Durango — Other activities
Durango has two snowcat operations. The San Juan Ski Company (970-259-9671; closed Tuesdays) takes skiers and boarders to 35,000 acres of powder for about $185 (including lunch, guide, powder skis and avalanche beacon). Reservations strongly recommended. El Diablo (877-241-9643; 970-385-7288) provides tours in the San Juan Mountains, including Molas Pass, near Silverton, a quaint Victorian mining town. Cost is $125 (including lunch, guide and avalanche beacon).
If you haven’t had enough on-slope time, the resort offers tubing. Book activities such as winter fly-fishing, snowmobiling and dinner sleigh rides through the Durango Mountain Resort Ski Concierge in the Purgatory Village Center.
Durango has a couple of off-slope activities unique in the ski industry. One of America’s finest national parks is nearby, Mesa Verde (below left). Anasazi Indian (Ancestral Puebloans) cliff dwellings dating back more than 800 years have been preserved here. Plan an early start for a day trip to Mesa Verde; it’s about an hour west of Durango but over a mountain pass.
Another unique activity is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (above right). Durango was founded in 1880 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad when they extended their line to Silverton in order to haul ore to a smelter being built on the river in Durango, near local sources of coal. Today, the train hauls tourists. Daily in winter, it goes halfway to Silverton then returns to Durango, a five-hour round trip. The winter fare is $47 for adults, $27 for children ages 5–11. Though the cars are enclosed, warm clothing is highly recommended. If you purchase a Total Adventure Ticket™, you can exchange a day of skiing for the train ride. The train leaves at noon and arrives back in Durango at 5 p.m., with wine, cheese and hot cider served at the Cascade Wye. Check the schedule ahead of time, just in case.
If you don’t have time for the train ride, consider just visiting the Railroad Museum. There are antique photographs, memorabilia, locomotives, a galloping goose, handcars and putt-putts, rare W.H. Jackson photos, railroad art and more. Admission is $5.
There are several other museums in Durango to consider. The Animas Museum (259-2402), 31st St. & W. 2nd Ave., shows exhibits on area history and Indian cultures. Children’s Museum of Durango (259-9234), 802 E. 2nd Ave. upstairs in the Durango Arts Center, has hands-on exhibits for kids ages 2–11.Grand Motorcar & Piano Collection (247-1250), 586 Animas View Dr., displays a variety of antique and classic automobiles and grand pianos. Call for winter hours.
The Sky Ute Lodge and Casino offers basic gambling and some 380 Vegas-style slots.
Durango’s shops smack of shabby chic, Old West and unique custom designs. We like The Tulip Tree, a gift shop at 600 Main Ave., and Durango International Fine Arts Gallery on College Ave. for collectibles. The Bookcase, 601 E. Second Ave., offers a fine inventory of used and collector books. The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, which has branches at every Colorado resort, started in this location at the south end of Main Ave. The O’Farrell Hat Company, on Main near the General Palmer Hotel, offers what are acknowledged as the world’s finest cowboy hats. You’ll have to dig deep in your pocketbook to put one of their hats on your head, though. Real deep.
The art galleries are first rate. Among our favorites: Sorrell Sky Gallery on Main (on the corner of 9th), Durango Arts Center Gallery Shop at 802 E. 2nd Ave. for local artistry, and Toh Atin Gallery at 145 W. 9th St. for Southwestern art.