Living in Colorado as an avid snowboarder, you would probably think everything is nice for me being around some of the best resorts on the planet. My main problem: I hate those places. They’re overcrowded, overpriced, and frankly, not very fun.
I’ve always preferred the mid-sized ski areas that are a bit more off the average person’s radar. These places, with better value, crowds, and (in my opinion) terrain, can be a hidden gem amongst the competition. Other times, there’s more to the story about why these places are left more undisturbed.
It was 2011. The snowfall we had that season was quite mediocre. None of the ski areas anywhere seemed to be getting snow. The base depth at all of them was less than two feet, and it was already December! Browsing through some snow reports one day, I found an interesting little ski area that had nearly twice the snow versus everywhere else. A little place called Wolf Creek.
It was astounding. Everyone else had less than two feet, and here was this ski area with over four feet of snow! I naturally got a bit excited, and decided to look a bit more into the ski area. The trail maps I found on the website looked promising; it was small, but it seemed to have a lot of different terrain. The area seemed to be split down the middle in terms of what it offered; the northern half had all the basic runs, and the southern half was almost more of a backcountry style area, with just one chair and a majority of the runs requiring a decent hike.
Overall, it looked quite promising, and would be a fun place to visit. I asked my roommate Dalton if he wanted to come with me over the weekend.
“No way, man. Not going there.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“You want to have fun with the Wolfman, go ahead.”
“Quit trying to scare me and tell my why you don’t like it.”
“My friend went there a few years back and swore he saw this massive black creature lumbering through the trees off one of the runs.”
“You know, I think I’ve seen them too; they’re called bears”, I laughed back.
“No, he said it was definitely not a bear. He claimed it almost looked like some sort of…it’s hard to explain.”
“What, a werewolf?” I joked.
“It’s not really that, he just called it the Wolfman because of where he was. I won’t go, and that’s final.”
Not wanting to go to Wolf Creek by myself (I’m not scared, it’s just more entertaining with a group), I decided to call up my friends, Spencer and Christian. They emphatically said “yes” before I even finished asking.
That Friday, I loaded my gear into my truck, picked up Spencer and Christian, and drove down south to Wolf Creek. It’s a bit out of the way; four hours away from where I lived, not near any really major towns, off a highway in a bit of a desolate area. Slightly unnerving, but nothing major; most of these moderate places are a bit away from civilization.
We got our lift tickets and began messing around the northern half; the other parts could wait a bit. We breezed through a lot of the runs in about two hours thanks to the low crowds. I split off from Christian and Spencer for a bit to play around on one of the shorter runs. Just a little blue run called Kaa that met up with the original trail further down. It was an undulating run with a lot of dips; executed correctly, most of these bumps could yield a little air. Naturally, I was enjoying these jumps, and almost didn’t see the mess in the trees near the end of the run.
I only noticed because some of the snow where I landed was a pinkish tone that got darker as it moved into the trees. A rabbit’s remains were messily strewn about several feet off the run. It was quite freaky, but I brushed it off. There are quite a few predators out here, so I assumed it was just a fox. That was until I looked a bit closer. All the meat from the rabbit was still present; the rabbit had not been hunted for food, something just eviscerated it for the sake of killing it. Maybe the fox had rabies and was starting to go insane? Or maybe it was…no, I won’t go there!
I didn’t tell Spencer or Christian about the rabbit after we met back up. What would I tell them anyways? “Hey guys, I just found this really creepy disgusting thing in the woods that might be a sign of something really screwed up, want to go back for another run?”
After messing around for a few hours, we decided to hit up the other half; the more extreme areas with trees, cliffs, and whatnot. Not only that, less patrol and ski area atmosphere. I will say this area had some of the best ski area terrain I’ve ever experienced. The cliff drops were exhilarating, the tree runs were fantastic…one of the moments I truly felt alive.
And then I found another one. This time it was a skunk. Whereas the last one seemed like a fox or other animal could have done it, this seemed like…there was intent to it. The skunk’s head was smashed in, and it was sliced down the middle with its organs spilling from the cut. Christian and Spencer were with me this time, and they were truly disgusted. Only then did I tell them about the rabbit I found earlier.
“Okay, that’s really twisted. The hell do you think is doing this?” Spencer asked.
Christian began to reply with “Maybe it’s the Wolfma-“
“NO!” I shouted. “We aren’t falling for this cryptology-crap! Someone’s just…messing with us. I told a few people I’d be here today; maybe they’re just trying to perpetuate this bull.” I definitely didn’t convince them, and I’m quite sure I couldn’t convince myself this was the truth.
