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430 Inches of Snow and an $89 Lift Ticket: Wolf Creek’s Laid-Back Appeal

430 Inches of Snow and an $89 Lift Ticket: Wolf Creek’s Laid-Back Appeal

It was a gorgeous, cloudless February day and the skiing at Wolf Creek Ski Area, in southwestern Colorado, was superb. The snow was the soft, squeaky kind as I darted in the glades and lapped run after run on sparsely populated groomers. It all felt great. But somehow my lingering memory of that day is of another moment.

After my last run, happily drained, I headed over to Prospector Grill at the mountain’s base for a recovery coffee. When I started fishing for money, the employee behind the counter waved me off. He was starting to put things away and it was only a few dollars, but it felt … nice.

When asked what draws them to Wolf Creek, where the average annual snowfall is 430 inches, the most in Colorado, many people have a quick answer: “The snow.”

And that’s exactly what Sherry Miller brought up. Ms. Miller, 70, drives to the area when snow at the resorts near her home in northern New Mexico is lacking, and she has experienced the benefits of Wolf Creek’s microclimate. “We’ve been in some storms where you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,” she said appreciatively.

But if you probe deeper as to what makes Wolf Creek feel truly special, the answer for me — and many other visitors — is that good vibe.

“It’s super-laid-back,” said Olesya Chornoguz, a 39-year-old skier from the Philadelphia area who regularly travels to various Rockies resorts and has become a Wolf Creek fan. “Very chill, not crowded. People are nice, and they’re clearly there to enjoy themselves.”

The area’s 1,600 skiable acres top out at Alberta Peak’s 11,904 feet and tend to be confidence-building. Glades are often next to groomers so an exit is always in sight if trouble arises. There is expert terrain, to be sure — hugging a cliff face, the Knife Ridge staircase leads to chutes and bowls, and will raise any thrill seeker’s heart rate. But it does not feel daunting to people who are good, but maybe not quite good enough to be sponsored by Red Bull.

“You can find very steep lines, but they aren’t relentless,” Ms. Miller said. “So you can try your hand at something steeper than your normal comfort zone, knowing that it will have shallower respite areas in between.”

That overall mellowness is increasingly rare in a ski industry dominated by big corporations, often long lines and congested trails and prices that have climbed as high as $15 a day for a medium locker.

My locker at Wolf Creek was 75 cents.

This is a place with reverse…

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