What's in a name change? How about a whole new attitude? Durango Mountain Resort, née Purgatory, has returned to skiing's radar screen since new owners took the helm two years ago. Once sagging and tired, the mountain now earns praise for its updated main lift, new restaurants and efficient skier services. And the work has only just begun. The resort has always banked on its looks. The San Juans puncture the sky with a beauty and confidence few other mountains match. Skiing, while intermediate, has long offered late-season powder and plenty of thrills on its unique stair-step terrain. But now there's more. The once-crowded base area is finally sane thanks to a six-pack that transports skiers up to where they want to be. Across the board, readers notice a new attitude. "Flat-out skier friendly," a reader raves. "When I lost my poles, they lent me another pair." The resort plans to add a high-speed quad to the backside. As for getting to the town of Durango, some 24 miles downhill, the once lame shuttle continues to improve. Two elements that won't change: the resort's sunny skies and its grooming policy. DMR will continue to partially groom the place. While a few readers complain, most love the ungroomed intermediate trails, where skiers can taste freshies without getting in over their heads. "Improvements from the new owner are great," says one reader, who adds (and you could almost hear her fingers cross), "yet still no crowds." The word is out, so watch for more fans. But not to worry, the mountain can handle 'em.
WHAT'S NEW Daily flights from Houston (Continental) and Dallas (American) make this off-the-path area an easier destination.
A GOOD DEAL The Total Adventure Ticket: Four-day lift ticket that you can trade out for dogsledding, snowcat skiing, a dinner sleigh ride, a visit to a hot springs with a massage and more; 970-247-9000, www.ski-purg.com.
MEDALS GOLD Value, Weather, Scenery; SILVER Terrain, Lodging.
HIGH/LOW RANK Weather (1), Scenery (17), Value (22); Après-Ski (52), Terrain (57), Challenge (58).
DON'T MISS Draught beer at the Statler Hotel in downtown Durango. Built in 1887, it's the area's oldest-and coolest-landmark.
READER REMARKS (+) "Beautiful scenery, great weather, no crowds." "More bang for the buck."
(-) "Nightlife at the resort is terrible." "Too many catwalks make for a lot of poling."
Great Lodging Deals here.