Outdoor Adventure

Rest Your Head

Photo: Shari Pierce

Enhance your vacation experience with the
Pagosa Springs Visitor Center and Visit Pagosa Springs

The Pagosa Springs Visitor Center and Visit Pagosa Springs app are here to help you get the most out of your Pagosa Springs vacation.

Both sources will help you find information on lodging, restaurants, area activities and all things Pagosa Springs. 

Located along the banks of the San Juan River just across the Hot Springs Boulevard bridge in downtown Pagosa Springs, the Visitor Center features picnic tables along the river, free Wi-Fi, free area maps, a wealth of area information and a genuinely local perspective.

A team of fantastic staff and volunteers are available daily to assist you in making the most of your visit. The Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., though the days and hours may be subject to change depending on local conditions. For after-hours information, multiple brochures are available outside.

The Visit Pagosa Springs app, available free for smartphones, can also provide information 24/7 and can help you with your vacation planning both before arriving and while you’re here. Visit Pagosa Springs also has a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You’ll also find different ways to explore the community. 

There is a bike planter scavenger hunt year-round. Local businesses host flower planters that look like old bicycles. Follow the map in the app, keep track of the letters, unscramble the clue to complete the phrase, and spin the wheel for a chance at several awesome prizes. 

For the adventurous youngsters, pick up a Kid’s Activity Book from a volunteer, with free crayons. Children who complete the activity book during their stay can redeem it for a fun and unique Pagosa Bear.

Free, reusable water bottles are available at the Visitor Center to help you stay hydrated on your adventures.

You can reach the Visitor Center by calling (970) 585-1200 or (800) 252-2204. To learn more about Pagosa Springs, visit www.visitpagosasprings.com or download the Visit Pagosa Springs app.

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Why So Much Snow?

Photo: Michael Pierce Photography

The locals aren’t exaggerating— Pagosa Country really does have some of the best natural snow in Colorado, and the most of it! 

If you don’t believe the local lore, check the stats; nearly every winter, an average of 39 feet falls on the area’s 12,000-foot alpine summits surrounding Wolf Creek Pass. One year, the total snowfall exceeded 75 feet. 

There’s no question; this is the reason powder hounds love Wolf Creek Ski Area. No other Colorado ski mountain can predictably offer as much untracked powder and packed powder as Wolf Creek. 

Meteorologists attribute Wolf Creek’s consistent snow accumulation to the ski area’s location within the San Juan Mountains and to numerous high peaks around Pagosa Springs.

According to weather experts, as relatively warm, subtropical moisture from the Pacific pushes east over the southwestern deserts and eventually rises up to surmount the southern San Juan Mountains, it cools and further condenses, thus creating additional moisture. Because colder air holds less moisture, heavy winter precipitation falls in the form of light and powdery snow. The surrounding topography actually funnels this precipitation — referred to as “upslope weather” — to the ski area, thus producing some of the most and best snow anywhere in Colorado. 

For winter sports enthusiasts, this means world-class skiing on the runs at Wolf Creek Ski Area, and outstanding cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling throughout Pagosa Country. 

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Avalanche Awareness

Photo: Colorado Department of Transportation

Thirty-seven people were killed by avalanches in the U.S. in the winter of 2020-2021, including 12 in Colorado.

While avalanches are a serious threat to winter backcountry travelers everywhere, they are particularly so here. In fact, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Colorado has recorded more avalanche-related deaths since 1950 than any other state. Therefore, knowing how to recognize the elements that cause avalanches is essential for remaining safe while traveling in the mountains. 

As a long spine of high inland peaks, the Colorado Rockies usually accumulate a colder, shallower snowpack than that of the mountain ranges nearer to the west coast. As a result, certain physical characteristics merge to create persistent fragile layers ripe for avalanche, once sufficient stress develops. The San Juan Mountains, for example, possess abundant steep terrain while receiving ample annual snowfall. As simple gravity increases stress, combined forces routinely elevate the risk of an avalanche.

A combination of weather, steep terrain and existing snowpack structure may give rise to avalanche danger. Weather factors typically include heavy snowfall, high winds and wildly fluctuating temperatures. Avalanche terrain is mainly determined by slope steepness and slope orientation to the wind and sun. Relevant snowpack characteristics include the formation and presence of weak layers vulnerable to increasing stress. 

As stress on a slope overcomes the strength of its snowpack, an avalanche can result. Stress can increase dramatically under the weight of new snowfall, the sudden release of a cornice (or snow overhang), or, as an individual or group of skiers, snowboarders or snowmobilers moves across unstable snow. Most often, avalanche victims trigger the slides that overtake them or other members of their group.

