Westword's Guide to teh '96-'97 ski and snowboard season

Two years later Langfitt was working as a ski instructor. Then, seven years ago, he and his wife, Cathy, opened their own business, which lets them make their own hours and get out on the slopes as much as possible. And like many couples, they agree on some of the best runs on the mountain and disagree about others.

Brian's favorite cruiser is Bill's Run. "It's almost two miles long," he says. "It's fun to let rip on." Cathy prefers Equalizer because it has a face on it and "some nice steepness to it." They both revere the West End, though. "That's an extreme area they just opened a couple of years ago," Cathy says. Brian adds, "There's a run on it referred to as the Red Eye, because if you cruise too fast and don't have your goggles on, you'll tear up pretty bad." Brian also likes bumps a lot, so he charges through Powderkeg. "I'm alone on it a lot because it goes right under the main lift," he says. "Most skiers don't want that many people watching them." Another of his faves is Wonderbump, but it's not just because of how it skis. "Take a trail off of the top of the lift," he explains. "There's a big knoll on top, and from there you get a bird's-eye view of the whole ski area. Sometimes we take a picnic lunch up there, and when I was on patrol, on sweep I always volunteered to take that one."

His work on patrol also helped him find stuff others didn't have time to look for. "Years ago I started following this guy who ran cattle on the mountain in the summer," he says. "He rode a horse, and he'd flag the trees, ones that you wouldn't see in the snow. So I'd follow those flags around when I skied." In addition, he knows where the stashes are. "On a good snow day, hit Hooker," he says. "Those who go in there need to be good bump skiers, because it's protected, so it gets bumped up and stays soft." And he says there are "little sneaky things all over," like in Yoo-Hoo. "It's a glade run that no one maintains. It's a fun place to dive in."

Cathy endorses the buffalo burgers and other types of meat at The Wagon Wheel (1090 Highway 65) in Mesa. But in Grand Junction, The Blue Moon Bar and Grill (120 North Seventh) is a howling success with its burgers, and Mama Longo's (2830 North Avenue), a "little place in a strip mall," offers good, cheap Italian and good pizza. "We get the calzones when we go," Cathy says. "They're monsters." Big breakfasts can be had at Starvin' Arvin's (752 Horizon Drive), where the Langfitts get biscuits and gravy, and they also like the Crystal Cafe (314 Main Street) for gourmet omelettes. "The Rock Slide Brewpub [401 Main Street] has a good Sunday brunch, too," says Cathy. "It's a microbrewery, too, so it's a good spot for beers. It's trying to become the local sports-bar hangout." And for families, the Langfitts' pick would be the River City Bar and Grill (748 North Avenue). "They have a kids' menu and happy hour, so everyone's happy," Cathy says.

General information: 1-970-268-5700 or 1-800-241-6997
Snow report: 1-970-268-5700
Location: 250 miles west of Denver via I-70, exit 49 to Colo. Hwy. 65.
Opening and closing dates: Thanksgiving to April 6.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Terrain: 20% beginner, 50% intermediate, 15% advanced, 15% expert. 1,650' vertical drop. Base: 8,200'; top: 9,850'; longest run: 2 miles.

Lifts: 1 quad, 2 double chairs, 1 surface lift.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $29; student (7-18) full-day $21; seniors $21; 6 and under/70 and over ski free.

Lessons: Full- and half-day group lessons. Private lessons available. Packages available that include lesson, lift ticket and rental. Call 1-970-268-5700 for more information.

Rentals: Adult $12; child $8. Snowboard $30. Half-day rental available. Call 1-970-268-5700 for information.

Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboard park. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Lessons and rentals available. Call 1-970-268-5700 for information.

Special events: Torchlight parades; Western Weekend, Jan. 18-19; Small World Cup, Mar. 15; USSA Race Day, Feb. 16; Spring Break, Feb. 17-28.

The thing that separates Purgatory from other ski areas, according to Sven Brunso, is the scenery. "It's just unreal here," Brunso says. "You've got the San Juan Mountains; they're rugged and beautiful. Thousands of years of erosion have worn down other mountains, so the young San Juans have lots of texture and character. Only Telluride comes close to being as beautiful." Brunso should know. The 26-year-old has skied Telluride--and, for that matter, just about everywhere else in Colorado. And as an extreme skier who up until last year competed on the Pro Mogul Tour, he's skied quite a bit outside of Colorado, as well.

And now that the tour is defunct for the time being--Anheuser-Busch sued Coors Brewing Company over the rights to the event, and the Supreme Court shut it down--Brunso is working as a ski model. Fortunately for him, that doesn't interfere with serious slope time, so Brunso intends to get another 270 or so days of skiing in again this year--and at least half of those will be spent in Purgatory.

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