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Strong holiday season, Wolf Creek breaks record

With 94 inches of fresh powder arriving at Wolf Creek Ski Area just in time for Christmas vacation, record numbers of skiers and snowboarders are flocking to the mountain.

The recent snowstorm increased Wolf Creek’s base from 21 inches to 80 inches at midway as of Wednesday morning, prior to the arrival of a new system.

The increased base depth has treated the ski area well, with Tuesday’s tally of 6,355 snow enthusiasts setting a new record for the ski area, beating the previous high of 6,340 set in March 2006.

While Tuesday was the strongest day in the ski area’s history, the week surrounding Christmas saw high numbers of skiers on the mountain.

On Christmas Eve, 2,656 enthusiasts hit the slopes; 2,238 ventured to the area on Christmas; 2,469 ventured to the mountain on Dec. 26; and Dec. 27 saw an unexpected rise in skiers with a tally of 4,482.

“We expected a day in between to be the intermediate number,” said Roseanne Haidorfer-Pitcher, vice president of marketing and sales of Wolf Creek, but no intermediate day came.

In fact, the ski area projected accommodating only 2,900 skiers on Dec. 27 — 1,600 less than the number who actually showed up.

These numbers are also an increase over last year’s totals.

Over 400 additional people headed to the ski area on Christmas than last year, while over 1,300 additional people showed up on Dec. 28 than one year before.

While numbers are usually high at the ski area around Christmas and New Year’s, the real story remains to be told.

“So far the numbers are running higher,” Haidorfer-Pitcher said, adding that combined with non-holiday times, “it kind of works itself around to be the same.”

Haidorfer-Pitcher added that while equipped to handle the large crowds, Wolf Creek prefers an increased number of moderately high days throughout the season.

And it seems the increased number of people strapping contraptions to their feet at Wolf Creek is translating into hotel rooms and spa trips in town.

Healing Waters Resort and Spa was running at about 50 percent of full until the recent storm struck Wolf Creek, said Angel Stahr. Now, the motel has one room available until Thursday due to a last minute cancellation.

“Last week we did pretty good. This week, we are phenomenal,” Stahr said.

The recently increased numbers place the motel where it usually is in terms of occupancy during the holidays, Stahr said.

Additionally, the Spa has seen “some great pool days,” though the days rank as average for the time of year, Stahr said.

Across the street, The Springs Resort is also running at capacity.

For the week of Christmas and this week, the hotels have been fully booked, said R.D. Whittington, director of sales, adding that they will continue to be fully booked until Jan. 2.

“We’ve been really blessed and we’ve just been slammed,” Whittington said.

Additionally, the resort’s geothermal pools have seen record numbers of guests, with over 200 people at a time soaking next to the San Juan River, Whittington said.

How and if the additional visitors to Wolf Creek and the strong lodging numbers in Pagosa Springs over the holidays result in increased sales tax throughout town will be seen in February when the December sales tax figures are released.

In the meantime, snow continues to fall on Pagosa Country.

The National Weather Service predicts a 100-percent chance of snow with new accumulation of 2-4 inches of snow today and a high near 24 degrees.

Tonight, the chance of snow lessens to 90 percent with an additional 2-4 inches expected and a low near one degree.

Friday, the chance of snow tapers to 60 percent with a high for the day near 12.

Friday night is expected to be mostly cloudy with a frigid low, near -11 degrees.

randi@pagosasun.com