Travelers should move singly in avalanche terrain to reduce stress on the snowpack, while possessing the equipment and the skills necessary to successfully affect an avalanche rescue. Because a victim buried just 30 minutes stands less than a 35 percent chance of survival, time is of the essence. To aid in location and rescue efforts, each well-equipped party member should carry an electronic avalanche beacon, probe pole and lightweight shovel. In too many cases involving unintentional slides, ignorance, arrogance, fatigue or peer-group pressure can result in backcountry travelers ignoring obvious warning signs. 

Backcountry travelers caught in an avalanche may not fare well. Whether being buried alive and deprived of oxygen for several minutes or being carried over cliffs, into trees, rocks or other large objects, serious injury — or worse — can result. Therefore, an immediate rescue is essential to increasing a victim’s odds of survival. An individual’s beacon helps companions locate him or her quickly, while a probe pole and shovel allow individuals to pinpoint and uncover companions buried in the snow. Backcountry enthusiasts can purchase this equipment from various recreational retailers in Pagosa Springs. 

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center provides daily mountain weather and avalanche hazard forecasts available on the Web at avalanche.state.co.us. Daily forecasts begin in early November and continue through most of May. Backcountry travelers should use this information as a basis for their own risk assessment and trip planning.

Educate yourself. Seek out knowledgeable people, read books, take an established avalanche course and — most important — always pay attention to the clues nature provides, as you travel the backcountry. 

Recommended research:

Good books on avalanches are available at the library, or check information available online at avalanche.state.co.us and avalanche.org.

Also, watch The Pagosa Springs SUN and local outdoor shops for announcements about community avalanche awareness talks from the experts who monitor and forecast local avalanches for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and Colorado Department of Transportation.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Executive Director’s Office, and is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Transportation and the Friends of the CAIC.

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Trails

Back-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing

Lobo Overlook

This route climbs generally uphill for 1.5 miles to the Lobo Overlook, the Continental Divide Trail (and the microwave tower). Skiers will be rewarded with breathtaking views at the top. Snowmobiles are allowed on the forest service road and provide a packed trail for the ascent.

Getting there: Travel 23.2 miles northeast on U.S. 160. Parking and the road to the overlook are north of the highway just past the Continental Divide.

Nipple Mountain Road (Forest Road 665)

In addition to traveling Nipple Mountain Road, there are a few other options in this area. The hardy person with a map and backcountry skills may identify lengthy or loop trips.

Getting there: From downtown, go east on U.S. 160 to the junction with U.S. 84. Travel 1/8 mile south on U.S. 84 and turn left on Mill Creek Road (County Road 302), drive approximately 5 miles to trailhead parking before the junction with Nipple Mountain Road (665).

Blanco River Road (Forest Road 656)

Blanco River Road is closed at the highway. The route generally parallels the river for 2.5 miles from the highway to Blanco River campground.

Getting there: Travel 11 miles south on U.S. 84 to Blanco River Road. Parking is limited. 

Kenney Flats Road (Forest Road 006)

This road through open, fairly level terrain is good for beginners and provides several possible routes.

Getting there: Travel 14 miles south on U.S. 84 to Kenney Flats Road. Parking is located on the east side of the highway.

Williams Creek Area

Open, fairly flat area that is good for beginners. Enjoy spectacular views of mountains and large, open parks. Unplowed road continues past Williams Creek Reservoir to Poison Park and Williams Creek trails.

Getting there: From downtown, travel two miles west on U.S. 160, turn north on Piedra Road. Travel 22 miles, and then turn right on Williams Creek Road, continue to reservoir.

Jackson Mountain Road(Forest Road 037)

Gradual, uphill, 4-mile route to the end of an unplowed road with additional opportunities to travel other roads in the area. Jackson Mountain is a popular area for snowmobiles.

Getting there: Travel 7.3 miles northeast on U.S. 160. Parking is on the left at Jackson Mountain Road.

Wolf Creek Road(On Wolf Creek Pass — Forest Road 725)

There are three access points along approximately three miles of road with some fairly open, moderate terrain in this area. Views are spectacular. This area is popular for snowmobiling. Skiers typically use Lobo Overlook, 1/2 mile east of the Wolf Creek Pass summit, on the north side of the road.

Getting there: To trailhead: Travel 20 miles northeast on U.S. 160 to Wolf Creek Road.

