Wolf-Creek-Deep-Turns Known for as much powder as you can handle, Wolf Creek will remain a day-trip mountain after denial of a village development proposal. (Wolf Creek/Facebook)

The decades-long plan to put a large resort village near the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area appears to be dead after a recent U.S. District Court ruling.

For nearly 40 years, Texas developer B.J. “Red” McCombs has been trying to get approval for a 1,700-home village near the base of Wolf Creek, which sits on the Continental Divide in the southern Colorado Rockies.

All along, the center of contention has been an access road across public lands to the 300 acres owned by McCombs and associates. Without the access road, the proposed development of 1,700 residential units just below Wolf Creek Pass had no way to get people into the property off U.S. 160.

After several legal starts and stops over -- and more than a decade of strong regional opposition -- a federal judge recently "unwound" a 2015 land exchange between the Rio Grande National Forest and developers that would have opened a road into the property. The ruling essentially nullified subsequent Forest Service approvals.

After the ruling, project officials said other legal avenues may still be viable, but also didn't indicate whether they would pursue them.

As far back as 1987, the Forest Service had given the development access via a land exchange -- reversing a decision to require an environmental impact study. And as recently as 2019, Forest officials gave the go-ahead for the road under a federal law that required access if a property is surrounded by public lands.

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.

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 on the west – as well as a must-see stop for traveling powder hounds. The nearest overnight lodging is a half-hour drive away 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.