Purgatory/Durango Mountain Ski Areas
- Ski Areas: Purgatory, Durango Mountain Resort
- Population: 12,430
- Road and Weather Conditions: (970) 247-3355
- Snow Report: (970) 247-9000
- Annual Snowfall: over 250″
- Ski Season: Thanksgiving-April 4
- Chamber of Commerce: (970) 247-0312
- Durango Area Chamber Resort Association: (800) GO-DURAN
- Average Cost 1-bedroom Apartment: $500
- Lift Ticket Prices:
- Local Newspaper: Durango Herald, (970) 247-3504
When describing this Colorado ski resort area, one uses a lot of “uns”: unspoiled, unpretentious, and uncrowded. It has a welcoming appeal and great skiing. Purgatory Village sits at the base of the mountain, and the town of Durango is twenty-five miles down the road. Durango is a charming, Victorian-style Southwestern railroad town, and Purgatory has contemporary hotels, condos, shops, and restaurants. Between the two, there is every amenity imaginable. The resort is liveliest during spring break (March and April) because hundreds of college students pack the place for sun, spring skiing, and partying. A lot of entertainment and events are scheduled during this time, creating additional employment opportunities.
Purgatory-Durango seems to have record snowfalls each year, a statistic that is almost topped by its record number of blue-sky days. The mountain has 62 trails that offer skiing for everyone from beginners to experts.
Beginners are given free lessons before they are left on their own. The mountain gives skiers a unique rollercoaster ride; there are stretches of level ground, then a plunge, level, plunge! The varied terrain is a result of glacial activity from over one million years ago, which left narrowly terraced mountainsides loved by expert skiers because they can catch serious air. Beginners and intermediates appreciate the break between one dip and the next. The mountain also has one of the top three disabled ski programs in the nation. The Durango Nordic Ski Club grooms sixteen kilometers of cross-country ski trails which run through thick forests to the base of the 13,000-foot-tall Needle Mountain Range.
Skiers at Purgatory-Durango step into Dante’s fourteenth-century epic The Divine Comedy when they encounter the unusual names of the mountain’s ski runs: Hades, Divinity, Limbo, Salvation, Cherub, and Angels Tread. The names are given according to each run’s difficulty. Experts plunge into the snow on Catharsis, Styx, or 666 and pray they see the light of day at the end.
For a break from skiing, try a guided tour, a daytime sleigh ride, or ice skating. There are also areas for ice fishing, winter camping, guided fly fishing, soaking in hot springs, and swimming (in a heated pool).
There are several festivals and dances of indigenous people in late spring and summer, including the weekend-long Ute Bear Dance celebrating spring. Contact the Tribal Affairs Office at (970) 563-4525 for details. Whitewater rafting, mountain biking, fishing, hiking, swimming, and horseback riding are all readily accessible in Durango. Contact Durango Chamber Resort Association at (970) 247-0312 for information on services.
Mesa Verde National Park, an area once inhabited by Anasazi Indians, is located thirty-seven miles from Durango. The park contains major Anasazi dwellings, numerous finger canyons, hiking trails, and wildlife. Also near the ski area is Four Corners National Monument where you can stand in four states (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico) at one time.
Three places in Purgatory draw the après-ski crowd: Farquahrt’s Pizza and Bar has lively music, Mesquite’s is mellow, and Sterling’s is quiet. In addition, there are various Irish pubs, jazz bars, and other hot spots in Durango. For a new twist, go to town for the Trimble Hot Springs, where natural mineral hot springs heat up an Olympic-size pool. They also have private hot tubs available. Many restaurants can be found in Durango, from fine dining to casual cafés.
Purgatory-Durango is served by the Durango/La Plata County Airport, forty miles south of the resort. There are direct flights from Phoenix, Albuquerque, Dallas, and southern California, or you can fly into Denver and catch a transfer. Check with GP Express, United Express, America West, or Mesa Airlines for flight information for your area. Transportation to the resort from the airport is available only by renting a car at the airport or by hotel shuttle if you are staying at one. Tire chains are recommended.
In winter the city operates a shuttle that runs roundtrip from Durango to Purgatory for $7. Some hotels and motels have their own ski shuttles, and the Durango Lift ski shuttle also regularly serves Purgatory and Durango. Call (970) 259-LIFT for more information.
Space around the mountain can be limited in the peak season, so plan early. Keep in mind that prices in Durango can be cheap if you don’t mind being twenty-five miles from the ski area. There are also thirteen private campgrounds and thirty-three San Juan National Forest campgrounds in the vicinity.
The major resort employers in the area are the Purgatory-Durango Resort, with a maximum 700 full- and part-time employees, and the Tamarron Resort with 505 employees.