The Geiger Counter: Skiing (and eating) in southern Colorado |

The Geiger Counter: Skiing (and eating) in southern Colorado

Wolf Creek Ski Area’s historically deep powder and isolated tree runs are worth the trek.
Courtesy Wolf Creek Ski Area

Don’t know what to do this weekend? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Pull up a seat to the counter, and I’ll tell you about everything that’s hot and happening.

As last week’s weather showed, it can sometimes pay off to not limit oneself to skiing and riding only in Summit County. Sure, there were other local spots to go even though wind stopped Breckenridge Ski Resort in its tracks, but it’s fun to ski somewhere off the beaten season pass.

Convinced by my Telluride-residing cousins, I brought my ski gear with me on my trek toward the San Luis Valley to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was the right call when Wolf Creek Ski Area got 38 inches total from the holiday storm, and the five of us headed up to the quaint, hidden gem.

To be fair, that dumping of snow meant the weather in the San Juans wasn’t perfect, either. It proved to be the perfect day to test my warm, lobster-claw gloves and lowlight goggles I got last season. But for my fifth day of the season and their first, it was hard to beat.

There was a new lift on the left side of the mountain, and they ditched hole-punched tickets for barcodes since the last time I was there. However, it still had that cozy feeling with the same nonexorbitant food prices, low-key base area that lacks ski racks and fantastic powder that I haven’t seen since last winter in the High Country.

The snow went halfway up to my knee as I maneuvered around the mountain’s famous tree-lined runs off the Alberta Lift. We alternated between freezing on the slow-moving chairs and sweating to turn in the thick snow.

The good and bad, depending on one’s perception, is that there is no village at Wolf Creek. For après, I think the best spot is roughly 40 minutes away at Three Barrel Brewing Co. in Del Norte. The pub offers wood-fired pizza, stromboli and calzones that can be washed down with any of their tasty beers or house-made sodas. You can’t go wrong with The Thurday Special, a coconut brown lager with a misspelled name that stuck.

If you want something a little fancier, head just down the street toward the Windsor Hotel. The seasonal menu uses local food like Haefeli’s Honey and Gosar Sausages in delectable dishes.

The best times to ski Wolf Creek are during a midweek locals’ day, when the tickets are cheaper and a fresh layer of snow closes the Pagosa Springs’ side of the pass. Yet right up there is reconnecting with family while rediscovering how fortunate we are.

What I’m Reading

‘The Girl with All the Gifts’ by M. R. Carey

Years ago, Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors, invented a new tradition called All Hallows Read. The event’s straightforward premise simply involves giving a scary book to a friend or relative on Halloween. Though I didn’t do an exchange this year because I have a stack of books I haven’t touched, I figured “The Girl with All the Gifts” would still be a good book to start for the season.

I usually don’t do horror books. It’s not because of the themes — or else I wouldn’t do All Hallows Read at all — but because they often are poorly executed and require more of an investment than a bad horror movie. So when I see a book come highly recommended and turned into a film, I know it’s safe to get on board.

M. R. Carey’s novel is suspenseful and is a great case study in show-don’t-tell writing. It isn’t immediately clear what sort of apocalyptic event occurred or why a bunch of children are immobile in a classroom.

Similar to “28 Days Later” and “The Last of Us,” the zombies are grounded in science and survivors have depth. A fungal infection is what kills and reanimates most of humanity. Melanie, the protagonist and one of the main point-of-view characters, is an infected test subject herself. The story also follows Helen Justineau, Melanie’s teacher who treats the subjects at the compound like humans, scientist Dr. Caroline Caldwell who focuses on a cure above anything else, and soldiers that kill any “hungry” they see.

I’m slightly more than halfway through — I know, I should be finished already — and I’ve yet to be disappointed. You don’t need to wait for the following Halloween to get started or to dive into the sequel, “The Boy on the Bridge.”

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