The snowiest ski resort in Colorado isn’t Vail, Aspen/Snowmass, or Silverton. It’s Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado.
Wolf Creek isn’t associated with a major season partner pass, and it’s hours away from major metro areas. This has created a loyal following and has seen increased visitation in recent years.
The Durango Herald interviewed the Pitcher family, who owns the mountain, to discuss how they’ve been able to withstand the corporate grip that the ski industry has dealt with over the past decade.
The Durango Herald article is worth reading in full to capture Wolf Creek’s unique place in the Colorado ski industry. Click here to read in full.
I found the following very interesting about Wolf Creek:
The Pitcher family is fully involved in the operations of the ski resort.
The family works as lift supervisors, in marketing and sales, and in their maintenance department. Rather than have outsiders come in, they have staff members build the lifts, which reduces expenses and allows them to keep employees on full-time.
Because they are a small family operation, other parties often approach the Pitchers to buy the ski area. One entity usually approaches the Pitcher family each fall to discuss whether they’re interested in selling. Almost always, they don’t respond to the request. The closest they came to selling was during the brutal 2017-18 winter, which had below-average snowfall. Davey Pitcher, who is the owner of the ski area, described how the meeting went:
“It was predatory by nature, to be honest. It was a year where we didn’t have a lot of snow, the ski business wasn’t exactly booming in Colorado in general. … The nature of the conversation was, ‘Are you tired of it? This could be the year when you end up with your back against the wall financially.’”
Pitcher thought that the way they approached them was condescending, and he rejected them on the spot.
The Pitcher family made it known throughout the piece that they aren’t interested in a sale in the short-term future, as they’ve grown to love managing a ski resort.
Whether they would eventually sell is left up to debate, as the Durango Herald said that “he is too savvy a businessman to say he’d never sell.”
The second major topic that was discussed was whether Wolf Creek had considered joining a multi-mountain mega-season pass that has become popular in recent years.
They said that they aren’t interested in joining these passes, as the last partnership they tried, which was with Taos Ski Valley, was a mess.
The only reciprocal partnership is with the Discovery Ski Area in Montana, which is owned by the Pitcher family’s brother.
The third interesting tidbit discusses future expansion.
They want to expand into the Matchless Pod (pictured above), which would grow their expert terrain.
Some of the terrain would even require climbing gear.
This isn’t intended to bring in more visitors, but rather grow the amount of lift accessible challenging terrain.
Wolf Creek is currently seeking approval from the U.S. Forest Service to get a lift into that potential terrain pod. This expansion still appears to be a long-term project, not something that would happen soon.
Keith Pitcher described the appeal of constructing such a lift in spite of the financial hurdles:
“In the short run, if you looked at these numbers from a banker’s standpoint, it doesn’t pencil all that well. Generationally, I think, this terrain would provide the community some excitement and a sense of purpose for multiple generations to come.”
Image Credits: Wolf Creek Ski Area