (in Del Norte) and San Luis Valley Brewing Company in Alamosa.