Groomed Nordic skiing Trails

Groomed Nordic ski trails are for classic cross-country skiing and skate skiing only. Other users should avoid groomed surfaces. 

Visit PagosaNordic.com for full trail details. 

Alberta Lake Nordic Loop

A beautiful 10km loop that starts at the end of the Alberta parking lot of Wolf Creek Ski Area and travels through the forest. Wolf Creek Ski Area has groomed this cross-country ski trail for many years with no use fees required.

Ability levels: Beginner 20 percent, intermediate 50 percent, advanced 30 percent.

Special features:

• The Wolf Creek Ski Area grooms up to 10km for skate skiing and classic cross-country skiing.

• The first km is an intermediate access to the Alberta Meadow Nordic loop. Beginners should be aware of the slope and that speed control is needed.

• There is no ability level signage.

Getting there: Travel 24 miles east on U.S. 160 to the Wolf Creek Ski Area. The parking attendant can guide you to the far east end of the Alberta parking lot where the Alberta Park cross-country ski trail begins.

Fall Creek Nordic Trail(Forest Road 039)

Beginning at about 9,600 feet in elevation, this popular ski route climbs gradually for about 5.5km. Great early and late-season snow conditions. 5.5km groomed for cross-country skiing typically groomed early in the season only, prior to other trails opening for the season.

Getting there: Travel 19 miles northeast on U.S. 160 to Fall Creek Road (Forest Road 39). Once cleared, there is a large parking area on the south side of the highway. Avoid parking along highway travel lanes.

West Fork Nordic Trail

With an abundance of flat, groomed and natural terrain, the West Fork area provides fantastic cross-country opportunities for beginners and families as well as experienced skiers. The area offers skiers the chance to ski through stands of giant conifers, as well as scenic views of the valley floor and the headwaters of the San Juan River. 

Ability levels: Beginner 80 percent, intermediate 10 percent, advanced 10 percent.

Special features:

• The Pagosa Nordic Club grooms up to 15km for skate skiing, with set tracks for classic cross-country skiing.

Getting there: Drive 14 miles east of Pagosa Springs on U.S. 160 — look for the Bruce Spruce Lodge sign on the left side of the road. Turn left onto West Fork Road (Forest Road 648). Drive to the end of the road (.25 miles). Park on the side of the road where it is plowed. The trails are groomed exclusively for cross-country skiing. Walkers and snowshoers are prohibited on the groomed trails. 

Coyote Hill

Coyote Hill is another great family and beginner area with three levels of loops. The Pagosa Ranger District grooms up to 14km for skate skiing, with set tracks for classic cross-country skiing. The first level — just off the parking area — offers 3km of beginner, groomed trails. From the main trail, skiers can continue up to the second level for an additional 3km of intermediate terrain. The upper loop offers another 6km of intermediate terrain and 2km of advanced terrain. 

Ability levels: Beginner 20 percent, intermediate 70 percent, advanced 10 percent.

Special features:

• The trails are groomed exclusively for cross-country skiing. Walkers and snowshoers are prohibited on the groomed trails. Snowmobiles are prohibited on Coyote Hill.

Getting there: Drive 6.3 miles north of U.S. 160 on Piedra Road (County Road 600). The trailhead is on the right, just after the cattle guard. Please park in the pull-off if it is plowed.

Cloman Park Nordic Ski Trail

10km groomed by the Pagosa Nordic Club for skate skiing with set tracks for classic cross-country skiing. Located 2 miles north of U.S. 160 on Piedra Road to Cloman Boulevard, then two miles to the trailhead (past airport and sawmill). Friendly dogs welcome, though some portions enter private property, which prohibits dogs. Snowshoeing allowed off of groomed ski trails please.

Ability levels: Beginner 40 percent, intermediate 40 percent, advanced 20 percent.

Special features:

• Close proximity to town and has recently been expanded. Please respect private property and stay on groomed trails. Good parking and portable toilet available.

Laverty Ranch Nordic Ski Trail

10km groomed by the Pagosa Nordic Club. One mile east of town at 2197 E. Hwy. 160. 

Special features:

This area is for Nordic skiing only. Venue is private property and other winter uses are prohibited. No dogs allowed. Beginner terrain is accessible from the parking lot with plenty of intermediate and advanced terrain. Do not park on pavement during business hours Monday-Friday. Pagosa Nordic Club membership or trail-use fee required for this trail use.

Ability levels: Beginner 10 percent, intermediate 40 percent, advanced 50 percent.

