Colorado's Wolf Creek Plans Sweeping Expansion, Environmental Sensitivity
Wolf Creek, Colorado’s oldest ski area at 73 years old, and Davey Pitcher, whose family has owned the snow magnet slopes since he was a boy, plans to ensure its future.
The resort, whose claim to fame is it’s hard-to-argue assertion that it annually receives the most snow in Colorado, is located in the San Juan/Rio Grande National Forest between Pagosa Springs and South Fork. That’s 80 miles east of Durango if you’re counting.
Pitcher, the resort president, and his wife, Roseanne Haidorfer-Pitcher, vice president, marketing and sales, presented their expansion plan to a packed crowd in South Fork recently. He told the audience he wanted to have this preliminary meeting to seek their input about the changes. The plan has yet to be reviewed by the U.S. Forest Service.
He said, according to reports that “expansion is a better experience if it is not driven by large volumes of skiers, but by a better experience for them. He said they were aiming to increase off-peak ski times by obtaining a small growth over the long term, not during holiday periods.
The proposal is big on all fronts. It is a 1,000-acre, five chairlift-expansion that the Denver Post describes as “both minimalist in its footprint and sweeping in its scope.” In fact, it is the largest proposed ski area expansion in decades (larger than Vail’s Blue Sky Basin and China Bowl expansions).
Pitcher said the plan will improve skier flow across the mountain as two of the proposed lifts eliminate lengthy traverses that have frustrated snowboarders, as well as increasing access to expert terrain. It adds increased expert territory, including in-bounds backcountry-style skiing.
The plan protects the high-altitude environment. It does not add any more parking lots, but calls for shuttles to bring skiers and riders from off-site hubs in South Fork and Pagosa Springs saving, Pitcher notes, money on fuel for guests and employees.
The plan will is expected to expand attendance modestly from the current 2011-12 season attendance of 220,000 to perhaps 260,000.
How much opposition the Pitchers’ plan receives, but a plan by Red McCombs, a Texas billionaire and former owner of the Minnesota Vikings, to develop a 1,171 unit village adjacent to the ski area has encountered vehement opposition from environmentalists and groups like Rocky Mountain Wild. That group is currently waging a fight on Breckenridge’s proposed expansion onto Peak 6.
Still, Paul Joyce, with Rocky Mountain Wild, acknowledged to the Denver Post, the Pitcher expansion plan is not typical, “with all its concessions to limit impacts.
What It Means: The Pitcher family makes it abundantly clear that what they offer is a “ski area,” not a “ski resort.” It’s part of the charm and popularity of Wolf Creek. That, and the endless snowfall, of course. We suspect this mountain expansion will meet only minimal opposition and the basic plan will likely gain approval.