There’s an annual tradition for Colorado snowboarders looking for that first legit powder day of the year. It usually happens around late October, when often before the Halloween masks are even drawn Wolf Creek Ski Area receives a big snowfall and opening day signals the start of the season. This year, however, was a little different. Although Wolfy opened up on time, they haven’t seen the usual early season storm cycle that earns them the motto “the most snow in Colorado” year after year… until now. Last week, Wolf Creek finally got the winter they’ve been waiting for. A southern storm rolled through and blasted the San Juans with plenty of powder and allowed them to finally operate at 100%.
If you haven’t heard about Wolf Creek before, you’re not alone. An oft-overlooked ski area in the southern part of the state, Wolf Creek has a storied history in snowboarding but is sometimes forgotten because of its remote location and its lack of marketing hoopla. And that’s just fine with them. Back in the 1990s, Wolf Creek played host to events like the Transworld Industry Conferences and Burton catalog photo shoots. Visitors like that may have since moved on, but the mountain remains pretty much the same. They still get tons of snow, and there’s still hardly anyone there to ride it.
To make a trip of it, I joined forces with Breckenridge-based snowboard photographer Aaron Dodds and Boulder’s Brian Nelson to rally south for the storm. A quick 3-hour drive from Summit County led us to the Lazy Bear Cabins in South Fork, just on the east side of Wolf Creek Pass. In the morning San Juan locals Ben Eng and Charlie Hoch were posted up in the parking lot, ready to shred Wolfy’s waist deep snow as well. We spent the morning lapping the frontside as snow continued to pummel the mountain, filling in the tracks. After lunch the storm subsided and visibility improved allowing more fresh tracks to be found off the Alberta chair. And in the late afternoon, the sun came out and we were treated to a guided hike up Alberta peak to end the day. For more photos from Wolf Creek check out vanssnow.tumblr.com.
Not to be fulfilled with just one real pow day under our belts, the quest continued on to Silverton, deep in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. A backcountry snowboarder’s paradise, Silverton Mountain is simply a single double chair that dumps you on top of an un-groomed ridge ripe with possibilities. Usually only open for guided skiing and riding, in the early and late part of the season Silverton offers unguided access to the handful of people who can get there. It’s an opportunity not to be missed, and despite the early season conditions, Silverton received enough snowfall out of the storm to open up some new terrain and give us plenty of fresh turns to slash and destroy. For more photos from Silverton check out vanssnow.tumblr.com.
The quest was completed and while enjoying a local microbrew in the warm sun outside of the yurt, we contemplated returning home. But Dodds kept talking about his backcountry cabin, the Bonnie Belle, and how it would nice to check in and see how the snow was stacking up out there. With the a yearning for more turns and the realization of how we had made no bad decisions on the trip thus far, it was decided. Why not extend the adventure one more day? Provisions were procured, gear was packed and the sleds were fired up as the last light of day slid behind the surrounding mountains.
The Bonnie Belle is a, “full service backcountry cabin specializing in ski and snowboard industry clients as well as outdoor groups and recreationalist alike” owned and operated by Aaron Dodds and Silverton/Sass Global Travel guide Skylar Holgate. It’s a one of kind experience located high in the San Juan Alpine, and the surrounding terrain has been featured in many magazines editorial features and advertisements alike. We intended to sled right up to the front door as usual and use them to take laps the next day, but the heavy snowfall and windy conditions made the road too difficult to pass. So a short ride turned into a long walk, but it was still worth it. Waking up in the morning to that view is something every snowboarder can appreciate. After a long morning relaxing and taking in the sights, we got a few more last turns in riding down to the abandoned sleds and began the long journey home. For more photos from The Bonnie Belle Cabin check out vanssnow.tumblr.com.
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