Multi-Use Winter Trails

Nordic Skiing • Snowshoeing • Fat Biking • Snowmobiling • And more!

Fourmile (winter) Trail

Follows Fourmile Road (CR 400, FR 645) from the winter closure point to its end.

Length: 4.6 miles.

Trailhead: Fourmile Road (CR 400) at winter closure.

Grooming: Frequently groomed.

Connections: Plumtaw Trail (FR 634). 

Plumtaw Trail

The trail is accessed via the Fourmile (Winter) Trail (FR 645). It follows Plumtaw Road (FR 634) to end at McManus Road (FR 633).

Length: 18.3 miles.

Trailheads: Fourmile Road (CR 400) or McManus Road (FR 633) at winter closure points.

Grooming: Frequently groomed.

Connections: The McManus-E. Toner Connector (5.8 miles) crosses the Middle Fork of the Piedra River. The route consists of a groomed trail to E. Toner Road (FR 637), then follows E. Toner Road to Middle Fork Road (FR 636) and continues southwest to a parking area at the junction with Piedra Road (FR 631).  

East Fork Road(Forest Road 667)

An enjoyable route for one or several miles, this route parallels the East Fork of the San Juan River. It is eight miles to the historic Silver Falls Guard Station. Please stay on the road as it passes through private property. This area sees significant snowmobile use, is groomed occasionally by the Wolf Creek Trail Blazers snowmobile club, and can provide a quality distance ski.

Getting there: Travel 9.5 miles east on U.S. 160, turn southeast on East Fork Road, then continue about 3/4 mile to the parking area at the end of the plowed road. 

Turkey Springs Trail

Length: 8.5 mile loop.

Trailhead: Turkey Springs Trailhead on Piedra Road (FR 631).

Grooming: Occasionally groomed. 

Connections: Monument Trail (FR 630).

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Cross-Country Skiing

Photo: Beth Tollefsen

Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service and the Pagosa Nordic Club

The opportunities for snowshoeing, classic cross-country skiing and skate skiing in Pagosa Country are plentiful, no matter your level of experience. Some trails/areas cater to those attempting the sports for the first time, while others will challenge even the most experienced winter enthusiasts. The routes described are a mix of groomed trails and unplowed, ungroomed Forest Service roads closed to most vehicles except snowmobiles.

The U.S. Forest Service, Wolf Creek Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club, Wolf Creek Ski Area and the Pagosa Nordic Club all work in conjunction with each other to groom trails for the public to use for skate skiing, classic cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.

The Forest Service roads listed below are enjoyed and shared by people on skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles. Check with the Pagosa Ranger District Office in downtown Pagosa Springs or go to PagosaNordic.com to learn more about groomed trail opportunities.

Parking

Parking may present a problem and at times may prevent the use of a particular route. Park considerately, taking no more space than needed to avoid blocking other vehicles or impeding access to trails, and without impeding access for emergency vehicles. Leave room for vehicles and trailers to turn around. Colorado Department of Transportation crews clear parking areas along state highways adjacent to trail access, but their first priority is to clear the road. Avoid parking along highway travel lanes.

Trail etiquette

Cross-country skiers might find all types of winter recreation enthusiasts on trails in the Pagosa Springs area. Please don’t ride fat bikes, walk or snowshoe on groomed trails. Yield the right of way to downhill traffic. Use caution when approaching or overtaking another user. Do not interfere with or harass other users. Do not disturb wildlife. Only friendly dogs under voice control are permitted and all dog defecation should be removed from the ski trail. In addition, pack out everything you pack in.

Safety

Before venturing out onto unpacked snow, take the time to learn emergency procedures and backcountry travel and winter camping skills. Weather and snow conditions can change rapidly in Colorado’s mountains. Plan ahead and know what conditions to expect. Your trip will be much more enjoyable if you are physically and mentally prepared for whatever may arise. Be prepared for medical emergencies and leave a detailed description of your trip plans with a responsible person each time you go. Make sure the person you leave your plan with knows to contact the sheriff’s office if you fail to return. In addition, consider purchasing a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to ensure that the county can recover all of your search and rescue costs. Cards cost $3 for one year or $12 for five years and are available at hunting and fishing license vendors.

Weather 

When planning any backcountry trek, check current and forecasted weather conditions before you leave home and continue to monitor the weather throughout your trip. Dramatic weather changes can occur in minutes throughout Pagosa Country, especially in the mountains. Be informed about avalanche terrain and conditions. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center provides current information on weather and avalanche conditions at http://avalanche.state.co.us.

