Located about 30 minutes north of Durango, Colorado, Purgatory Resort celebrated its 50th anniversary in the 2015-16 ski season. Known as Durango Mountain Resort for a time, Purgatory returned to its original name when developer James Coleman bought the resort in 2015.
Despite its intimidating name, Purgatory features generally tame, family-friendly terrain of 1,360 skiable acres. The boundaries did expand in 2009 to include 125 acres of tree skiing in steep glades known as McCormack’s Maze and Hoody’s. The expansion has helped keep experts entertained, but virtually nothing at Purgatory could be described as really extreme.
The relatively remote southwest Colorado location keeps away the crowds found at the state’s ski areas along Interstate 70 closer to Denver. However, American and United Airlines do fly into the Durango airport. Albuquerque, New Mexico, is another option for destination travelers. The easy four-hour drive from Albuquerque to Purgatory goes mostly through the high desert of New Mexico. By comparison, the seven-hour drive from the Denver airport includes numerous mountain passes.
Purgatory Resort receives an average annual snowfall of 260 inches. While that figure is lower than many other Colorado destination resorts, the terrain’s relatively gentle pitch does not require a huge amount of snow to be skiable. The plus side is an abundance of bluebird days. Particularly in the spring, “The Beach” is popular place to soak up the sun and watch skiers come down the mountain.
Intermediate skiers and boarders have plenty of choices at Purgatory. The layout’s stair-step descent with lots of humps and rolls make the resort’s blue trails more fun to ski than run-of-the-mill cruisers. Runs such as Boogie and Peace off the Hermosa Park Express (Chair 3) are perfect examples of this terrain.
Legends Express Lift
Advanced skiers and boarders will want to head straight for the Legends Express Lift (Chair 8) on the far end of the resort. Replacing a triple chair for the 2015-16 season, the new high-speed quad serves black-diamond runs such as Ray’s Ridge and Blackburn’s Bash. The double-black tree skiing in McCormack’s Maze is also off the Legends chair. Intermediates do have several options such as Chet’s and Sally’s Run.
Purgatory Lodge Pool
The upscale Purgatory Lodge was added to the base area in 2008. The heated pool and hot tub are located just steps from the ski lifts. Even resort guests staying in the base area’s other buildings have access to this very cool pool.
The plentiful bluebird days at Purgatory give visitors an opportunity to marvel at the majestic San Juan Mountains. Although Purgatory Mountain itself is not particularly rugged, the Needles across the way provide a dramatic vista.
Purgatory Resort guests should make at least one trip into the town of Durango during their stay. A wide variety of restaurants such as the farm-to-table Cyprus Cafe and festive Steamworks Brewing Co. can be found in the historic downtown. A peek into the Strater Hotel lobby is like a trip back into the Old West.
Some visitors prefer to stay in town and commute each day up to Purgatory. Along with lodging in historic buildings such as the Strater Hotel and Rochester Hotel, the town has plenty of inexpensive hotels and motels. Any of the in-town lodging comes at a discount for skiers, because the winter is considered off-season for the town’s tourist trade.
Disclaimer: Lift tickets were provided during media visit to Purgatory.