Work A Ski Season at Wolf Creek
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Wolf Creek Ski Area is a hidden treasure in Colorado, USA, perched on top of Wolf Creek Pass and the Continental Divide in the San Juan/Rio Grande National Forest. In particular, Wolf Creek is known for receiving the most snow in Colorado with a seasonal average of 430 inches (10.9 meters) of natural, dry powder. Add 1,600 acres (647 hectares) of skiable terrain, awesome hike-to areas, tiny crowds and a quaint feel and you have one of the best under-the-radar resorts in the US at which to work a season.
It is located right off Highway 160, Wolf Creek Pass; Between Pagosa Springs (20 mi.) and South Fork (20 mi.), in the southern part of Colorado. Durango is 80 miles west of the ski area and Alamosa is 65 miles east. The closest major airports are Denver International Airport (a 5 hour drive north), and Albuquerque International Sunport (4 hours 30 minutes drive south).
Mountain and Town Vibe
Wolf Creek is family owned and operated and is, for the most part, frequented by diehard powderhound locals who are the type to ditch work to make first chair after a huge storm cycle. It is not one of the major destination, tourist resorts of Colorado and is without the glitz, while the facilities are more basic than at larger resorts such as Vail and Aspen.
At the base area there are two lodges with food options – the Prospector Lodge and the Wolf Creek lodge – where you can hook into the gourmet salad bar, homemade soups, quiches, daily hot specials, and the famous Santa Fe style green chilli. There is no accommodation at the base – staff live in Pagosa Springs or South Fork. Wolf Creek is super cheap compared to most ski resorts in Colorado with respect to lift prices, accommodation, food in town and gear.
Terrain at Wolf Creek
Eight lifts connect you to an array of beautiful and adventurous Colorado terrain. Wolf Creek has gentle green runs for the first time beginner, as well as exceptional access to natural chutes, glades, and untouched powder for the expert skier.
Seven of the eight lifts service the beginner and intermediate areas which include ambling blues and bunny areas. However, the 8th chair – the Alberta Chair – is incredible and opens up 1,000 acres of terrain for experts. There is excellent glade riding below the lift line as well as some great hike-to terrain to find even more fresh powder stashes after a dump.
Traverses to the Bonanza Bowl, Boundary Bowl, Montezuma Bowl, Step Bowl, Knife Ridge, Exhibition ridge, Prospector ridge, Alberta Peak and Peak Chutes are popular. Four backcountry access gates are also located on top of Wolf Creek’s ridge line. After large storm cycles when deep powder has blanketed the ski area, Wolf Creek offers a free SnowCat shuttle to the Horseshoe Bowl for strong intermediate to expert skiers and riders.
The vertical at Wolf Creek is relatively small at 1604 feet (490 metres), but the high base elevation means the abundant snow stays in great condition from top to bottom.
- Terrain Breakdown: Beginner 20%; Intermediate 35%; Advanced 25%; Expert 20%
- Skiable Terrain: 1,600 Acres (647 Hectares)
- Vertical Drop: 1,604 feet (490 metres)
- Base Elevation: 10,300 feet (3,319 metres)
- Summit Elevation: 11,904 feet (3,628 metres)
- Longest Run: 2 miles (3.2 km) – Navajo Trail
- Snowfall: 430 inches (10.9 metres)
Wolf Creek does not have a terrain park but offers the natural features of the mountain as a substitute for a terrain park. With over 400 inches of snowfall, the emphasis is on the powder, chutes, glades, and elements that nature provides.
Local Towns in Which to Live for the Season
South Fork (20 miles / 20 minutes drive) is a small, quiet town with logging and railroad history. The town is spread out over two and a half miles, with no stoplights or stop signs.
Outdoor activities are unlimited year round in South Fork. With the Rio Grande running along the North side of town and the South Fork of the Rio Grande running along the South side, rafting, kayaking, and fishing are a must. Places to hike, mountain bike, ATV and camp are seemingly endless.
South Fork has a few restaurants, a couple gas stations, and a mom and pop grocery store. Nightlife is pretty limited in South Fork. Ramon’s Mexican Restaurant and The Old Firehouse (restaurant) are popular hang outs for locals. Del Norte (15 mi. east of South Fork) has a great brewery with hand-crafted wood fired pizzas named Three Barrel Brewing. Windsor Hotel has a great little, elegant bar to have a drink or two at as well.