Stay within limits

Recognize and stay within your limits. Carry the appropriate gear for your trip, including extra clothing, a space blanket, sunscreen, sunglasses or goggles, matches or lighter, extra food and water. If traveling with a dog, carry plastic bags for cleaning up after your pooch. Carry a compass and topographical maps and know how to use them. For backcountry trips, avalanche safety skills and equipment, including a snow shovel, avalanche beacon and probe, are essential. In addition, be prepared to repair equipment and carry a simple field repair kit that includes supplies for common breakdowns.

Visit www.PagosaNordic.com or the Pagosa Ranger District office at 2nd Street and U.S. 160 in downtown Pagosa Springs for up-to-date trail status and conditions.

Recommended equipment

As a general rule, dress in layers so you can add and subtract layers as you become hot or cold. Remember, it can be quite cold in the morning, warm up considerably during the day, and get cold as soon as the sun moves behind the hills or a cloud. Avoid cotton clothing, especially next to the skin. You can be sure that you will get wet from sweat, from falling down, or from snow falling off trees. You may get cold if you stop for any amount of time. The weather may change dramatically if a front is coming in or if it starts snowing. In a group, some items can be shared.

Equipment and clothing

Skis, boots, poles — no-wax skis, maxiglide or other for sticking; waxable skis — waxes, cork, scraper and snow thermometer; sunglasses or glacier glasses; sunscreen; day pack or fanny pack; Swiss army knife; compass; maps; quart-size canteen or wide-mouth bottle filled with water; long underwear (polypropylene or other synthetic); intermediate layer — sweater (wool or synthetic) or shirt (wool or synthetic); windbreaker layer (nylon, 60/40 cloth, avoid garments that are heavily treated with waterproofing); pants or knickers (wool or synthetic, blue jeans are not recommended); socks (wool or synthetic); liner socks; hat (wool or synthetic) — you must be able to cover your ears; high-energy snacks and lunch, if appropriate; toilet paper and plastic bag for used paper; first aid kit; flashlight; vest (down or synthetic) or warmer jacket (down or synthetic); poncho and/or space blanket; extra hats, extra gloves; balaclava or ski mask; neck gaiter; ear band (knit-wool or synthetic); thin polypropylene or other synthetic gloves to operate equipment such as cameras; matches in a waterproof container; candle; whistle; duct tape; ski tip.

Be prepared for avalanche danger

Carry an avalanche shovel, beacon and probe for each person. Always test equipment and make sure all beacons are compatible and have adequate battery power.

Always check conditions with an avalanche forecasting group before going out. Daily avalanche forecasts can be obtained online at www.avalanche.state.co.us or by calling (970) 247-8187. More educational information, including a listing of available training, can be obtained at: www.avalanche.org and www.avalanche.state.co.us (Colorado Avalanche Information Center). 

Maps and trail information are available from the U.S. Forest Service Pagosa Ranger District, 180 Pagosa St. or call (970) 264-2268. 

For grooming reports, trail maps and events information, visit PagosaNordic.com.

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snowmobiling in Pagosa Country

Photo: Michael Pierce Photography

For some, making snow angels just doesn’t cut it for winter fun. Nor does a downhill sled taken to any of the area’s popular sledding destinations. Or soaking in the hot springs as the steam rises around you, immersing you in warmth.

Some need a little more adventure and adrenaline. 

But not to worry, if you want to rev it up, snowmobiling might be the activity for you. 

Pagosa Country offers plenty of opportunities for snowmobile adventures and travel. Thanks to the San Juan National Forest Pagosa Ranger District, among others, there is a wide selection of designated snowmobile routes. The routes follow unplowed forest roads and trails, many of which are groomed by a local volunteer group, the Wolf Creek Trailblazers Club, under authorization of the Forest Service. 

Grooming frequencies vary due to conditions and resources, and most routes are only minimally marked, making route-finding skills, maps, avalanche awareness and good pre-trip planning essential for a safe expedition into the Pagosa backcountry during the winter months.

Trail descriptions have been developed to assist visitors in locating snowmobile opportunities in the Pagosa area. Mileages are approximate and do not represent round-trip distances from trailheads. Please be familiar with the rules, regulations and tips for safe winter travel and be respectful of the other trail users such as bikers, skiers, walkers and snowshoers you’ll see out on the groomed trails.

