The Big Wide Empty

Way, way out in the land of powder, the cornices are steeper, the trails go deeper, and the crowds are nonexistent. Where is this mythical kingdom, you ask? Right here in North America.

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Used to be that out West, folks just hiked up their long johns and ambled over to a hill when they wanted to mess around in the snow. Occasionally, they'd rig up a rope tow, or hitch a draft horse to pull a sleigh, or teeter guilelessly over gut-woven snowshoes the size of small dolphins. Back then, the only thing dominating the landscape was the landscape, and the only other tracks belonged to fishers and martens.

On a good day in Montana, things still work this way. Up here, most snow falls where there are no people. Get a few miles off a road and the backcountry is big (really big), beautiful, and alluring. If you crave total solitude, all you need to do is hire a guide and head to any of the state's accessible mountains, like the Bitterroots, the Pintlers, or the Gallatin Range. While I've never seen a fisher, I do have a friend who was chased by a moose once while cross-country skiing on MacDonald Pass outside Helena. Now his dog won't go out with him anymore. Even our small, commercial ski hills tend to cower under heaps of snow, bringing the backcountry experience close to home. Sure, sometimes us Montanans get in the mood for all that French stuff—the après-ski, avant-ski, faux-ski. But most of the time, well, we just like to ski-ski, and the cheaper the better.

If you're hopelessly stuck on slopeside sushi and a place to wear rabbit fur, stick with Colorado. But don't be fooled into thinking Big Hills are the only ones worth skiing. You may ski more miles and more terrain on their overgroomed slopes, but you won't be half as invigorated as when you're negotiating the unruly steeps, trees, and bumps of their Mini-Me Montana cousins at less—sometimes way less—than half the price. Here, where vintage mom-and-pop ski hills still exist next to nearly every town, the powder is pure, raw, and direct, unmediated by designer warming huts or terrain parks, and the midweek dump lasts for days. You'll find powder stashes bigger than all the condos on I-70. And it's not that cold. Really.

Face it: It's high time you answered the call of the great northern backcountry and took the ultimate winter road trip through western Montana, Land of the Last Un-Resort. Throw on those farmer-johns, wrap up a few soggy sandwiches, and hit the highway. But don't forget the snow tires. This year, a blessed one-two punch called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is making some of us very gleeful. La Niña is cooling waters off Mexico—which drive the jet stream north—and warming waters far off the North American coast. Translation: a lot of white stuff in the Northern Rockies. Take a week. Or maybe two…or three…or what the heck, four.

Since this is Montana, why not knock yourself out with a mind-bending view and start your ski journey at Bridger Bowl? (It’s only a 16-mile drive northeast of Bozeman on Montana 86.) You’ll find yourself at the Big Daddy of Montana’s mom-and-pops, with seven lifts, a vertical drop of 2,600 feet, and 800 lift-served acres. Despite the proximity to Bozeman, a good weekend day here attracts only 3,000 skiers, roughly the same number that ride the Orient Express quad at Vail in an hour.

Above the lifts, Bridger’s infamous ridge, called The Ridge—hey, people are plainspoken out here—adds 400 skiable acres of steep rock-wall chutes (among them the dauntingly named Deviated Septum) and alluvial snowfields. (Avalanche transceivers and a buddy are required.) Warren Miller’s early extreme skiing stars grew up here. But for all its muscle, the place is incredibly low-key. Bridger is a nonprofit run by a committee of dues-paying locals determined to fight off corporate takeovers, preserve the base area from condo-mania, and keep skiing affordable. Right on. Every year on the second Friday in January—the anniversary of Bridger’s grand opening in 1954—you can ski for ten bucks. If you decide to stay a few days, check out the Powderhound Package: four nights’ lodging plus four days’ skiing for an extremely thrifty $150.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though; there’s nothing wrong with pampering yourself. Just do it Montana-style, taking a few leisurely days to explore some outstanding, (slightly) flatter terrain. Get in the car and head east on I-90, and then pick up U.S. 89 south at Livingston. After 45 miles of the state’s most dramatic mountain scenery, turn out of Paradise Valley into Tom Miner Basin and up to the classy, yet rustic, B-Bar Guest Ranch. On the northern edge of Yellowstone in the western part of the Absaroka Range, the B-Bar offers spectacular gladed steeps as well as 25 miles of trails groomed by—get this—Suffolk Punch draft horses. If you’re really bushed, you can skijor behind the horses; it’s like waterskiing, only colder. And in keeping with the backwoodsy feel of the place, the lodge is small (it sleeps 34), and the food is homegrown and chemical-free.

