Early Season Wolf Creek Powder Day

It was one of my best powder days in a resort (sad I know, I need to get out more), and it was in mid November!

Saturday morning: “Wolf creek has more than 10″ and more is on the way! They’re expecting close to 20″! We’re heading down tonight if you want to go.”

Thomas doesn’t give me much of a choice. Eric Thomson and Patrick Shehan fill out the car. We camp just outside South Fork on BLM land which gets us less than 15 minutes from Wolf Creek Ski Area in the morning (instead of a 4.5 hour drive the morning of).

The snow conditions are great, but when we get on the lift we can hear the ski patrol is still blasting the backside for avalanches.

We’re in the first wave of skiers on the lift and our first several trips down the mountain give us great powder runs. But the backside remained closed and the frontside quickly gets cut up. We did have an advantage that Patrick lived in Durango for years and knows all the secret stashes of the mountain and took us on some great runs.

Skiing powder is magical. It feels like you’re floating, and it’s impossible to not have a shit-eating grin on your face the whole time. But when in-bounds powder gets chopped up, it makes for a very bouncy, unfriendly ride. Finally, just after noon we hear Alberta is running.

We rush past the newly opened gates eager to explore. The trees off of the Alberta lift give us fantastic fresh tracks every run.

Thomas Woodson slashing through the powder off of Alberta

Eric Thomson hitting a burm. 

The terrain on the backside is great and varied. The perfectly spaced trees get steep and then mellow out to really fun glades. The steeps have a line of cliffs that Patrick is psyched to jump.

Patrick Shehan hucking a cliff 

We hike from the top of the Alberta lift to Alberta peak, up past windblown trees plastered with ice in whiteout conditions. At the peak the sun moves in and out of the clouds.

White out conditions on the hike up Alberta Peak

At the peak
Even on this trip up Alberta Lift the ski patrol is still blasting around the mountain for avalanches. We look in vain to see where the blasts are located. When we traverse over from the peak of Alberta we hit an avalanche crown two feet deep that continues as far as I can see (which isn’t far in the near whiteout conditions). I make my way over the crown and ski tentatively across the debris field which takes me pretty much back to the cat track. That hike was not worth the effort. You win some, you lose some.

Thomas working his way over a two foot crown 

But overall the day was a great success. Thomson ends the day being ejected from his skis for no apparent reason and superman-ing into a snowbank. At least he got a portrait out of it.

Eric’s snow beard

I had skied Wolf Creek when I was in high school, with my dad, but I don’t remember the conditions. These conditions were incredible. Now, half a week later, I look at all the snow reports for Summit County and none of them even come close to the conditions we had at Wolf Creek, and in November! I’m looking forward to a great season.