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

"Purgatory as such doesn't have any terrain that's overly exciting, but it does have some real good bump runs," Brunso says. "You can dive into bumps on the very first run there, but only if your body's acclimated to that kind of abuse." Brunso claims that the best bumper on Purgatory is Lower Hades, on the front side of the mountain. "You can see it from the base area," Brunso says. "Upper Hades is intermediate, but the lower portion is definitely expert. Actually, that's what makes the thing as a whole so perfect, because at the top you have this kind of rolling intermediate pitch, which gets your legs warmed up. That part's groomed four days a week. Then when you get to the lower part, you come to a head wall, and there's a 'Cat walk you'll want to exit out if you're intimidated." He adds that the Lower Hades is "pretty much left unsanitized, so the bumps get big. There's three sections. The first is 1,200 feet long and drops 400 vertical feet--they held the Pro Mogul tour there--then it flattens out. Then there's another section half as long, and then another section that takes you right down to the village."

Brunso also likes the runs off Chair 8 (Legends)--"Tree skiing, no grooming, lots of moguls," he says--and for cruising, Dead Spike, on the back side off Chair 5 (Grizzly). "Dead Spike is kind of rolling up and down," Brunso says. "It's got incredible views on 360 degrees. Very wide, over a hundred yards, and it's like skiing two runs, depending on the side you're on. The east side is more natural, has less shaping, and the earth movers make the left side manicured and smooth. It depends what kind of mood you're in." And as far as he's concerned, anyone in the mood for some hellacious trees should head to either Paul's Park or Blackburn's Bash. "They're both nice and steep through the trees. There's some serious consequences there for getting out of control," Brunso says.

Brunso, who lives in Durango, gets a little worked up himself over the breakfasts at Oscar's (18 Town Plaza). "It's turn-back-the-clock diner-style," he says. "It only seats forty, and on any given day I'll bet you 80 percent of the people in there are locals. That's 'cause the owner still cooks, and he makes super food. I always get the Oscar special: two pancakes, two eggs and three sausages for $3.25." Brunso also savors the prices at the Main Street Grill (1017 Main). "It's a funky, small place that seats thirty," he says. "The tables are inlaid mosaic, and there are hardwood floors--it's cool. Good Southwestern food, too. What I always get is the smoked turkey sandwich topped with green chile." For more sandwiches, especially burgers, Brunso spends time at Olde Tymers (1000 Main Avenue). "A deal, I'm telling you," he says. "A mere $3.95 gets you a burger with as many toppings as you want and fries. Beat that." He adds that Olde Tymers also offers a forty-item salad bar for $8.95. The prices aren't quite as low at Ariano's (150 East Sixth), but Brunso says no one can beat their Northern Italian cuisine for any amount of money. "No lasagne or manicotti," he says. "Just lots of delicious cream sauces."

When only pizza will do, Brunso either becomes a Mama's Boy (3690 Main Avenue) or heads off the beaten path to Huck Finn Pizza (1301 Florida Road). And "great steaks and constant specials" on the mountain are at the Sow's Ear. But Brunso says the best catch in Durango right now is the Red Snapper (144 East Ninth Street), and he's not the only one who thinks so. "Every year it's been picked as the best restaurant in town by the locals," he says. "It's got fresh seafood, and I mean fresh. And the pesto-stuffed chicken with roasted poblanos is out of this world."

General information: 1-800-525-0892
Snow report: 1-970-247-9000
Location: 340 miles southwest of Denver via I-25 to U.S. Hwy. 550 north to Purgatory.

Opening and closing dates: November 27 to April 6.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 23% beginner, 51% intermediate, 26% advanced. 2,029' vertical drop. Base: 8,793'; top: 10,822'; longest run: 2 miles.

Lifts: 1 high-speed quad, 4 triple chairs, 4 double chairs, 1 surface lift.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $39; child full-day $17. For more information call 1-800-568-3275.

Lessons: Half-price, half-day lessons for first-time skiers or snowboarders over age 12 $17. Group and private lessons available. Child (8-12) snowboard package with lift ticket, all-day lesson and lunch $60.

Rentals: Adult beginner package $16; child $12. Snowboards $25.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboard park. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Purgatory Cross-Country Center has 16 km of groomed trails.

Special events: Guided snowmobile tours, horse-drawn sleigh rides. Hot springs nearby. Benefit Day, Nov. 27; Men's and Women's Performance Weekend, Dec. 7-8; New Year's Eve torchlight ski parade and fireworks, Dec. 31; Budweiser Armed Forces Winter Carnival, Jan. 21-26; American Snowboard Tour, Jan. 24-26; Snowdown, Jan. 29-Feb. 2; 13th Annual Professional Football Players Ski Race for the Disabled, Feb. 26-Mar. 2.

Silver Creek Resort
On a powder day, John Gould loves being his own boss. As a printer, any time he looks out the window and sees snow, he puts a closed sign on the door and heads for the mountains. Since he lives in Grand Lake, he can go to Winter Park, which is fifteen minutes away, or he can hit Silver Creek, just five minutes away. "The thing about Silver Creek is its convenience," Gould, 34, says. "To me, it's great for families--all the runs end up at the base lodge; no lift lines ever; easy parking two minutes away from the base. If you're a hotdogger, though, you'll be bored with Silver Creek halfway through the day."

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