Pagosa Springs (24 miles / 25 minutes drive) is sprawled out over five miles. “Pagosa”, to locals, is most known for the natural hot springs in the downtown area. The Springs Resort is a popular place to stay and hang out after a phenomenal day at Wolf Creek.
Pagosa is larger than South Fork and definitely has more attractions, restaurants, lodging and overall amenities. A great brewery downtown just opened up called the Riff Raff and has tasty burgers and award winning brews. Two other breweries are located in uptown Pagosa as well.
Local hang outs include the Overlook Hot Springs, Bear Creek Saloon and Grill, Backroom Wine Bar and Kip’s Grill. Activities are numerous in Pagos, of which there is boating, jeeping, fishing, golfing, and the hot springs to name just a few.
Getting Seasonal Accommodation
Because of Wolf Creek’s small size, it does not currently offer any type of employee housing or transportation. As such, prospective employees are responsible for securing their own housing and reliable transportation. The Pagosa Sun and Valley Courier are local newspapers that list rentals in both Pagosa and South Fork. Rent is usually $400 and up in both South Fork and Pagosa Springs.
Wolf Creek employees are split between Pagosa Springs and South Fork. Employees also come from other towns in the San Luis Valley and Bayfield (located west of Pagosa Springs).
Getting a Job at Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek takes applications for all departments all season long. Supervisors from each department use these applications as their main source to hire new employees. Each department hires on an individual basis. You can download an application from the website wolfcreekski.com/employment-at-wolf-creek.php or you can ask for an application to be mailed to you.
Once applications have been completed they can be sent back to the resort via post to deliver it to the appropriate departments.
Applications can be mailed to:
Wolf Creek Ski Area Attn:
Wolf Creek Employment
PO Box 2800
Pagosa Springs CO, 81147
Wolf Creek begins the hiring process in October and November. Face-to-Face interviews are required.
Supervisors from every department first invite last season’s crew back to get an idea of everyone’s availability and then determine if they need to hire more people for the upcoming ski season. If the supervisors decide they need to hire more people, they will review the applications and call the applicants who possess the skill set they are looking for to then schedule an interview.
Pay generally depends on experience. Minimum wage in Colorado is $8.00 an hour.
Ski and Snowboard Instructors
Wolf Creek cannot currently sponsor any work visas for foreign applicants, including H2B visas. If you are already authorized to work in the U.S. and feel you can secure your own housing and transportation, then you are able to apply via the regular application process.
See Work a Snow Season in the USA for further information on getting a working visa to the US, in particular the J-1 visa.
After completing two weeks of satisfactory work, an employee season pass may be issued, enabling use of the ski area lifts. Full-time employees can use their pass whenever not scheduled for work, while part-time employees must obtain consent from their supervisor before using their pass.
Full-time employees may also be issued one complimentary lift ticket per month (maximum of 4) for use by family and friends. Employee passes and complimentary lift tickets are not valid December 27th – 31st. All full-time employees receive a 25% discount on food and non-alcoholic beverages while in uniform.
Personal Experiences Working at Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek has great storm cycles that come in and just drop feet of powder at a time. During these powder days it seems as if every run on the mountain is un-tracked and the best run of your life. Anywhere on the mountain is pure bliss. Wolf Creek is simple, and the emphasis is on skiing/riding at Wolf Creek.
Terrain at Wolf Creek is varied and great for any day of skiing. If my parents come up to ski, we have essentially the whole west side of the mountain to enjoy easy, rolling greens and curvy blues. If I have a day off and come up with friends and other employees we take full advantage of the natural features in the Alberta Area. That area has great bowls, chutes, glades and cornices to take advantage of. Mixing the natural features with a powder day is one of the best days anyone could ever have.
The 2013-2014 season was a great year at Wolf Creek. It began early with an opening date in mid October. Three big storm cycles came into the ski area dumping over three feet of powder each time. The end of November a storm came in and dropped 42” in three days. The beginning of February saw another storm cycle drop 39” in three days. March started off with dumping 37” in a 48 hour period.