OK, enough of all this plush stuff. It’s tele time. Retrace your steps to Bozeman and head west on I-90 to Three Forks. From there, go north on U.S. 287 to Helena and work your way out 24 miles northwest of town on Green Meadow Road to Marysville and a down-home hill called Great Divide. The four lifts at Great Divide creep, and you’ll be looking at the same view all day—the rounded hills of the Big Belt Mountains. Get over it! You’ve landed in telemark turn–honing heaven: After a nice snow, the peripheral terrain between runs like Big Open and Hi-Voltage lovingly mimics the backcountry, with varying steeps, deep untracked snow, and mature trees. Plus there’s a bit of kick and glide at the top and bottom just to keep you honest. On weekdays, lift tickets cost $5 an hour, $24 for the day, and the place is postapocalyptically empty. You’d think the local free-heelers would be all over it, but there’s no one here. Ha! Don’t tell them.

While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the unassuming Alice Creek Ranch, a quick, 46-mile drive on Montana 279 over Flesher Pass and west to Lincoln. Here, on the edge of the Scapegoat Wilderness, $8 will buy you a day pass to 25 miles of skate-groomed trails, and you can rent a modest cabin that sleeps up to six. For an extra fee, the owners will snow-cat you to nearby untracked slopes for tele or alpine skiing through the rolling, Douglas-fir dotted landscape.

Your next stop is the town of Anaconda, famous for several things: an old smelter smokestack taller than the Washington Monument, a very strange black-sand golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, and the beautiful, snow-drenched Pintler Mountains. To get to the peaks, jump on U.S. 12 west out of Helena, pick up I-90 south, and then take Montana 1 to the Discovery Basin Ski Area. A few years ago, this operation doubled its size by bringing lift service to its steep, north-facing backside. The back bowls and chutes stay blessedly ungroomed all year. By March, the bumps are big as half-ton Fords. The gentle front side is ideal for perfecting your fakeys and 360s. Then you can hit the half-pipe. You’ll see guys wearing Carhartts and you’ll ride vintage lifts, one cranked up so fast that it’s like watching laundry fall off a clothesline. But no problem: The lift ops will learn your name and pick up the pieces.

On the other side of the Sapphire Mountains, west of Anaconda, is Lost Trail Powder Mountain, considered the premier powder sink in the state. (To get there, take I-90 going east and follow it to I-15 south. Pick up Montana 43 and head west to the Idaho border.) Straddling the state line at 7,000-plus feet, the slopes here funnel in the flakes—300 inches a year—from steroidal storm systems in both the Pacific Northwest and central Rockies. Even better, the tiny operation—three double-chairs and a rope tow—is closed three days a week, which means the stuff just sits there, waiting for you. “We haven’t done a lot of long-range marketing,” declares Bill Grasser, who’s owned the place for 30 years. “We like it like this.”

It’s nestled in the Bitterroot Mountains, so the views are underwhelming, but the trees and chutes will either keep you grinning or grimacing all day. If Lost Trail feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, that’s because it is—even Lewis and Clark couldn’t figure out the terrain, hence the name. None of the nearest towns—Hamilton, Darby, and, across the state line, Salmon—boasts a population bigger than the Broadway IRT subway on Sunday morning. You might even get lonely. Full-day tickets are only $19.

It’s finally time to head back to Bozeman, but just before you get there, one more detour. Pick up U.S. 191 south and follow it to Big Sky Resort. I know, I know, we said this was a guide to mom-and-pops. So we lied. You’re in western Montana; you can’t leave without skiing Big Sky! It’s big, it’s bountiful, it has steeps off Lone Mountain that will make you cry. Lift tickets are a pricey $52, but consider this your one chance to splurge. If you really feel like indulging, stay at the luxe Lone Mountain Ranch for some serious cross-country skiing and gourmet-food eating—elk medallions and chocolate bread-pudding cake—on your days off. The ranch’s 40 miles of skate- and classic-groomed trails skirt a subdivision now and then, but guides and instructors can lead you up and down the nearby wilderness slopes of the spectacular Spanish Peaks or into Yellowstone, where, if you’re lucky, you’ll cap off your few-frills Montana ski adventure by spotting a moose. Just be sure your dog is up to the challenge.

