How A Little Doggie Changed My Mind About Colorado – Wolf Creek Ski Area

I love playing outside and exploring new places… except not Colorado. No southern Colorado ski resorts on my list. Pretty bold and sh**** statement, especially as I read it back to myself. But it’s always been in my head. To those of you who love Colorado and now potentially hate me, feel free to ask me “Why?” in whatever tone of voice comes naturally. 

Short Sided Much

I’ve always asked myself this question too. Why have I never wanted to go to Colorado? And certainly not any southern Colorado ski resorts. Ever since I started snowboarding and moved out West in the 90’s, I’ve heard epic tales of Colorado. Amazing snow. Tall peaks. Gorgeous landscapes. Picture perfect mountain towns. Wild country you must see to believe. Honestly, that’s everything I look for in a travel spot. Colorado’s an extremely popular destination that millions of people love… and that’s the crux. 

As a natural outdoorsy introvert, I like wide open spaces, quaint little towns, and not a lot of commotion. In my mind, Colorado is a gorgeous destination filled with lots and lots of people. I’ve mostly seen pictures of mega resorts, thousands of bodies, and what is always portrayed as overcrowded areas. And I’m sure that’s true in some locations. That’s true anywhere. But to categorize the whole state like that is my egregious mistake and made me miss out on a little gem that now sits as one of my top spots to visit. I’m talking about Wolf Creek Ski Area and it’s adorable little town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

It’s On The Way

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Wolf Creek Ski Area – Photo: Local Freshies®

As I mapped out our itinerary for New Mexico, the drive from Lake Tahoe to Taos, NM is too much for a single day. That’s how Powder Mountain, UT got earmarked as the first stop. If you missed that bit of adventure, check out my article I Shall Prevail… or Gale? Powder Mountain Weather. Once Utah stamped as the beginning, the next waypoint only a short day’s drive was Pagosa Springs, CO where Wolf Creek Ski Area lingers nearby. Neither Alex or I had ever snowboarded there so it was a perfect fit. Except of course that I didn’t want to ride at some busy mega Colorado resort. But after actually reading about Wolf Creek and Pagosa Springs, it looked like the farthest thing from my sadly mistaken perspective. 

You Had Me At Soak

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A happy soaker at the Healing Waters Spa & Resort, Pagosa Springs, CO – Photo: Local Freshies®

I’m a sucker for hot springs. You can convince me to do things I don’t want to do if I get rewarded with hot springs. It’s a bit embarrassing how easy it is to bribe me with hot bubbly mineral water. Alex used this piece of knowledge on me and told me all about how much I would love soaking in Pagosa Springs… oh, and there’s a resort he’s always wanted to visit called Wolf Creek. Sold! I told you it was easy. 

Heal My Broken Mindstate

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Healing Waters Resort & Spa in the heart of Pagosa Springs, CO – Photo: Local Freshies®

A local friend told us where to stay in Pagosa Springs which kept us out of the pricey tourist spot and tucked away at a tiny family owned resort operating since the 1950’s. This little place is perfect if you want a big clean room, convenient parking, no-frills soaking, and an easy walk to downtown. That’s everything we needed. What I didn’t need was a fancy resort with concierge service, lots of people, and to soak peacefully by the river while on display to the whole town. Nope, not doing it. 

Staying at the Healing Waters Resort & Spa almost didn’t happen as there was only one room left when I went to book it. I was so happy when the little spinny thing on my computer finished and showed me the coveted confirmation page. I now know for next time to plan our stay farther out as there are lots of smart travelers and locals that book this place. You can take this as a hot tip, but know that it’s not a secret. This place is popular and deserves every bit of attention. Just think how hard it is to stay in business for 70+ years as a family with a multi-million dollar resort across the street in the center of town. 

 

 

A Mom & Pop Amongst The Colorado Giants

I have a terrible memory but sometimes things stick in there and I’ll remember it 40 years from now. That’s going to be Wolf Creek for me. Wow! Impressed. Delighted. Entertaining. Just down right fun. And no, the conditions weren’t the epic Instagram reel of internet perfection. It was chilly. Windy (a theme for this entire road trip). Not much new powder. Sun, clouds, sun clouds, repeat. You know… a realistic day at a ski resort. You show up because you want to go, not because the Weather Channel told you to.   

With my distorted view of all Colorado skiing, I had no expectations for small southern Colorado ski resorts like Wolf Creek and arrived with a blank slate. Probably the best thing because not going in with this lofty perfect riding day to match, I had no impression and let the day ride out. And I’m telling you, Wolf Creek is now one of my favorite ski resorts.