Rules and regulations

• Cross-country winter travel is generally permitted in the Pagosa Ranger District. However, there are areas in which snowmobiles are prohibited or restricted to designated routes.

• Snowmobiles are prohibited in the Weminuche Wilderness, the South San Juan Wilderness and the Piedra Area.

• Please refer to the San Juan National Forest Visitor Map and reference the area table for information about the location of areas where travel is restricted to designated routes.

• Each over-the-snow vehicle that is operated on public land in Colorado must be registered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Out-of-state residents who bring snowmobiles into Colorado must purchase a Colorado nonresident OHV permit. For more information, contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife at (303) 791-1920 or www.cpw.state.co.us.

• Per Colorado law, it is unlawful to operate a snowmobile on some plowed public roads, including plowed roads located on national forest lands. It is also unlawful to pursue, drive at or otherwise intentionally disturb or harass any wildlife. For more information regarding state law, go to cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/SnowmobileLawRegs.aspx.

Pre-plan and prepare

The Forest Service does not manage or post signs for all hazards. That said, always be prepared for and aware of:

• Changing weather conditions.

• The potential for altitude sickness and hypothermia.

• The need to find your own way or turn back if conditions become too difficult for your skills, ability or equipment.

Avalanche danger

• Carry essential equipment and know how to use it.

• Be familiar with accepted winter travel procedures and rescue techniques.

• Daily avalanche forecasts can be obtained online at http://avalanche.state.co.us or (970) 247-8187.

• More educational information, including a listing of available training, can be obtained at www.avalanche.org.

Route finding

Before setting out on untracked snow, remember that some trails are minimally maintained or unmarked. Route-finding skills are necessary. Always carry maps, such as the San Juan National Forest Map and current topographic maps. Avoid trespassing on private property adjacent to, or surrounded by, national forest lands.

On ungroomed trails, users will be relying upon their own route-finding skills, maps and, perhaps, the knowledge and skills of those who traveled before them.

Parking 

Parking areas may not be plowed; therefore, parking space is often limited and may not be available after snowstorms when snow removal is in progress. Please park considerately without blocking gates or other vehicles.

Grooming conditions

There is not a set schedule for grooming and some trails may not be groomed for an entire season. For information about grooming conditions or to learn how you can help, go to www.coloradosledcity.com and click on “Trail reports/Maps.” When the map loads, select Pagosa Springs, then scroll down through the Groomer Reports.

Search and rescue

In an emergency, call 911. The local sheriff’s office is the lead agency for search and rescue. Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Cards cover search and rescue mission costs, support Colorado search and rescue volunteers. and contribute to well-trained and equipped search and rescue teams. Cards are available at outlets that sell hunting and fishing licenses. Anyone with a current hunting/fishing license, or boat, snowmobile or ATV registration is already covered by the fund.

Pagosa Ranger District Office

For maps and additional information, the Pagosa Ranger District Office is located at 180 Pagosa St. in Pagosa Springs. Call (970) 264-2268 or go to www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan.

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Wolf Creek ski area

Photo: Rosanne Pitcher/Wolf Creek Ski Area

At more than 85 years old, Wolf Creek Ski Area is time-tested. 

Wolf Creek Ski Area is known for having the most snow in Colorado. The unique — yet successful — 2021-2022 ski season had consistent snowfall from October through the end of March with a number of prolific powder days, exceptional conditions and 362 inches of snowfall. 

Wolf Creek is eagerly anticipating a more “normalized” 2021-2022 ski season; however, public health will make recommendations, if any, later this fall and early winter. For more on what to expect during your time on the slopes, visit www.wolfcreekski.com.

Wolf Creek is known for having an exceptional variety of terrain, abundant snowfall and plenty of powder days. Wolf Creek has terrain that ranges from gradual sloping, wide green runs for beginners to excellent expert terrain that will give advanced skiers and boarders an in-bounds backcountry experience. Finding an intermediate groomer to cruise down to start your day isn’t hard to do, and tree skiing is endless.

Wolf Creek is unique in that the location of the ski area is in the beautiful Southern San Juan Mountains, eliminating the frustration of driving on a heavily trafficked corridor to ski. The ski area has the advantage of being located on U.S. 160 near the summit of Wolf Creek Pass, which is a beautiful and well- maintained mountain pass with three and four lanes of highway. 

Photo: Samuel Bricker/Wolf Creek Ski Area

The low-density skiing experience at Wolf Creek Ski Area makes Wolf Creek a destination hot spot for powder hounds, families and new skiers alike. 

