The spruce beetle has changed the scenery at Wolf Creek Ski Area located in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. It only took a few years for the beetle to impact nearly all 1,581 acres of the ski area. The beetle has since moved west, but the damage continues to be a problem. The ski area has been lucky that a fire has not broken out within its boundaries. In 2013 a fire ran through an estimated 109,000 acres on nearby Wolf Creek Pass. Additionally, dead trees are susceptible to falling and injuring skiers and riders. During a single snowstorm, an estimated 20 to 30 dead trees fall.
“It’s a problem, but it’s also part of nature.” -Davey Pitcher, owner of Wolf Creek
This past summer the ski area removed an estimated 4,000 trees killed from the infestation. The project removed hazardous trees, reduced some fire danger, but most importantly made way for a new ski lift and adds new beginner/intermediate trails. The new “Charity Jane Express” eliminates the need for skiers to traverse from Horse Shoe Bowl to Alberta Peak.
Over the next decade, the ski area will continue working on projects to mitigate the threats of fire and reduce the dangers of falling trees.