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Durango Mountain Resort (formerly Purgatory), Colorado

Durango Mountain Resort (formerly Purgatory) offers a compact destination resort with excellent beginner and intermediate terrain plus the allure of Durango, only about a half-hour to the south.

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Ski Resort, Purgatory Mountain ColoradoDurango Mountain Resort is a hidden gem. It’s tucked away in Southwest Colorado in the four corners area, closer to Albuquerque than it is to Denver. It doesn’t draw celebrities or the crowds that you encounter at resorts west of Denver. What you will find are more bluebird days than any other resort in Colorado, plus snow that’s usually good and often great. And you’ll seldom wait in lift lines.

Durango draws heavily from New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. Skiers wearing jeans and cowboy hats, whooping and hollering their way down beginner runs aren’t uncommon. The preponderance of intermediate skiers means Purgatory’s advanced trails are sparsely skied, so fresh powder remains untracked even longer. Boarders will love the mountain’s many terraced runs.

The ski area reaches back from the highway like a 2-mile-long shoulder stretching up a glaciated valley—extensive in its choices once you start exploring. The mountain’s only downside is that it’s 25 miles north of town, which is where the action is.

Durango’s historic downtown is full of great restaurants, brew pubs and galleries. It’s a college town as well as a ski town. So if you and your group can’t have fun in Durango, well, you’d better just stay home. Inexpensive motels line Main Avenue, and rates for a single can dip as low as $29 a night during the ski season. Families, students, and others on a budget can enjoy a very low-cost ski vacation here.

Purgatory Mountain receives an average of 260 inches of snow per year. Early-season snowmaking efforts here focus on covering a few runs well rather than a large area. The best snow conditions are typically in February and March.