Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hungry like a Wolf

***Sorry for the lack of pics, but the light sucked and the snow was deep, so priorities were on the riding***

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Its been over a month since the last significant storm in the front range, and a serious jones for a powder day had set in. Obsessively watching the satellite hoping for some moisture only to be let down again and again finally paid off as Wolf Creek was at the epicenter for an impressive 4day storm cycle. Waking long before the sun, Brian and I made the 4hour drive south to get on the goods.

My alarm shocked me to consciousness at 4:50am. Stumbling around my girlfriend's room in the dark I rounded up my layers, gear, and a quick breakfast before leaving Frisco to meet my buddy Brian in Breckenridge for the long haul down to Wolfie through the early morning hours. Admittedly, I slept for most of the drive, occasionally catching glimpses of the surrounding countryside as my eyes would open for brief moments of awareness. Vast high-plains of frozen sagebrush ringed by mountains would flash as snapshots in between extended periods of nothing. This harsh landscape was rugged and vast, a place where cattle outnumber people, cowboy country. Adding to the sense of desolation was the frigid, still air mass that had entrenched itself over much of Colorado in the passing of the front responsible for all the snow brought to Wolfie. Daytime temps would not reach 5 degrees, and everywhere the air seemed to be frozen in a haze of low, but thin clouds.

Reaching Wolf Creek shortly after 9am, Brian and I were stoked to find a parking lot nearly as empty as the open ranges we had passed on our drive down. Scoping the terrain that lay before us, stoke levels began to rise. The old growth conifers were coated in white calling to mind images of the Northwest in a place far, far from the abundant moisture of the Pacific Ocean. Cliffs, spines, and steeps were all within reach and after a short hike out toward Alberta Peak we were waist deep in some of the lightest snow I've ever ridden.

This would be a good time for me to mention that Wolf Creek isn't exactly an ideal place to ride as a snowboarder. While the Wolf does have plenty of steep terrain littered with cliffs and pillows, it is very benchy as well. Short sections of truly steep terrain are separated by long, long sections of flats that can be a serious pain in the ass if you don't keep your speed up. Additionally, nearly every good section of terrain at Wolfie requires a forever long traverse back to the lifts via a flat, and often times, slightly up-hill cat-track. If you find yourself eyeing a trip to Wolf Creek, bring poles or a split-board, you will thank me later. Still, if you're smart about where you ride, you can minimize the time spent walking/skating along the dreaded cat-tracks; but understand that at Wolf Creek you're probably going to have to do some walking to get back to the lift. This isn't all bad however, as Wolfie's isolation keeps the crowds to a minimum so there is no sense of urgency on a mid-week pow day. In fact, Brian and I discussed (while walking back to the lift) how riding there is very similar to riding slackcountry at your favorite resort: Deep snow, not many people around, and some effort required to reap the goods.

I couldn't get over how empty it was down there. We rode untracked lines literally bell to bell, and when we left there were still plenty of lines to be had on the mountain that hadn't seen a soul all day. Add to that the fact that the Wolf has some solid, if short terrain, and you're guaranteed to have a good time if you happen to find yourself in south central Colorado while a low-pressure system is sweeping through the desert southwest. If for some reason you find conditions in-bounds to be beat the surrounding backcountry should keep you occupied for sometime, so come armed with a splitter, or snow-shoes and go get yourself some. You'll be glad you made the drive.

Areas worth checking out:
Alberta Peak
The Waterfall zone
Knife Ridge (accessed via Alberta lift)
Bonanza Cliffs

Brian sends one in the Bonanza Cliffs area near the end of the day.

I got eaten by the Wolf a couple of times in the flats, so much snow!!!. Photo cred: Brian Lindahl

1 comment:

  1. sick, write-up p. we really need to do a road-trip. colorado, montanna, utah? what and when are you thinking, if you can? i will not be able to get to ak this year with #2 arriving.