It’s no secret that Colorado is a haven for skiers and winter sports fanatics all across the country, and Durango is certainly not an exception. Located in the southwestern corner of Colorado, a stone’s throw from the border of New Mexico, this small city is a paradise for lovers of every snow sport, no matter the person’s age, size, or ability. National Geographic has honored Durango as one of America’s Top Emerging 10 Ski Towns, and in a recent poll it was voted #1 for best weather among North American Resorts! It’s therefore no surprise that Durango is so attractive to a plethora of individuals and groups.
The scenic and abundant landscape in the heart of Durango features miles and miles of well-combed trails for virtually any winter activity, including: skiing (both downhill and cross country), snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, dog sledding, sleigh riding, or even hiking, for the winter enthusiasts.
Durango Skiing & Snowboarding
There is no shortage of slopes or trails to entertain yourself with while you’re in the area. Whether you plan to bring your own equipment, or just rent from any one of the outfitters in town, you are guaranteed to get a great deal to help you have a great time at the resort of your choice. Skiers and boarders alike enjoy the thrills offered at Chapman Hill, El Diablo Alpine Guides, Hillcrest Golf Club, Pine River Valley, Southwest Adventure Guides, Silverton Mountain, Purgatory Nordic Club, Purgatory Mountain.
If you are at all familiar with Durango, you have probably heard all about Purgatory. This mountain offers 10 lifts taking you to 85 groomed trails spanning in excess of 40 miles! These trails are broken up into 23% beginner, 51% intermediate, and 26% expert/advanced. With this spread, you would have to consciously try in order to miss finding a trail that suited your fancy. A quick 30-minute drive from the heart of downtown Durango will get you to Purgatory where an annual snowfall of 260 inches blankets the mountain thoroughly.
Because the resort offers such a variety of slopes and trails, covering more than 1,700 skiable acres, it has been ranked as the “second-least-crowded ski area on the continent.” If snow sports aren’t for you, feel free to check out Purgatory in the summer too. During these months, the trails are clear for other family oriented activities such as hiking or mountain biking. For a small fee, the lifts are even open to take you to the top of the mountain just to catch the view.
Interesting Fact: Purgatory Mountain came into its modern day name in 1776 when several Spanish explorers were traveling on a nearby river. Some of their party got lost, and their bodies were never found. The other travelers believed the souls of the lost men would be relegated to Purgatory, and from this legend was born the designation, Purgatory Mountain, which originally opened as Purgatory Resort in 1965 and now operates year-round. Following this legendary expedition, the river was named “El Rio de las Animas Perdidas” or the River of Lost Souls (now the Animas River).
Durango Skiing Checklist: Create a checklist to ensure you’re ready when your day of winter fun in Durango arrives. Check out backcountry.com where you can check them out and maybe even purchase some much needed new goggles or a transmitter (because you know you need one)!
Cross Country Skiing In Mesa Verde
Mesa Verde winter activities such as cross country skiing and snowshoeing at Mesa Verde can be a very peaceful experience. Many times you may be the only person around, getting the opportunity to take the gorgeous surroundings in. Because most of the trees are bare, wildlife is more visible in the winter. You may even be able to find their tracks in the snow. If you are fortunate enough to be able to cross country ski or snowshoe in Mesa Verde National Park, you will not be disappointed.
In recent years, there has not been enough snow to cross country ski or snowshoe except for a few days during the winter after a heavy snowfall. Colorado’s dry climate and sunshine cause the snow to melt quickly after a snow storm. Please call (970) 529-4622 or go to NPS.gov for current park road and cross country skiing and snowshoeing conditions. Two park roads listed below are designated for cross country skiing and snowshoeing when snow permits. Skiing or snowshoeing in the backcountry of Mesa Verde National Park or other park roads is not permitted.
If you are a climber of the ice, you are definitely going to want to bring all your gear with you. The sport of ice climbing is one that takes much concentration, strength, determination and a high tolerance for the cold. That’s why proper equipment is imperative and prior experience is highly recommended when you come to Durango so that when you get here you don’t have to waste any time learning, and can get right to the tough stuff.
Experienced climbers can get right on the advanced routes that Durango boasts, such as “The Seven Year Itch” at Cascade Canyon and “Stairway to Heaven” and “Whorehouse Ice Hose” at Eureka Canyon in Silverton. That’s not to say that beginners are not welcome or that it’s hard to learn in Durango. On the contrary, the outfitters here would love to have you learn from them and would equally love to pass on all the knowledge they have gained through their years of experience. If you’re new to it, you’ve got a fun and exciting road ahead of you; and if you’ve been doing this a while, you already know what we’re talking about. But regardless, come see for yourself.
Now, if you like the cold, but you prefer to experience it on a sleigh or on a sled behind a team of well-trained dogs or on a 162 horsepower, dual runner Arctic Cat snowmobile, Durango has plenty to offer you too. The Durango Dog Ranch gives guided sled tours through the San Juan Mountains, allowing you to drive your own sled or simply ride along, while Mayday Livery and Rapp Coral Sleigh Rides both offer beautiful scenic sleigh rides through areas near or around Haviland Lake and La Plata County.
As for snowmobiling, it is offered at several different locations and it is not to be overlooked. Durango Ice Pirates, Elk Point Lodge, Mayday Livery, Outlaw Tours/Cascade Creek Snowmobiles, and Snowmobiles Adventures Inc. all provide reasonable rentals for adults and children to ride through the dazzling Colorado Branch of the Rockies. Whether you are seeking a pleasant family fun outing or a thrilling alpine adventure tour, these guides will take you on a ride you are not likely to soon forget.