I skipped into the kitchen singing, "We're going on a ski trip, thanks to Colorado Ski Country USA." When my three boys and my husband, Wade, asked where we were going, I told them that we were going to the Wolf Creek Ski Area, a high alpine ski resort that rises up from its 10,300 foot base. A place that proudly boasts 465 natural inches of snowfall a year, the highest snowfall in Colorado.
My excitement began to wane and my concern began to grow when Wade began to map out the arduous route to southwestern Colorado and said, "You'll probably be sleeping the entire time anyway. Don't get me wrong, I have always wanted to ski Wolf Creek and am up for the powder skiing if you are, I am just gearing myself up for what is ahead, my little Mommy Blogging Travel Writer."
When I told Wade that they had 98 inches of snow as their base at mid mountain, approximately 38 inches more than we had in our mountains here, our excitement began to grow.
As Wade predicted, the boys and I fell fast asleep as he climbed over the passes. He pointed out that I was better asleep for when I was awake I only made him more nervous as he swerved his way around the deer, fox and elk that were just begging to become road kill along the icy highway. To make matters worse, we took a pit stop and I accidentally smashed my door into his head as he was bending over to help Tucker.
We arrived at the Wyndham Pagosa at 1:00am and Wade and I were elated to find that not only did we have a full kitchen and fireplace but we also had our own bedroom, a luxury that we have not enjoyed for a long time. We fell into bed and woke up bright and early the next morning to a spectacular view out of our window of the San Juan mountains shrouded in snow clouds, and we hustled the boys out of the door.
Our hosts, Davey Pitcher and his wife Rosanne Haidorfer-Pitcher, had arranged for the boys to be put into their Hot Shots and Wolf Pup ski schools and we did not want to be late for our first ski date of the year.
We pulled up to the parking lot and I was transported back to my youth where I spent the weekends skiing at Stratton, Vermont with my parents. Not only was the resort devoid of ski racks but there also weren't any hotels or sprawling development cluttering the mountain. It was clear that those who came to this resort, came for the skiing and the snow, and not to lounge in their ski bunny outfits in the ski lodge.
The drop off for the boys was hassle free and the boys happily went off with their ski instructor, Steve, a polite Texas boy whose popularity did not escape them as he "Maamed" and "Sirred" his way around the mountain.
As for Tucker, we worried that his rebellious side would rear its ugly head being that we have been seeing a lot of that lately, but when we walked into the Wolf Pup building he immediately felt the warmth and kindness from the employees and everything went well, despite the fact that we had left his warm ski coat back at Diorio's South Pizza in Pagosa Springs. They whisked Tucker away treating him like a little prince as they adorned him in a very comfy oversized coat that they got from the lost and found box. "TTFN," I cried blowing him a kiss as I raced out to meet
"Let's find the vert," Wade said referring to the 1,604 feet of vertical drop that the mountain offered and so we began climbing the steps to hike past the challenging double diamond runs in the Knife Ridge Chutes and continued hiking through the quiet of the trees over to Horseshoe Bowl.
What we enjoyed the most that day was the feeling that we were back country skiing without the worry of avalanches. While Wade launched off of cliffs I explored the fresh tracks on the steep terrain beside him. We skied to the Alberta chairlift and Wade was elated to meet Terry who was manning Alberta's Grill, a cleverly located ski by shack that provided sustenance for those hearty skiers who might otherwise forget to eat as they lapped the steeps all day.
We were enjoying seeing the retro fashion and the fossil skis that we had not seen since the eighties and when we mentioned it to Davey, the CEO and Mountain Manager, he informed us of their mission to ensure that the mountain remained family friendly and that everybody who was passionate about skiing could afford a lift ticket.
An adult ski ticket is $52.00 a day and $28.00's for children and seniors and they also have fourteen "Local Appreciation Days," that offer a $31.00 adult all lift ticket and $18.00 for seniors and children.
Davey told us of the history of the resort that is celebrating its seventieth year. Wolf Creek Pass began with a group of ski enthusiasts in Alamosa who were interested in skiing and found that Wolf Creek Pass offered "all kinds of ski slopes to all kinds of skiers". The San Luis Valley Ski association established a small ski tow and warming cabin, "financed by popular subscription and memberships into the club" and in 1976, Davey's parents, Kingsbury and Charity Jane Pitcher, took ownership and made improvements to the resort.
As he spoke about the importance of the quality of their home made meals in their mountain restaurants, the integrity of his family was revealed and it wasn't too difficult for us to witness for ourselves the hard work ethics that he and Rosanne had instilled in their four hundred employees, from the lifties who carefully managed every chair, to the ski instructors who went out of their way to help us when we looked lost.
That night we soaked our tired bodies in the multiple therapeutic mineral hot springs pools at The Springs in Pagosa Springs. The boys raced from one pool to the other, testing the varying temperatures. Wade's favorite was The Berg which was the hottest at 114 degrees. Tucker and I preferred Serendipity, a mild 103 degrees with a 6ft. waterfall.
On our last day, Davey strapped on his snowboard and Rosanne put on her telemark skis and they took us on a tour of the mountain. "Good thing my instructor taught me balance," Axel squealed as he and Brevitt chased after Davey to discover all of his secret stashes through the trees.
At the end of the day, Tucker who was filled with pride from riding the chairlift all by himself, had to be peeled off of his ski instructor. We said our goodbyes and loaded up for our drive home with the children making plans to move there for a month.
Today, as I write about our experience, I am thankful that we had the opportunity to visit such a wonderful family mountain and the memories of skiing freshies in a friendly resort atmosphere will just have to tide me over until the next storm arrives in Aspen.
For more stories please visit http://aspenreallife.com
*cross-posted at Mile High Mamas and Colorado Ski Country USA
**Mile High Mamas wants to send your family to ski or ride at the Wolf Creek Ski Area. Go here to enter to win four tickets for this season. Contest deadline is February 27, 2010.