“ I love driving snow cats I’ll tell ya that, I love snowboarding more, but driving snowcats is a close 2nd place, I feel lucky everyday I get to do this” says Bob Vita, while driving the Snowcat, ferrying a group of eager Aspen powder hounds to the top of South Bowl.
It’s late January and Colorado is experiencing one of the driest winters in years. The San Juans are one of the few mountain ranges in the state that is actually receiving any snow so far this year. San Juan Snowcat located in Creede Colorado is one of the lucky places this season.
Our day begins at 7am at the Old Miners Inn located on Main Street in downtown Creede Colorado. We’re met with a breakfast pizza spread that would spoil a king.
After a short introductory meeting we’re off to the cats to being our day skiing untamed terrain in the San Juan Mtns of Colorado. Our skiing starts with the customary “1st run” that the guides use to determine the ability level of the group.
The run went well until our tail guide caught an edge/found a rock and crashed face first into some scrub oak. Really there’s nothing better than to get your guide to crash right off the bat, makes for a good day of jokes.
As we ski through the Blue bird day we hit South Bowl for a few high Alpine cornice runs and eventually end our day in the pillowy trees of Ptarmigan Meadows. We found the meadows to hold the pow the best due to its aspect and tree shading.
On a true powder day this area would rock. San Juan Snowcat’s lease in the Rio Grande national forest is about 35,000 acres and full of challenging and powder filled terrain. San Juan Snowcat boast the highest access in north America at 13,250 ft above sea level.
The day ends back at the Old Miners Inn for some hard earned beers and some of the best High altitude Pizza this skier has ever had. Seriously great crust and toppings cooked to perfection. Making Pizza is Bob’s 3rd favorite thing in the world.
Our second day starts out much the same as the first with more gourmet breakfast pizza, and another customary introductory safety meeting. My cohort and I skip out early and head up to the cat to get a jump on the group and get prepared for another long day of lung busting altitude and quad busting runs.
This day is even more beautiful than the first with brilliant blue skies the color of which we’d never seen before. The wind is virtually nonexistent and the calm at the mountaintop is somewhat eerie.
After our assessment run we head to North Bowl and track that up for most of the day. We get another soft run through Ptarmigan trees/meadow, which is still plenty soft even after yesterdays warm blue bird day.
On the way back to the Old Miners Inn after another exhausting day of high Altitude skiing we cross paths with two of the largest Bull Elk I’ve ever seen. I think I could of laid down between the tines of their antlers with out touching the tips. A great sight after a great day of skiing.
Another evening is spent at OMI swapping stories with the locals and stuffing our selves with more of Bob’s great pizza. He tells us he has to use two different recipes for dough, one for the winter and one for the summer.
I look forward to getting back down to Creede in the summer for some excellent trail running and mountain biking.
After filling ourselves with enough Pizza and fine crafted Colorado beers we headed back to South Fork Colorado to the Rio Grand Club. The Rio Grand club offers high quality vacation rental Condos up to five bedrooms.
Brunch is available Sunday mornings at the clubhouse just up the street from the condos. The selection is plentiful and diverse. The bacon is fantastic! Amenities at the club include a hot tub and work out area within walking distance to the condos and are a great wind down after a long day on the cat.
The Rio Grande club also offers excellent golf and private gold medal fishing access on the Rio Grande River just out side of South Fork Colorado. Wolf Creek ski area is only 17 miles from the club one of if not the deepest ski area in Colorado.
So plan a day at Wolf Creek while on your trip, may just be surprised with another excellent Colorado Powder experience.
The town of Creede has a few lodging options but nothing as nice as the Rio Grande Club. However John Wayne did enjoy visiting the town and always stayed at Bruce’s Snowshoe lodge, his room is also available to rent but call ahead for a reservation.
Since most of our time was spent either skiing or drinking beer at the OMI we didn’t get to find out much more about Creede. The people are very friendly and accommodating and always eager to share a good story or a joke.