Depending on how you look at things, we either got a lovely extended fall or were robbed of primo skiing due to unseasonably warm weather. If your thinking falls into the latter camp, you'll be glad to know that resorts are finally opening – and offering more than ever this year.
In this year's edition of Edge, our snow-activities guide to resorts in Colorado, we've told you about what’s new at every major ski area in the state, must-do experiences and insider tips. We’ve also done our own tireless research all over the state and reached out to some experts for suggestions on how to make the most of it all, whether you’re looking to drop some coin for something special or just trying to get by as a dirtbag ski bum like the rest of us. We'll roll those out at resorts open, like Purgatory Resort, which opened Friday, November 19.
What’s new: In October, Purgatory Resort managing partner James Coleman purchased Colorado’s largest snowcat operation, along with its permits to prowl 35,000 acres around Grayrock Peak and Graysill Mountain, near the resort. He’s keeping previous owner Dennis Martin and his guide staff in place, but has renamed the company Purgatory Snowcat Adventures. Look for new trails, expanded terrain, and a new surface lift connecting to the popular area served by the Legends Express Lift 8. “Over the summer, crews worked on a hazard-tree mitigation project, improving the health of the forest, as well as elevating gladed tree skiing at the resort,” says Purgatory spokeswoman Kim Oyler.
Signature experience: Oyler recommends an ice-climbing trip with Kling Mountain Guides. “Warmer days and arctic nights provide a prime setting for waterfalls to freeze into perfect cascades of ice, ideal for all levels of climbers,” Oyler says. “From fifty-foot introductory climbs in nearby Cascade Canyon, a natural ice park, to more than 1,000-foot technical alpine ascents around Silverton, professionally trained and certified guides of KMG will show you the ropes and the ice.” The climbing season runs from December through mid-March; conditions are typically best in January and February. Half-day ice-climbing trips start at $129. Call 970-259-1708 or visit klingmountainguides.com for reservations. Kling Mountain Guides also offers backcountry skiing and snowboarding adventures and avalanche-education courses.
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Insider info: Book a table at Oyler’s favorite, El Moro Spirits and Tavern, at 945 Main Street in Durango’s downtown historic district. “Executive chef Sean Clark has garnered attention pairing fine foods and craft beers,” she says. “Every year, El Moro is invited to participate in the ‘Paired’ event at the Great American Beer Festival.” Call 970-259-5555 or visit elmorotavern.com for reservations.
Splurge: A seat on the cat with Purgatory Snowcat Adventures runs $350 and includes proper powder skis or boards, if you’re worried your own gear won’t pass muster. The full-day trips start and end at Purgatory Resort. “Permitted to operate on more than 35,000 acres of pristine terrain, from rolling glades to wide open bowls, cliffs and chutes, Purgatory Snowcat Adventures offers an exceptional backcountry experience to skiers and riders of all abilities,” Oyler says. For more information and reservations, visit purgatoryresort.com or call 800-525-0892.
Ski bum tips: Oyler suggests checking out the BOGO deals on lodging and lift tickets: “You and a buddy buy one night of lodging and two lift tickets, and get the second day of skiing and night of lodging for free.”