Wolf Creek stands out from other ski areas in Colorado not only for being family owned and operated, but for also having affordable lift tickets and lesson options. Adding to Wolf Creek’s uniqueness is the phenomenal homemade food found in all eateries at Wolf Creek and convenient amenities that are complimentary, like paved parking and shuttle services.

For the past several years, Wolf Creek has undertaken construction projects to fine-tune and improve its offerings.

Major lift improvements started in 2013-2014 with the Treasure Stoke, a high-speed detachable quad lift. The previous Ctec Triple Treasure Chair was then transformed the following season to become a refurbished beginner and intermediate lift named Elma, with its purpose of assisting guests in returning to the base area and providing access to an area of the mountain that was previously underutilized. The Lynx, a covered conveyor lift, followed and helped redesign and compliment the novice skiers’ first day at Wolf Creek by transporting guests to the Lynx Adult Learning Center. The introduction of the Charity Jane Express to the Wolf Creek Lift System came in December of 2018, with the high-speed detachable quad benefiting all ability levels and bolstering a previously underutilized 55 acres. 

In the summer of 2019, the ski area added Orion’s Beltway — a trail cut to link both side of the mountain, making it the longest intermediate run at Wolf Creek.

Wolf Creek has always been a leader in maintaining sustainable business practices by purchasing renewable energy, using biodegradable oils in machinery and having water-free restrooms. 

The 2021-2022 ski season will be the 16th season Wolf Creek has used a form of renewable energy year-round, for day and night use. Wolf Creek is also a large supporter of the Penitente Solar Project in the San Luis Valley. 

Wolf Creek furthered environmentally friendly efforts by constructing an onsite electric vehicle charging station.  The charging station offers five connections with one being Level 3 (fast charge) and the remaining four being Level 2 (medium charge).

Additional information can be found on www.WolfCreekSki.com or by calling (970) 264-5639 or 1(800) SKI-WOLF.

Wolf Creek Ski Area Events

Dec. 2 Local’s Day

Dec. 5 College Day

Dec. 6 Local’s Day

Dec. 7 Local’s Day

Dec. 8 Local’s Day

Dec. 9 Local’s Day

Dec. 11 Fun Race

Dec. 24 and 25 Santa Visits Wolf Creek

Jan. 2 New Year’s Day Race

Jan. 9 Fun Race

Jan. 10 Ms. Monday Clinic

Jan. 11 Forever Young Clinic

Jan. 16 Martin Luther King Jr. Race

Jan. 18 Tuesday Turns Clinic

Jan. 19 United Way Day

Jan. 22 Camp Robbers

Jan. 23 Fun Race

Jan. 29 Camp Robbers

Jan. 29 Wolf Creek Giant Slalom Race

Jan. 30 College Day

Jan. 31 Ms. Monday Clinic

Feb. 1 Forever Young Clinic

Feb. 2 Local’s Day

Feb. 5 Camp Robbers

Feb. 6 Fun Race

Feb. 8 Tuesday Turns Clinic

Feb. 9 Local’s Day

Feb. 12 Camp Robbers

Feb. 13 Local’s Day

Feb. 13 Valentine’s Day Race

Feb. 20 President’s Day Race

Feb. 27 College Day

Feb. 27 Mardi Gras Race

Feb. 28 Ms. Monday Clinic

March 1 Forever Young Clinic

March 6 Jane and Pitch Tribute

March 6 Local’s Day

March 6 Tribute Race

March 13 Spring Fling Fun Race

March 20 Fun Race

March 27 Fun Race

March 29 Tuesday Turns Clinic

March 30 Local’s Day

April 2 Wolf Creek Super G Race

April 2 College Day

April 3 Local’s Day

April 3 Tentative Closing Day

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Running with the sled dogs

Photo: San Juan Sled Dogs

If you’re visiting Pagosa Springs during the winter season and looking for an adventure that involves man’s or woman’s four-legged friends, then Pagosa has the answer in two unique and fun businesses that thrive during the winter season.

Those businesses are Mountain Paws Dog Sled Tours and San Juan Sled Dogs. 

Mountain Paws Dog Sled Tours is owned and operated by Joy Marx and her husband, Michael. 

“Basically I have been working professionally for 9 years and before that, it was a hobby for 15 years. I had done a couple of week-long dog sled adventures in Canada,” Marx said. 

Marx runs two sleds and 21 sled dogs. Marx’s husband, Michael, helps out as a substitute guide when they get busy. The couple moved to Pagosa two years ago. 

