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Court Decision Hamstrings Wolf Creek Project


Wolf Creek base will remain as is for the foreseeable future. (Wolf Creek)

A federal judge recently ruled against the development of a village around the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area, further dimming the prospects of the Colorado mountain becoming a destination resort.

Developer B.J. “Red” McCombs has been trying for nearly four decades to get approval for a 1,700-home village near the base of Wolf Creek, which sits at 10,000 feet on the Continental Divide in the southern Colorado Rockies. In order to do so, he had to convince the U.S. Forest Service to swap public for private land in order for McCombs to gain access to the project area.

The U.S. Forest Service approved the land swap in 2015, but a coalition of environmental groups took the agency to court, claiming the land swap should be viewed in the larger perspective of the entire project.

The latest decision upholds a reversal by District Judge Richard Matsch who said the Forest Service’s land swap approval as "a patent effort to circumvent its obligation to protect the natural environment of the forest.“ The Forest Service expressly disclaimed any authority to limit the development ceding that authority to Mineral County and finding that there would be only indirect effects on the public lands,” Matsch wrote in the decision that was upheld. “The legal conclusion that the agency cannot control the use of the land conveyed in a land exchange is a clear error of law.”

Known for some of the best powder skiing and riding in the Rockies, family-owned Wolf Creek has been a day-trip mountain for locals from Alamosa on the east to Durango to the west – as well as a must-see stop for traveling powder hounds. Nearest overnight lodging is a half-hour drive in South Fork or Pagosa Springs.

The Pitcher family, which has run Wolf Creek since 1984, has pretty much stayed on the sidelines of the dispute, although at times has expressed an interest in having some amount of lodging at the mountain.

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