Purgatory opens Saturday, November 21, for its fiftieth anniversary season, and the ski area is planning to have a party. There will be lawn games on the beach, plus drink specials and a DJ on the Purgy’s patio. There will also be giveaways and prizes. First chair is at 9 a.m.; the lawn games run from noon to 4 p.m.; and the DJ plays from 1 to 4 p.m.
You can read about every Colorado ski resort in the Edge, our winter sports guide, as we roll it out online. Each description lays out what's new, what the signature experience is, what to splurge on, how to go cheap and, of course, what to drink. Now, head for the trees.
What’s new: Locals never really latched on to the name Durango Mountain Resort, so the new owners changed it back to Purgatory, just in time to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary — and the mountain will be partying all season. The owners have also installed a new high-speed quad chairlift to replace the Legends Lift 8, and added three new trails of advanced terrain.
Signature experience: If you still have legs under you at the end of the day, try the evening snowshoe tours, says Purgatory spokeswoman Kim Oyler. “Guests can take the last chairlift up the mountain and enjoy a guided snowshoe tour of the backcountry. Guides will point out wildlife and their tracks, geology, flora and fauna. Then snowshoe down the now-closed ski slopes to the on-mountain facility, the Powderhouse Restaurant, where participants enjoy hot chocolate for the kids and beverages for adults, complete with an array of tasty snacks. Guides then take snowshoers down the slopes that are empty of skiers to watch the beautiful sunset and the awe-inspiring Alpenglow on the Needles Mountain Range — a picturesque and truly unique experience for anyone.” Also popular: Give ice climbing a try with Kling Mountain Guides, headquartered at Purgatory and offering everything from fifty-foot introductory climbs in nearby Cascade Canyon to 1,000-foot technical alpine ascents around Silverton.
Splurge: “Spend the day skiing or riding untracked powder with Colorado’s largest snowcat skiing and snowboarding operation,” Oyler says, recommending San Juan Untracked. Permits allow prowling over 35,000 acres of backcountry, pretty much guaranteeing you’ll be in deep.
Ski bum tips: Look for fiftieth-anniversary specials all season long on the area’s website, like the Buy One, Get One Stay & Ski special starting in January: Purchase one night of lodging and one lift ticket, and receive the second day’s ticket and night’s lodging for free.
Drink locally: “Durango is now home to six breweries,” Oyler says. “Be sure to check out the brewpub, Steamworks Brewing, located in downtown Durango, or enjoy some of their award-winning beer, including Backside Stout [named after the backside of Purgatory], at the resort.”
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