Outside correspondent Florence Williams lives in Helena. She profiled Eustace Conway in September.

Powder Room

Montana’s glitz-free, low-priced, Mini-Me resorts

Traveling Montana’s backroads in winter requires well-honed Emersonian self-reliance skills. Invariably, your cell phone quits just before an elk forces your SUV into a snowbank. So unless the idea of cannibalizing your ski buds appeals to you, buy a shovel and throw it in the trunk with a sleeping bag and a stash of Clif Bars.

Getting There: Fly directly to Bozeman’s Gallatin Field so you’ll be fresh to battle Bridger’s Ridge Hippies for powder turns in the morning. Delta (800-221-1212) routes flights from Salt Lake City, Northwest (800-225-2525) from Minneapolis–St. Paul, and Horizon (800-547-9308) from Seattle. Dial the Airfield Manager (406-388-8321) for a list of local car rental agencies, most of which offer everything from Subarus to Suburbans. Ski racks go for around $6 extra per day.

Lodging: To take advantage of Bridger’s $150 Powderhound Package, call the hill at 800-223-9609. At the B-Bar Ranch (left), two nights’ lodging, meals, and skiing will run you $400 per person, double occupancy. For reservations, call 406-848-7523. If one day at Great Divide isn’t enough (it won’t be), the Helena Chamber of Commerce (406-442-4120) can provide a listing of local hotels. But take heed: A cabin for six at nearby Alice Creek Ranch (406-362-4810) will set you back only $75. By this point, your body will be screaming for a Montana Whirlpool—otherwise known as hot springs. The Fairmont Hot Springs Resort lets you soak twice, sleep twice, and ski twice at Discovery for $130 per person (800-332-3272). Ski two days at Lost Trail and spend two nights at the Camp Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast (406-821-3508) for $84 per person. Two days’ skiing and two nights’ lodging at Big Sky (800-548-4486) runs $169 per person, double occupancy, in early January. A weeklong cabin-stay at Lone Mountain Ranch (800-514-4644) costs $2,600 for two, $1,665 if you’re solo, and includes meals and skiing; one-day ski passes cost $12.

What’s 126 Miles Long, Ten Feet Deep, and Smells of Herring?

Minnesota’s Gunflint Trail, the longest stretch of groomed wilderness track in America

The locals who ski the Gunflint Trail System in northern Minnesota face an unusual predicament. “By April we get tired of immaculate, groomed trails,” says cross-country ski lodge owner Scott Beattie, “so we have to go crust-cruising in the Boundary Waters instead.” Fortunately, those of us who live farther afield can ski the Gunflint’s 126-mile spiderweb of cross-country runs without suffering any such ennui. Credit an average of 111 inches of chalk–like snowfall a year and temperatures low enough to keep it on the ground from late December through the end of March. Add state-of-the-art grooming machines that carve skating and classical tracks of all skill levels and grind even the chunkiest of crud to perfection. The result: some of the smoothest and most beautiful tracked nordic skiing this side of Telemark, Norway.

Anchored by seven North Woods–chic lodges, the Gunflint system begins at Pincushion Bed & Breakfast, three miles north of Grand Marais off Cook County Road 12. Though isolated from the larger Gunflint network, parts of this southern, 15-mile circuit are worth a quickie ski, especially the 4.8-mile Pincushion Mountain Loop. Huff your way to the summit and take in a 360-degree ridgeline view of Lake Superior to the south, the rugged Sawtooth Mountains to the west, Superior National Forest to the north, and on a clear day, Isle Royale National Park to the east.

Twenty-four miles farther north is Bearskin Lodge, a secluded settlement of cozy log cabins and trailside tepees (above left), and the gateway to the 36-mile Central Gunflint system. Any reasonably fit skier could stay for a week to explore this bounty, but obsessive-compulsives will be happy to know they’ve reached only the tip of the snowy iceberg: A three-mile ski brings you to the 17-mile Banadad Trail, the longest groomed wilderness ski route in the United States and the link to the vast, 58-mile Upper Gunflint network. That’s 111 miles of connected trails that roll through pine- and birch-studded forests, around frozen mountain lakes, and across more than a few new snowfields created by a deadly thunderstorm that downed an estimated 12 million trees last July.