Christian offered a solution to try and get the skunk and rabbit from our minds.
“How about one more run?”
He said he wanted to go to one of the most remote parts of the ski area: Horseshoe Bowl, which required a 45 minute hike from the chair. Spencer and I reluctantly agreed to go with him.
The access gates to the terrain closed a few minutes after we got through, leaving us with about an hour or so of sunlight; we had to hike fast and get out before the sun set, plus with the crap we’ve been seeing today, I wouldn’t want to be stuck here at night.
While great on the board, I’m terribly slow at hiking, especially in deep snow and high altitude. Thus, the estimated 45 minute hike turned into an hour. The bowl was great, but I couldn’t really appreciate it under the constraints we were facing. With the sunlight fading fast, we decided to try and cut through the trees at the bottom of the bowl to save some time.
Naturally, we got a bit turned around in the trees. We had essentially lost our race with the sun, and our brilliant little shortcut totally backfired when we were plunged into near total darkness. The temperatures dropped way low, and wind started to pick up, almost howling. There was no other option; we had to find our way out before we froze to death. And let me tell you, trying to snowboard through the trees essentially blind becomes a lot more terrifying when it’s a choice between that or dying.
Christian was ahead when we saw him vanish. Well, I guess the darkness began playing illusions, because he just went off a small cliff.
Then Christian screamed. Strained, horrified, and bloodcurdling. He was obviously terrified at something, but what?
Spencer and I found Christian with his leg snapped. Guess he broke it from going off that cliff. Natural reaction to such an injury. But it was what I saw afterwards that made me realize why he was screaming so much.
A deer. Completely skinned, hanging from a branch, with its entrails removed and neatly lined up at the base of the cliff. Blood was smeared onto the rock face, but the darkness prevented me from seeing if it was actual writing. I would have tried to analyze it more if the saplings nearby hadn’t started shaking.
We tried to calm Christian after we heard the rustling. Whatever was out there, we couldn’t afford to give it our location. The rustling got louder, and Christian began hyperventilating more and more.
Fortunately, it was just a squirrel scampering around the trees. No big deal, thought it would be a little more along the lines of—
Snow began crunching. Heavy breathing became more audible. Whatever had been doing this had found us. We unstrapped our boards and tried to hustle down the hill. Carrying Christian while running for our lives in deep snow was a real burden, and the noises behind us started gaining. Closer and closer with every step, until I could feel it breathing down my neck.
It struck with full force. A massive deformed hand reached between me and Christian and threw me off my friends. The darkness prevented me from seeing the thing’s details, so I can’t really tell you about its appearance, other than being massive (at least ten feet tall), roughly shaped like a disproportionate person mixed with who knows what kind of animal. I had to try and get it off my friends, so I hastily made a snowball and pegged the creature in the head.
It wrenched its head around and stared at me with a most grotesque grin spreading across its face. My image in the pale moonlight reflected in its eyes, its face coming closer and closer to me until I could smell its wretched breath. I had gotten the creature’s attention off my friends, but now it was fixed on me. Really wished I had planned it through more.
I tried inching back, but that set off the beast. It let out an insane cackle/roar and attacked. I saw its massive fangs within inches of my face as its massive hand smashed into my face.
And then I woke up in a hospital bed, hooked up to all sorts of machinery. I guess the thing knocked me out, as I have no idea what happened after the blow. The doctors came in and told me what happened.
“Ski Patrol heard screams from the mountain and found you at the bottom of a cliff with a fractured skull and deep lacerations. They brought you here, and we wasted no time. You’ve just come out of massive reconstruction surgery to rebuild your skull. With the damage we repaired, it’s extremely lucky you’re alive.”
“What happened to Spencer and Christian?” I asked.
“Who? Ski Patrol only found you up there. There were no signs of anyone else in the area.”
“What about the deer, and the blood on the cliff? What about that thi—“
“Calm yourself, delusions can be a side effect of the anesthesia you’re coming off of.” With that, the doctor left.
I still bear the scars from the surgery on my forehead, and I still have three cuts going diagonally across my abdomen. Spencer and Christian haven’t been heard from, and repeated searches of the area have constantly yielded no promising results or leads. I can’t think of my sacrifices in vain, and I can’t give up on them. Whatever this “Wolfman” is, it’s probably still out there. And it’s waiting for a new quarry. Keep track of yourself when you’re in these places. You never know what’s watching you.