The Edge

Westword's guide to the 1997-98 ski and snowboard season

Cost is, of course, a consideration for any fifteen-year-old. "I think most places that tune your 'board rip you off," Gilman says. "So I do it myself and save twenty bucks." She also likes to shop for clothes at Twice as Nice (807 N. First) thrift store. "They have some pretty neat clothes in there," she explains. "You can get more stuff for your money."

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 $16-31; college-age full-day $16-27; student/senior $16-$23; child under 6 and senior over 70 free; beginner lift E-Z Rider always free.

Rentals: Adult $12; child $8; snowboard package $30.
Snowboarding/Cross-Country: Snowboarding welcome. Cross-country call 1-970-268-5700 for information.

Special Events: TBA.

Purgatory Resort
A lot of ski resorts claim to be "family-friendly," but Jackson Clark II says he's living proof that Purgatory really is. Clark, 47, was born in Durango and has been there ever since. He and his family skied the mountain the first year it opened, in 1964, and now Clark's own family, his wife and two boys, ages fourteen and sixteen, ski it. "Purgatory has grown a lot as far as terrain and lifts," Clark says. "Overall, though, it has remained the ideal family mountain. The beginner, intermediate and expert sections are all great, but it's not like at some other resorts where they're all on separate mountains. Here it's intermingled."

Clark adds that because of the limestone ledges and pitches, "you can have a beginner's run that goes right next to an intermediate, and an expert run can be only sixty yards away from that." He also thinks Purgatory has perfect weather. "We're next to the high plateau of the desert," explains Clark, who owns Toh-Atin Gallery, which deals in Navajo rugs and art, "so we get light, fluffy, soft snow, and our temperatures are always ten degrees warmer than anyone else's. No big winds, protected, lots of sunshine. Kids can take our weather and ski all day. Perfect."

Clark started skiing when he was six, and he started snowboarding when he was forty. Now he does both. "You get different exercise with each," he says. "And you get a different experience on the same runs." But regardless of what's under his feet, he always knows exactly where to go and when. "One of the secrets to skiing Purgatory is, most people get up on a mountain and they go directly to the back side," he says. "But the front side of Purgatory has some of the best runs and terrain, and you can ski there all morning, with no crowds. Then, in the afternoon, when everyone on the back side comes to the front, you can go to the back and catch the afternoon cruising. Again, no crowds."

He also thinks Purgatory has a large proportion of good bump runs. "I especially like Elliott's," he says. "It's not only bumps, it's rolled. It's kind of like a gully. Another one is Bull Run, which I think is the steepest pitch in the state. Hit that one in the morning." He adds that Bull Run is his favorite double black overall, because "it's big enough, wide enough and easy to get to," he says. "It's right at the top of one of the better lifts, with easy access, so you can do it over and over." He also likes to drift off into the trees as he comes down to the midway off Lift 8 (Legends Lift). "There's kind of like a 'Cat track that all of a sudden drops off really steep, but the neat thing is that no one ever skis it," he says. "And, wait--Wapiti is another good bump run. That's where they have all the bump-offs."

When his knees are too tired for bumps, Clark says he cruises Chet's or Sally's Run. "But in the morning, when I'm fresh, Ray's Ridge is long, fairly steep and narrow, and a good place to get up some serious speed." Another fast line is Lower Hades, Clark's choice for best solid black--and also where he thinks the "best view in the world" is. "They had the NCAA Giant Slalom there," he adds. "It's a wide-open run halfway down the mountain, with a huge face. If it snows powder, you can still catch untracked stuff in the afternoon on a weekday there."

For intermediates looking for a kinder black, Clark says to go straight to Upper Hades. "That's a real nice one," he says. "And you can cruise off and catch Tinker's Dam--or even Dead Spike is a good intermediate transitional run. You can really wear yourself out there." And for beginners seeking an easier blue, Clark names Westfork and Limbo as good possibilities. "They're cruisers, with real gentle slopes, and then they'll drop into a steeper part and then they'll flatten out again. It gives the skier the ability to accelerate, but since it levels out again, they never get out of control."

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