Cross-country skiing may be the region’s winter sport of choice, aside from hockey and gorging on lutefisk, but there’s no shortage of other hibernal pastimes—snowshoeing, dogsledding, ice-fishing, and sleigh riding, among others. Obligingly, the Gunflint Trail Association’s “Guest of All” program allows visitors to stay overnight in one lodge while partaking of activities at the other resorts along the way. But regardless of how you choose to break a sweat during the day, the true test of North Woods valor comes with the evening sauna: He who rolls in the snow longest wins.


For a list of resorts and prices, call 800-338-6932. Boundary Country Trekking (800-322-8327) offers lodge-to-lodge, yurt-to-yurt, and lodge-to-yurt outings: You ski, they provide the skins. Three-night trips start at $382 per person. To ski Banadad and Pincushion you’ll need a Minnesota ski pass, $10 for the year, available at the Pincushion Lodge or Backcountry Trekking; for the privately run Central and Upper Gunflint Trails, day passes are sold at area lodges for $10.

The Tao of Poo

Rogers Pass, where the snow isn’t just deep; it’s deep, man

In the heart of British Columbia’s 330,000-acre Glacier National Park, midway between the towns of Revelstoke and Golden, on a road that twists among the granite spires of the Selkirk Mountains, lies Gunsite, a parking area with a large avalanche gun—the only hint at what lies beyond. Here you’ll want to pull over. Now you’re poised for an in-depth exploration of Rogers Pass, quite possibly the finest patch of backwoods downhill skiing in North America. What determines backcountry greatness? Four factors, all of which Rogers has in spades.

  1. The White Stuff: More than 360 inches of blissfully dry fluff settles down here each winter. My first taste of the rarefied crystals came several winters ago when I dropped into a run called Lookout Notch and was instantly swallowed by a billowing cloud, the flakes glinting like mica in the sunlight, my tracks deep as gopher furrows. The conditions were so fine that my partners, whose snow vocabulary would daunt an Inuit, declared it one step beyond powder—a talc-like exquisiteness called pooder. Poo, for short.
  2. (Relatively) Easy Access: At Rogers, you gain your first foot of vertical when you step out of the car. From Gunsite, you’re within striking distance of runs like Dome Glacier and the wondrous Seven Steps of Paradise. Three miles down the road at the Glacier Park Information Center lies the trailhead to Ursus Minor Basin, Balu Pass, and Grizzly Shoulder, each offering nearly 3,000 vertical feet of continuous slopes that can be tackled in an energetic half day. Just make sure you bring your chains so you can get out when you’re done.
  3. Serious Terrain: The three vast valleys of Rogers Pass—the Asulkan, the Illecillewaet, and the Connaught—are graced with everything from wooded glades to smooth bowls and immense steeps. And the runs are seemingly bottomless. Out here, the notion of crossing someone else’s tracks borders on heresy.
  4. First-Rate Shackability: Intrepid souls can set up camp if they like, but most will want to leave the dirigible-size backpacks at home. Rogers Pass features four cabins run by the Alpine Club of Canada that can handle 12 to 24 skiers and come equipped with wood-burning stoves, firewood, propane cooking stoves, and lanterns. The Asulkan cabin ($12.50 per person per night) is ideally situated at the base of the Seven Steps run—about a four-hour trip south from the Gunsite parking lot—and has large picture windows. Attention, car campers: Wheeler Hut, which sleeps 24 ($15 per person), has a full kitchen and is an easy 20-minute ski from the parking lot; I’ve seen people skinning up to it with a case of Molson under each arm.

Rogers is so expansive that the superior snow will undoubtedly go much further than your provisions, so the trip usually takes on an organic rhythm: Ski back to Gunsite, drive to town for a resupply, head back in to the bowls. Repeat. Follow this simple plan and you, too, may discern the Tao of poo. 


