PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. — Wolf Creek Ski Area in Pagosa Springs sees an average of 430 inches of snow each year, making it a Colorado skier’s paradise.
But visit for a day like I did, and you’ll learn it’s more than a powder mountain.
Because of Wolf Creek’s remote location in the San Juan Mountains – and its family ownership – both the crowds and the prices are smaller than what you might find at the Big Ski establishments along Interstate 70.
Here’s a look at how the ski area with bigtime snow keeps a small-time feel.
First, why so much snow?
Davey Pitcher, the owner and general manager at Wolf Creek, described it this way:
The ski area sits just south of Wolf Creek Pass along US-160 in southwestern Colorado. What is essentially the meeting point of the North San Juans and the South San Juans forms an L-shaped bowl that houses Wolf Creek’s 1,600 acres of skiable terrain.
Its base sits at 10,300 feet elevation with a summit just shy of 12,000 feet.
The topography and high altitude create a microclimate that traps snow dropped by both storm systems coming from the southwest and from the northwest through the San Luis Valley. That snow is then dumped onto the pass and the ski area.
“It’s just a unique area, and it's very specific to this location,” Pitcher said.
‘A good skiing experience at an affordable price’
The remote location – about 60 miles from either Durango or Telluride and about 180 miles from Denver – is not the only thing that makes Wolf Creek different from some of the larger ski areas.
Pitcher told Denver7 the ski area operates with an “experiential” philosophy.
“Instead of having a high-density – kind of the Walmart theory – of cheap tickets or season passes, and a lot of restrictions where the peaks and valleys are very extreme, we try to spread everybody out,” he said, pointing to newer equipment like higher-speed ski lifts as part of that effort. “So when you get on the mountain, you really feel like you're skiing by yourself even though there's quite a few people around.”
The ski experience is built to accommodate veteran skiers and those like Beth Ann, who hadn’t skied in two decades before coming to Wolf Creek and calling it a “perfect fit.”
“It can be challenging,” she said, “[or] it can be an easy groomer day, you can go in the trees. You can take breaks.”
Reasonable prices are a plus, too, she said. Getting on the mountain to ski at Wolf Creek costs $89 in 2023. Peak season lift tickets will run you $100.
“We strive very hard to provide a good skiing experience at an affordable price,” Pitcher said. “There’s not a lot of frills.”
‘Raised into the business’
That no-frills experience at Wolf Creek can be attributed to the fact that the ski area is family owned.
The Pitcher family has owned and operated Wolf Creek since 1976. Davey’s father, Kingsbury Pitcher, owned the ski area before him. Davey now operates it with his wife, Roseanne.
Kingsbury Pitcher and his wife, Jane, bought Santa Fe Ski Area back in the 1960s and ran it for roughly 20 years before selling it in the mid-80s. Davey and his siblings were heavily involved in the operations at Santa Fe.
Pitcher’s oldest brother, Ciche, manages Discovery Ski Area in Montana.
“You get raised into the business, you end up doing everything,” Davey Pitcher said. “And I think that the biggest attribute that it brings to the public is [that] we recognize what it's like to be a family. And we really, we really like seeing families come up and have a good time. So everything is geared towards that type of skiing experience.”