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For terrific trees, Clark points to Paul's Park. "It was named after a guy who was one of the original heads of the ski patrol here," Clark explains. "He loved skiing powder and in the trees, and this is ideal. Nice, open tree skiing, with the trees cut six or seven feet apart. All this room, and the powder will stay there for days and days."
Since many of the runs at Purgatory were named after the old-timers who carved out the mountain, it's appropriate that one of the locals' hangouts in Durango is Olde Tymers (1000 Main Ave.). "That's where to go for a burger in the evening," Clark says. He adds that their specials are good, too. "They have one every night," he says. "I love their chicken-fried steak."
The best "greasy-spoon burger," according to Clark, is the one at the Durango Diner (957 Main Ave.). "They do breakfast and lunch," he adds, "It's good for great, greasy breakfasts, too. A lot of people go to Carver's Restaurant & Brewery [1022 Main Ave.] for good breakfasts, and for coffee, the Durango Coffee Co. [730 Main Ave.] is good."
And since Clark is big on Purgatory being a family mountain, he wants to put forth a spot that's family-friendly. "The best place is Pronto Pizza & Pasta [160 E. Sixth]," he says. "They have pizza and pasta, really good, and they don't care if you make a mess with your kids. All the college kids eat there, because they do these cheap pizza buffets." College-age types also like Farquahart's [725 Main Ave.] for pizza, Clark says, and it's also a "rock-and-roll nightclub in the evening."
The "cheap dinner in Durango," Clark says, is at Francisco's Restaurante and Cantina (619 Main Ave.). "That's a great Mexican, and they have terrific American food, too," he says. "Don't miss the margaritas, either." And he thinks the top Chinese is The May Palace (909 Main Ave.). "They do everything well," he adds.
Along the lines of fine dining, Clark recommends several eateries. "Ariano's [150 E. Sixth St.] for Italian," he says. "It's real nice." And then there's Chez Grand-Mere (3 Depot Place), which he says is owned by Oprah Winfrey's old chef. "And for a real neat Mediterranean place, there's the Cypress Cafe [725 E. Second Ave.]. It's medium-priced, in an old house out of the way, very popular with the locals." For a more intimate meal, Clark suggests Randy's Restaurant & Bar (152 E. College). "First of all, they have the best prime rib," he enthuses. "And it's kind of neat because they have these private booths. And it's one of only a few places that takes reservations in Durango."
After dinner, Clark says the locals drink at either Olde Tymers or the Diamond Bell Saloon (699 Main Ave.) in the Strater Hotel (699 Main Ave.). "A lot of people go to the Red Lion, but now it's called the Doubletree [501 Camino del Rio]," he adds. "It's a surprise, since it's a chain hotel, but the bar is nice." Apres-ski, he says, everyone goes to the Ore House (147 E. College).
"There's also this burger bar they put in at the base of the mountain, so that's a good spot for a cheap lunch, especially if you have hungry kids. And also down there, if they get tired of skiing, Purgatory just put in a new sledding area with a lift," he says. "It's good for nighttime, too, because it's lighted. See? I told you it was good for families."
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 surfact lift.
Lift Rates: TBA
Snowboarding/Cross-Country: Snowboarding welcome. Cross-country call Purgatory Cross-Country Center at 1-800-525-0892.
Special Events: TBA
Silver Creek Resort
"It's kind of like the way skiing used to be," Julia Stephens, 39, says about Silver Creek. "More intimate. Groomed trails. Not too big, and since all of the trails emanate from the same base area, it's real easy to keep track of kids and friends."
Stephens, who lives in Alaska during the summer, has lived in the area for thirteen years, finally settling on Frasier, fifteen minutes from Silver Creek, for her winter home. She now telemarks exclusively, for which she says Silver Creek is ideal. "There's so much backcountry available," she explains. "And who can argue with cheaper lift tickets?" She adds that it's mostly geared toward the intermediate. "Even the steepest parts are nothing that's going to scare your pants off," she says. "They have maybe three or four advanced runs, and they're good ones, but it's mostly blues. So it's great for beginners because of the low-key atmosphere, and you don't feel intimidated."
For those intermediates looking to move up, Stephens recommends either Speculator or Skydiver. "Again, these are blacks, but they're not going to do you in," she says. And for people just starting bump runs, Spare Parts and Widowmaker are good bets because they're "not too long, and they can bail off of them pretty easily," she adds. "And because people don't get over there as much, they hold the snow longer. Nice, rolling blue runs, where the pitch isn't too steep."