Rogers Pass, 200 miles east of Calgary, is skiable from December to April; March has the lightest snows and best weather. Warning: This is wild, unforgiving terrain. Skiers inexperienced in backcountry touring techniques should hire a guide. Canmore, Alberta–based Yamnuska Inc. (403-678-4164) leads trips for $200 per day for one person, plus $35 for each additional skier. To blaze your own trail, order the composite Rogers Pass map from Mountain Equipment Co-Op ($12.50; 403-269-2420). Avalanches are a constant danger, so probes, shovels, and transceivers are essential; for a recorded avalanche bulletin, call 250-837-6867. For cabin rentals, call the Alpine Club of Canada (403-678-3200).


Dodging trees, not crowds, at Vermont’s Jay Peak

There’s only one way to ride an ice-encrusted chairlift in the middle of a frigid winter gale: the fetal position.

So I tuck my nose in my collar and remind myself of the two perfectly sensible reasons for risking midair hypothermia on this particular day. First, I’m at Vermont’s Jay Peak, home of the best lift-served tree-skiing in the country. Second, it’s the first decent storm of the season on a mountain that gets an average of 332 inches of cold powder straight out of Alberta every year—more snow than many resorts in Colorado see. For those two reasons alone, I will shiver, I will bury my face in my gloves, I will endure. Three years of western skiing have made me a sissy; it’s time to toughen up.

Teeth chattering like maracas, I leap from the chair, straighten my semi-frozen torso, and swing my arms and legs to push some blood into the more numb extremities. Suddenly I see four ponytailed telemarkers skating uphill. Nobody skates uphill at a ski area unless they’re going somewhere special, so I file in behind them. Stealthily as Mohawk scouts, the free-heeled four dip under a rope and ski into the woods. What else can I do but follow?

This, after all, is woodland-skiing paradise. Sitting just seven miles from the Canadian border in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Jay Peak is blessed with 20 pristine glades ranging from moderately difficult terrain (Beaver Pond Glade, Buck Woods) to sphincter-clenching steeps (Valhalla, Vertigo)—2,153 feet of heavily wooded vertical in all. A silviculturist might look up the mountainside and see ordinary northeastern hardwoods, but New England’s hard-core skiers and snowboarders know that the trees of Jay are like no others on earth: not so tight you can’t ski the fall line, not so loose you forget you’re in the timber. And thanks to a Herculean cleanup after 1998’s infamous ice storm, the forest floor is clean, clean, clean, which means you can go fast, fast, fast.

And I realize, perhaps a little too late, that that’s exactly what I’m doing now. While the storm rages on the trails, the snow falls softly among the trees, which enhance my depth perception and boost my confidence despite the whiteout conditions. The first few turns aren’t really turns at all, but sheer drops off a series of four-foot-high steps. By the fourth step I’m going much too fast, blurring past balsam firs, sugar maples, birches, and telemarkers.

It almost makes me want to return to the fetal position. Then I remember the advice a better skier once gave me: “Don’t look at the trees, look at the spaces between the trees. Ski to the exits.” Logic and experience tell me my exits will run out, but here on Jay they don’t. I float through the natural slalom course until my quads burn and a decidedly less Zen mantra enters my head: “Ski good or eat wood.” Not relishing the thought of tapping sap from a sugar maple with my teeth, I cut hard to stop, lean on my poles, and suck arctic air into my lungs between laughing fits. So what if I can’t feel my face on the next chairlift up? I’m going back into the woods for more. 


Jay Peak Resort is completing a $3.6 million expansion project, including construction of the Northeast’s longest high-speed quad chairlift, that should be running by opening day in mid- to late November. To help fund it, prices will jump by five bucks to $49. However, Jay accepts Canadian currency at par for lift tickets, so convert your cash and save 30 percent. For details on lodging and tickets call the resort at 802-988-2611; for guided backcountry tours ($45 per person) call the Jay Peak Ski School at 802-988-2611, ext. 8298.

Walking on Water

Laying mega-tracks in Adirondack snowshoe country

If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Granted, it’s not an earth-shattering revelation, but for those dedicated to feeling the burn as they trudge across the tundra, it’s this deceptively simple philosophy that keeps the mind and body flowing—especially when bounding across mammoth drifts and frozen lakes, shuffling up mountains, and shambling like Sasquatch through stands of ice-encrusted trees. And there’s no better place to strap on the raquettes, as the French Canadians say, than the St. Regis Canoe Area, in New York’s Adirondack Park, a designated wilderness area with 58 lakes linked by 23 miles of carry trails and fire roads.