Family Sticks Together

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Erika Pitcher, Wolf Creek Ski Area – Photo: Local Freshies®

I love that it’s still family run, situated in a state where many resorts are big corporations. To hold onto their little piece of the Colorado pie for decades is heart-warming and hopeful for the future of other smaller ski resorts to do the same. 

Being on the southern tip of the state, we saw lots of New Mexico and Texas license plates in the parking lot. It was a fairly busy day for them, but we still never got stuck in any lift lines. Wolf Creek isn’t a big resort but they get plenty of snow at 400”+ annually, have lots of terrain choices, and some of the coolest hike-to-terrain I’ve ridden. The metal staircase built into the rock is a must try, but I warn you that if you’re afraid of heights, it could be a tough trek. Just ask Alex.

 

Just Ride Don’t Stress

While it hadn’t snowed for a bit, a lot of times that sets up a day where you’re locked into groomers and dreaming about all the places you won’t be going. That wasn’t the case for us. We rode fast groomers of course, but we also found powder pockets in the trees, on steeper slopes, and all across the hike-to-terrain (where no one had been in a while). I say that because we were finding untracked powder all across the far ridges. It was amazing! So much so that Alex proceeded to slash snow so hard and fast right at my face when doing a photo shoot that I couldn’t feel my left eye for the rest of the day as it was frozen numb. Not to mention my gloves were rendered useless as they were overfilled with snow like a snow cone that’s on the verge of explosion. 

Perfect Weather

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Dropping into the trees off Knife Ridge – Erika Pitcher, Wolf Creek Ski Area – Photo: Local Freshies®

The weather wasn’t perfect. But that’s a subjective word, so maybe it was. The wind howled and the temps were up and down across the mountain. The sun was shining bright with bluebird moments and then so cloudy that everything turned gray. Rinse. Repeat. Over and over. Mother Nature couldn’t quite decide what she wanted so we got the pu pu platter of ski weather. And you know what? I had fun the whole time. 

Day 1 was milder than the second day. I think the temperatures on day 2 were in the 30’s but I’m telling you it was the coldest 30 degrees I’ve ever felt. I don’t know why. Maybe a combination of the overcast skies, wind, higher elevation, and moisture content. I’ll never know but it was cold to me and I wasn’t dressed for it. I layered up for a Tahoe 30 degree day and I got a subzero Colorado day with the same thermometer reading. Lesson learned next time. 

The two days we spent at Wolf Creek were some of my favorite memories of the season. This Colorado gem has so much variety. Little shots of steeps to sniff out, bowls, trees, hiking, and a damn good cappuccino in a tiny hut at the top… it has it all, including that staircase I mentioned that I will never forget. I can’t wait to do it again and go even further across the ridge next time. 

The Whole Package

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Pagosa Springs, Colorado – Photo: Local Freshies®

Wolf Creek Ski Area and Pagosa Springs, CO are the whole package for me. An entertaining, welcoming, exciting ski resort that’s still family owned with a die hard crowd next to a quaint little mountain town with food, shops, walkable streets, and natural hot springs to soak all my cares away. It doesn’t get much better than that for me. A lot of road trips are so jam-packed with riding that there isn’t always enough time for relaxing and wandering around. 

When we’re on media trips, the itineraries can be tight so lounging about isn’t happening. But this trip was different. It was our trip and we had a slower pace built into it as we meandered across the states to New Mexico. That meant plenty of time for soaking after riding Wolf Creek, wandering around town to eat, drink, and be merry as well as a little local shopping. Alex had one of the best elk burgers he’s ever eaten, but he’ll tell you all about that in the fall when he publishes his writeup about Wolf Creek. I bought a mini wallet pocket-thingy so I could stop snowboarding with a plastic sandwich bag. Pagosa Springs really helped me class up my ID holding situation. 

Take Me Back

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Mini hike to Prospector at Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado – Photo: Local Freshies®

A lot of places we go, I’m good with the one-and-done mantra. I enjoy my experiences, but cross it off the list and want to explore something new next time. Wolf Creek and Pagosa Springs are not on that list. I’m now thinking that southern Colorado ski resorts, being so close to New Mexico which I’m in love with, shouldn’t be on that list. Now reading up on the area, I’ve heard great things about Purgatory too… maybe next time.

Starting out that I never wanted to explore Colorado, to now after finally getting a slice of it, it’s on my list of repeat-please… I’m eating my own words on this one. I’m excited to go back and ride Wolf Creek (as well as other southern Colorado ski resorts) in other months of the season. They have amazing ticket deals at different ‘off-peak’ times that make it a steal to snowboard! And for me, there will never be a bad time to soak. Perhaps I will give a hippie-dip a try. If you know, you know. I didn’t quite get the nerve to try them out this trip, but there’s always next time.

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