The Inside Line: Durango, CO

Travel Rockies
Inside Line: Durango

What the hell is Durango Mountain Resort? Well, it's Purgatory, of course. But new owners decided the old name had become stigmatized by mismanagement.

Elevation: 10,822 feet Vertical Drop: 2,029 feet Snowfall: 253 inches (at 10,000') Getting There: The area is 25 miles north of Durango on Highway 550. America West, Continental, and United fly into the Durango-La Plata County Airport. Info: 800-982-6103,

Beta: What the hell is Durango Mountain Resort? Well, it's Purgatory, of course. But new owners decided the old name had become stigmatized by mismanagement. Blather. The old name fits. A plateau-like mountain with a stair-step fall line that drops through aspen groves broken by 40-degree rollovers, Purgatory is the netherworld of Colorado resorts, sitting as it does between Durango and Silverton in the Southern San Juans. But if lost souls inhabit the place, they sure aren't leaving any tracks: Unlike the I-70 corridor or Telluride and Crested Butte, where you're hard-pressed to encounter powder five hours after a storm, here you can find pockets five days later. To find out how to do just that, we injected local skier Sven Brunso-who's logged a thousand days on the hill-with sodium pentathol. This was taken from his ramblings.

Powder Day
Due to an eastern exposure, the front side sets up quick. Attack it early via the recently installed high-speed six-pack and carry momentum down 35-degree pitches like Lower Hades and Catharsis. Take three runs, maybe four, then head to the Legends triple and connect Paul's Park with Bottom's Chute-for 1,000 feet of old-growth Doug fir followed by a tight 1,000-foot drop to the bottom.

3 Days Later
Most tourists don't make the long traverse to the Legends triple, and they definitely don't work the tight, north-facing trees for eight-turn gaps. Don't be a tourist.

Spring day
Soak up the sun on the lift, then splatter slush bumps on Pandemonium.

The Riding
Squeeze your melon into a helmet for the 15-foot cliff drops and (naturally fallen) rail-slide-worthy logs in the woods off No Mercy.

[250AD LEFT]

Proving Grounds
Marquee route: Voted one of Michelob's top American ski runs (and those guys are sick), Styx (front side, far skier's right) traces natural contours of the mountain for 2,000 vertical feet of no-escape lactic-acid leg burn.
Off-Broadway: With pinball bumps up high, launching-pad rollers halfway down, and Taos-sized man-eater lumps at the bottom, it's nail or flail on Blackburn's Bash.

Backcountry Access
Book a tour with San Juan Snowcat Skiing ( or drive to Red Mountain Pass (put on your avy game face); the drainages off the resort are too dicey to bother.

Drinking & Dancing
Start at Durango's Old Schoolhouse Cafe (970-259-2257) for pizza and Skah Brewery pints before catching blues bands at Scoot 'N Blues (970-259-1400).

Powder day? A bagel sandwich from Carver's will do (970-259-2545). Three days later? Head into Oscar's-a '50s-style diner-for Oscar's Special: two pancakes, two eggs, three sausages, and toast for $3.99 (970-247-0526).

Get a room at Durango's Strater Hotel; built with railroad money, it's posh Victorian to the nines ($69-$225; The Day's End has charming (in that Russian-tenement sort of way) rooms for $35 (

Keep your eye on the California weather: "If it's raining from San Diego to L.A.," says Brunso, "24 hours later, it'll be a powder day."

Essential Gear
Between dumps, Purgatory arguably has the nicest weather of any resort in the country-ideal conditions for a lightweight, windproof soft shell like the 15-ounce W3 Stretch Jacket from Millet ($189; milletusa