There are a lot of stomping grounds in St. Regis, but the least trampled and most rewarding may be the ten-mile section of the Nine Carries Canoe Route that starts at the Saranac Inn area—so-called because it was once the site of a large resort—four miles from Lake Clear Junction on Route 30, behind the state fish hatchery. Take the unplowed road (there’s only one) to Little Clear Pond and head north on the wind-packed snow of the western shore—better footing than the clear ice of the open lake—and pick up the carry path to St. Regis Pond. Walk on the softer, deeper snow of the rolling half-mile trail; it’ll be slower going, but you’ll get first crack at unsullied deer, otter, coyote, and ermine tracks. When you reach the lean-to on the headland to the west of the pond, you’ll get your first glimpse of 2,873-foot St. Regis Mountain, looming to the north. Plot your summit assault later; the task at hand is to tromp over St. Regis Pond, Ochre Pond, and Fish Pond and through the 150-foot old-growth-pine stands in between. Once you’re past the frozen water of Fish, march another three miles southeast over the state fire road and you’ll be back at the hatchery. Scramble the final two miles north on Route 30 and you will reach your cave-like lair—or at least the closest approximation, Hohmeyer’s Lake Clear Lodge. 


Snag a copy of Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, published by ADK, before you go. Blue Line Sport Shop (518-891-4680) in Saranac Lake, 15 minutes from the trailhead, rents Sherpa snowshoes for $10–$15 per day, depending on the model. Doubles at Hohmeyer’s (800-442-2356) cost $110–$125; lakeside suites with fireplace and hot tub go for $135–$250.

Enter the Snow Vault

Thirty-three feet a year. That’s all you need to know.

Kingsbury Pitcher’s wife forbids him to snowboard. At 80, Kingsbury has had decades to hone his independent streak as the owner of southern Colorado’s Wolf Creek Ski Area, one of the first resorts to welcome snowboarders. But on this issue he seems to be out of luck. “I’d catch him playing around with my gear a few years ago,” says his 26-year-old grandson Kalei Pitcher, a former sponsored rider. “But now she won’t have it after his hip replacement.”

Pitcher and his resort were virtually going it alone at first. Snowboarding took nearly a decade to earn acceptance from most ski areas. (At this point the only antiboarding holdouts in the U.S. are Alta, Aspen Mountain, Mad River Glen, and Taos.) But Wolf Creek’s freakishly profuse 465-inch annual snowfall (the most of any Colorado resort) and steep backcountry terrain (1,604 feet of vertical drop) earned it high marks from snowboard pioneers who trekked to contests there back in the eighties. These days Kalei and top pros like Todd Richards and Kevin Jones can’t get enough of Wolf Creek and its consistently bountiful early-winter conditions. “I’d rather just stay here,” says Kalei, “and know I’m going to get it good.”

Good is most definitely an understatement for Wolf Creek’s enormous annual snow crop. It lies in a horseshoe-shaped cluster of mountains in the San Juan Range that serves as a dumping ground for moisture-rich clouds as they race out of Baja across the southwestern United States and smash into the Continental Divide. Wolf Creek encompasses just 1,500 acres, with 30 miles of trails, but the quality ride more than compensates for the mountain’s diminutive quantity: It’s riddled with gladed runs that break out into the deep landings of bowls and cliff drops. Knife Ridge, a patrolled, 500-acre backcountry area where radical behavior is encouraged rather than cited, will soon have lift access (pending Forest Service approval), adding considerably more expert acreage to Wolf Creek’s mix.

After eight hours of spinning heelside off basalt ledges, your knees will inform you it’s time to pack it in. Wolf Creek lacks overnight options, but The Spring Inn, a hotel and spa just 24 miles down the road in Pagosa Springs, provides healing waters. While the Bogner-suited crowd up north jostles for macchiatoes, you’ll be woozily ensconced in a hot tub, anticipating the next day’s glorious powder run and hoping to bump into Kingsbury, off fiddling with one of Kalei’s old freestyle boards on a far-off knoll where Mrs. Pitcher can’t find him.


Wolf Creek (800-754-9653) is an hour’s drive from Durango, five hours from Denver. Lift tickets cost $37 for a full day, $27 for a half-day. Soak your mogul-throttled bones at The Spring Inn (doubles, $77; 800-225-0934).