"The thing is, what does someone from Florida know about skiing?" It's a tough assessment from a longtime Purgatory local, but the answer might be, "Everything."
Chuck Cobb, new owner of Durango Mountain Resort, knows resorts. As owner of Arvida, a former real estate subsidiary of Walt Disney, he successfully developed the Sawgrass residential/recreational community in Florida, was a partner in the upswing of Telluride, now owns Kirkwood and has acquired Durango. Cobb's dream is to own, in the end, about eight resorts, some in the ski industry, others in golf and marina venues.
The former ambassador to Iceland and undersecretary of commerce has a simple plan for Durango: Take the region's many parts-ski area, town, airport, Tamarron golf resort and nearby Cascade Village-and make them work as a whole. Execution won't be quick. The new Purgatory Village high-speed six-pack has been installed, allowing the mountain to relocate its cross-country skiing and snowmobiling operations to the top of the mountain. At the base, a condo-hotel goes in next summer. From there, the time line is less specific, but plans include:
UPGRADING and adding lifts.
RENAMING a few lifts and upgrading signage to ease orientation for visitors. (No ski-run names will change.)
Improving Columbine Station, the learning area, with better facilities. Lights have already been added for nightskiing.
CREATING A NEW slopeside development at the north end of the mountain, with affordable hotel-room accommodations.
UPDATING PURGATORY VILLAGE with more restaurants and more shopping, and reclaiming Purgatory Creek so that it flows openly through the village.
CREATING A HOME BASE FOR DAY SKIERS, with base lodge and parking, at Gelande Village Station on the resort's south end.
CONNECTING MOST new developments to the slopes with lifts.
LURING BETTER AIRLINE SERVICE INTO DURANGO, and improving transportation between town and airport with more-frequent and lower-priced shuttles.Will it come effortlessly? No, but resort V.P. Bob Kunkel feels the foundation is there. "We've been way under-promoting ourselves."As for the challenge of Purgatory's being off the beaten path? Bring it on, he says. "Sure, Durango is far from everything, but that's what makes it what it is. Otherwise it would be...Summit County."