Opening day
DMR cranks up the Six Pack on Nov. 26

SideStory: City eyes mid-Dec. opening for Chapman

A snowgroomer prepares the base area at Durango Mountain Resort for opening day, this Friday. Thanks to 2 feet of new snow, the resort will open with top-to-bottom skiing on the Six Pack./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

by Missy Votel

Purgatory is no longer in limbo. Thanks to a strong storm that brought two feet of snow to Durango Mountain Resort over the weekend, the ski area will open this Friday for top-to-bottom skiing on the front side.

“We’re in really good shape,” said DMR spokeswoman Beth Holland. “It’s a great start and one of the best early-season openings we’ve had in a while.”

The resort also opened last season on Thanksgiving weekend, but Holland said the most recent storm put this year over the top. “We are going to have a lot better offering this year than last. And more snow is in the forecast this week.”

As of Tuesday, the Purg has a 24-inch mountain base. According to Mike McCormack, senior vice president of Mountain Operations, this latest snow is atypical of wet, warm storms common of this time of year. “It’s fluffy – definitely not slop,” he said.

Snowmaking crews have been working around the clock since Nov. 1 as temperatures and conditions allow. Holland said ideal conditions are temperatures in the 10-20 degree range with low relative humidity. “We’ve been blowing pretty much continually except for a few warm stretches that we’ve had.”

Also this year, the resort expanded snowmaking on Pandemonium, the resort’s signature stair-stepped front side run. “It’s one of our most popular frontside runs, so this will help ensure good conditions throughout the season,” said Holland.

In addition to the expanded snowmaking, DMR also purchased three new snowcats this season. “One will be dedicated solely to the terrain parks,” she said. “They are a lot more efficient than our existing ones, so we can get a lot more terrain groomed with less fuel.”

On the subject of terrain parks, this summer the resort ramped up its offerings by building permanent earthen park features. In past years, the hits, jumps and half pipes were sculpted of snow by grooming machines, and thus, were more snow and labor intensive. The new dirt-based features will help the terrain parks open earlier in the season and with less effort. “Now it won’t require as much snow to get the parks open, and we hope to have them open a lot earlier in the season,” Holland said.

The biggest news in on-mountain improvements this year is the creation of the Ambassador’s Glade. Named for DMR owners, Chuck and Sue Cobb, who served as U.S. Ambassadors to Iceland and Jamaica, the 40-acre tree-skiing area is accessible via Mercy, on the resort’s front side. “We wanted to change up the frontside offerings,” said Holland. “We think it’s going to be really popular.”

The new black diamond Ambassador’s Glade follows up on last season’s Legends terrain expansion, which added 30 percent more expert terrain to the mountain. The new terrain now gives the resort a total of 1,360 skiable acres comprised of 20 percent beginner terrain, 45 percent intermediate and 35 percent advanced/expert.

Holland said although Chair 1, the six-pack, will be open Friday, the resort won’t know exactly what runs will be open until Thursday. As a result, ticket prices remain an unknown, but will be based on terrain offerings and be discounted at an early-season price. All season passes, including weekday passes, will be honored this weekend. Like last year, the resort is planning to open for daily operations as soon as snow permits. But in the event conditions do not support seven-day-a-week skiing, Purgatory will open for Friday – Sunday operations, switching to daily operations as soon as possible. Weekday passes will be honored if/when this becomes the case.

But resort operators are optimistic, despite predictions swirling around this winter’s La Niña, which has been known to bring persistent high pressure to the Southwest. “People like to talk. We don’t pay much attention,” said Holland. “We’ve had some great La Niña years and some great El Niño years. We think we’re in a good location to benefit from both. It doesn’t affect our planning.” •



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