“We really like it here. We are staying. We are not moving again,” Marx said. 

The sled dogs receive training from the time they are puppies. One of Marx’s dogs, a Siberian named Timber, began his training by greeting people and sitting in the sled.

“The first time I put a harness on him and hooked him up to the gang line, he was really nervous for about 5 seconds and then he said, ‘oh cool, this is what we are doing’ and took off. It’s ingrained, it’s just what they do. They love it,’’ Marx said. 

When it comes to teaching the lead sled dog, it can take a little longer. “Normally we have one of the older dogs kind of train the younger dogs to be a leader,” Marx said.  

  If the snow is less plentiful, Marx can also accommodate guests on tours that are pulled by the dogs in the Navajo State Park near the watchable wildlife pavilion, mile marker 19 off of Colo. 151. 

“I do have a summer cart tour where we teach the people how to harness and hook the dogs up,” Marx said. 

When the snow on the ground is plentiful, Marx likes to take guests on the trails in the Upper Blanco Basin area. 

“It is about 2.5 hours or longer and we go 6 to 7 miles, and what I do is I train the clients to drive the sled themselves. So with my sleds, they are not the big touring sleds, you can have one passenger and one driver per sled,” Marx said. “They get to know the dogs, help with the harnessing and the hookup, they follow me as the guide on the snowmobile and I make sure the people and the dogs are all good and I really get to experience the fun of it that way. It is a little bit more athletic of an adventure.”

  Marx recounted some of her more memorable client experiences. “My youngest solo driver was 9 years old. He was very proud to drive the sled himself with his mom and little brother in the basket.”

   She also noted, “We have had a number of engagements on the trail, That’s always fun! The guys usually make plans with me in advance and I take pictures of him asking. The girls have always said ‘yes.’” 

   You can contact Mountain Paws Dog Sled Tours at mountainpawsdogsledding.com or call (970) 819-5022.     

  For the family or larger group that may also be looking for a dog sledding experience, San Juan Sled Dogs welcomes you.

  Peter Bartels and his wife Morgan Buckingham, who Bartels said,“it’s all her fault” when asked how he and his wife got into the dog sledding business, run the organization. 

Bartels explained that his wife has been dog sledding for about 20 years and they have been running San Juan Sled Dogs for the past 11 years. “I think it’s wonderful, I love being with dogs. It’s challenging work for me, but it’s really her vocation, she is the driving force behind the company for sure,” he said. 

“We actually have two business partners that helped us start the company, Chris and Christina Bouchard. Then we have one part-time employee that helps out a little bit during the off season and while we are in the thick of dog sledding, we have three other employees that work with us. Our busy season is the week before Christmas all the way through spring break if the snow is still flying. We are usually pretty busy through the whole winter as long as there is still snow,” said Bartels

Most of the dogs That San Juan Sled Dogs use are rescue dogs according to Bartels. The company has 50 dogs. “Most of our dogs are Alaskan Malamutes but we do have a number of Alaskan Huskies, too. Huskies are smaller and faster than the Malamutes. We love the Malamutes because they have big personalities and they are super loving and even though they are slower, they are stronger. So, that means we can take out big groups, we can take out a big family of like 10 on a couple of different sleds,” Bartels added. “The great thing is we have all these working dogs who know the deal and so when we have puppies, they first start training with the dogs by running free out on a training run,” 

Once the puppies reach the age of three or four months, “we have these little harnesses and will leave a space open on the team to put the puppies in to run with the team and then we will let them loose again so they are not working too hard,” Bartels noted.

  When Bartels and Buckingham take clients out on a trip, they typically go about 3 or 4 miles. 

“Our first season, I was a little nervous because I hadn’t really done commercial dog sledding, I had done training with Morgan in Montana where we were doing long distance runs but that didn’t involve kids and older folks and everything, just seeing how happy all the people were just to be interacting with all the dogs. A lot of these people just really like hanging out with the dogs after the tour. With our dogs getting that much attention every day from all different kinds of people, I was surprised at how immediately rewarding that was,” Bartels said.

  San Juan Sled Dogs is an all-inclusive experience for everyone, Bartels explained. They do everything for the clients from taking pictures, transportation to and from town and handling large groups or families who just want to enjoy the dog sled ride and enjoy the dogs, too.

 You can contact San Juan Sled Dogs to book a trip by going to their website, sanjuansleddogs.com, contacting Peter via email at peter@sanjuansleddogs.com, or by calling (970) 507-0316.           

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