Wolf Creek Ski Area plans to open its beginner area this weekend, despite dry conditions and unseasonably warm temperatures that have made jump-starting the ski season difficult in Southwest Colorado.
Wolf Creek received 10 inches of wet snow last week, which compacted into a 6-inch midway base. But even that has come down since then, said Rosanne Pitcher, vice president of sales and marketing.
The ski area has been making its own snow on the lower parts of the mountain, which will allow it to open the Nova Lift, a short lift near the base of the mountain that accesses beginner terrain.
The lift will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The ski area will then close until Nov. 17, at which time it plans to open for seven-day-a-week service. Tickets will cost $44 this weekend, but that will increase to $89 once the season kicks into full gear.
The mountain will offer ski school and ski and snowboard rentals this weekend. It will also open Treasure Sports, plus the bar and lodge.
Pitcher said this weekend is a good chance for season pass holders to pick up their passes, have lunch and drinks, make sure their gear is fitting and make some early-season turns.
“It'll be a combination of natural snow and man-made snow,” she said.
Wolf Creek Ski Area, which has a base elevation of 10,300 feet, receives more snow than most other ski areas in Colorado. Wolf Creek Ski Area receives an average of 430 inches per season, but last year it received about 470 inches, Pitcher said.
This is somewhat of a late start for Wolf Creek Ski Area. The earliest it has opened was on Oct. 7, and the ski area often opens around Halloween, she said.
Snowmaking crews need temperatures to dip to 27 degrees or colder to make snow. That has allowed them to make snow some evenings. But earlier this week, overnight temperatures barely reached freezing point, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Temperatures were about 15 degrees above normal Monday and Tuesday in the lower elevations of Southwest Colorado, including Cortez, Durango and Pagosa Springs. The high temperature Monday in Durango reached 69 degrees, whereas the average is 55 degrees for this time of year, said Lucas Boyer, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
Temperatures are expected to return to normal levels later this week, including around Wolf Creek Pass, Boyer said. But little to no moisture is expected with the shift in temperature, at least not this far south in Colorado, he said.
Overnight temperatures will be cold enough to manufacture snow, Boyer said.
“The bad news is they’re not going to get any help from Mother Nature, at least from this next few days of events,” he said.
He said there may be a “little glancing wave” that delivers an inch or two this weekend to the San Juan Mountains.
Purgatory Resort began making snow Oct. 29 and plans to open Nov. 18.
“Snow-lovers around here are keeping their fingers crossed,” Boyer said.