Located in Colorado’s far south and west aspects, the town is near the four-corners region uniting Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. A charming community near some rather vertical mountains, its origins is owed to the small scale railway, which continues to make token runs through the immediate area honoring its origins as a narrow gauge train to Silverton and the local mining. Nearby Mesa Verde National Park protects and preserves the Native American history found there. Built in 1965, the ski resort was formerly (and is often still) known as Purgatory and has since undergone an official name change to Durango Mountain Resort.
The mountain itself is generously apportioned for the intermediate skier. Beginners will also find the trails appealing, and it lends itself well to the transition from beginner to intermediate skier. Knowing their clientèle, the ski instruction is geared towards beginning and intermediate skiers as well. The more engaging expert ski runs are best found at other locations. That said, the lack of lift lines means a lot more runs and fun for your vacation, and ample opportunities to improve your skills. Of course, as is the case with any of the Colorado ski resorts, the ski patrol are consummate professionals and will see to the safety of all the mountain’s guests. There is a terrain park that provides plenty of air for the adrenalin enthusiasts, and provides beginners with a place to experience those first jumps. All in all, it’s a fun, comfortable mountain to ski.
Though it’s in the southern aspect of Colorado, visitors should still dress for skiing. Light layers of clothing and a powder jacket, something breathable and waterproof, are advised, as are neck and boot gators. The mountain gets an average of 260 inches of snow per year (and has snowmakers available). With a base at over 8,700 feet, you’re still going to feel the cold, and at the 11,000+ peak the wind chill alone can be a shock to the system, so come prepared for alpine skiing and shed layers as needed.
This area is also known as a college town and the nightlife is bound to reflect that aspect. Many classically trained chefs enjoy the area for the diversity of activities and culture found there, and so one can be in for a real dining treat. The town also sports its own brewery; Steamworks, known for craft beers and a unique combination of southwestern and Cajun cuisine, is a popular watering hole especially during happy hour. There are pizza places, where one can grab a slice and watch ski movies. Of course, the live music scene is always a part of a ski town’s après ski. A trip to Mesa Verde National Park’s ruins and a ride on the Narrow Gauge railroad are both unique experiences not to be missed, so allow an extra day or two for them.
The mountain gets 260 inches, has 10 lifts including two high-speeds lifts to over 80 trails, with a longest run of over 10,000 feet and is rated 23 percent beginner, 51 percent intermediate, and 26 percent advanced.
Paradise Freestyle Arena has 10 consecutive hits with a 50-foot competition jump and jibbing features with boxes, a rainbow rail, two street rails, a balance beam and a 45-foot S-rail. The halfpipe is 400-feet long with 15-foot walls. The big attraction at Purgatory is the natural snowboarding. The locals head for the Legends lift, but if you’re looking for trees, go on Poet’s Glade or Paul’s Park. On the front side, you’ll likely find deep, deep powder at Styx. Upper Hades and Lower Hades are a renowned steep mogul field that, along with Pandemonium and Catharsis, can challenge even the most experienced snowboarder. If you want to carve, try Paradise and Sa’s Psyche. Take the Engineer lift to Demon, which is a gully that features a fully natural halfpipe.
At the Ski Concierge in the Purgatory Village Center, you can book activities such as winter fly-fishing, tubing, snowmobiling, and dinner sleigh rides. Trimble Hot Springs is eight miles north and you can enjoy natural mineral springs that fill two outdoor therapy pools, one heated to 90 degrees F and the other to 105. You can also dip into a heated outdoor 50-meter pool. Ride the snowcats with The San Juan Ski Company to 35,000 acres of virgin powder. El Diablo tours the San Juan Mountains near Silverton. Both are must-dos. You can also take a ride back in time on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, founded in 1880.
The Schoolhouse Cafe is the local hangout. Carver’s Brewing Co., Steamworks, and Lady Falconburgh’s Barley Exchange have the microbrews on tap and the large groups of students from Fort Lewis College. El Rancho is a tradition, while The Wild Horse Saloon has dancing and live music. Visit Solid Muldoon’s and Coloradaponga for a game of pool. The Diamond Belle Saloon is great for 1890’s style entertainment.