Snowboarding in Durango Colorado
Snowboarding is a relative newcomer to the winter
recreation scene and Durango has played a big role in its
development to what it has become today. In the 1980's
many ski resorts were still trying to figure out just what to do
with this new sport and most did not allow it. Durango
Mountain Resort ( Purgatory at the time ) however, being
brave and funky, welcomed it. There were some hoops to
jump through and “I personally remember having to be
"certified" by an instructor and wear a picture I.D. in order to
be on the slopes. It was a badge of honor for me as a child.
I also remember purchasing my first brand new snowboard
from a bike store as the ski shops had not started carrying
them yet!” The boards were archaic by today's standards
but every kid had to have one and it didn't take long for the
industry to explode. Now people have a variety of
professional shops to choose from with some of the best
equipment available. And since Durango is almost
surrounded by ski areas and incredible back country we
also have great places to ride. This website provides an
area map with the location of resorts and mountain area's
as well as a calendar of events that visitors can view.
Origins of Snowboarding
There is some debate as to who invented the snowboard and even what qualified as the first snowboard
which is unlikely to be resolved but there is some interesting history. In the mid 1960's a man named Sherman
Poppen started marketing a toy he made for his daughters called the "snurfer". This "toy" was not much more
than a sled that you stood on and used a rope tied to the nose to help balance. During this same time period
three other people Tom Sims ( Sims Snowboards ), Dimitrije Milovich ( Winterstick Snowboards ) and Jake
Burton ( Burton Snowboards ) all began experimenting with similar designs. Much of the development was
helped with the surfing and skateboarding experience that each of them had and the similarities are quite
obvious. In my opinion they all contributed ideas and techniques to help bring the sport to the point that it is
today. Tom Sims is credited with producing the first commercial snowboard with metal edges and Jake Burton
built the world's first snowboard factory. Most of the pioneers of the sport are still involved to this day pushing
the limits and making it better.
Durango is located near several large ski areas and resorts. Durango Mountain resort is the
closest at 26 miles north of town and is a great area for people of any ability level. They offer all
the amenities a visitor needs with motels, restaurants, shops, instructors, rentals and
transportation. The slopes offer terrain parks, half pipe and a variety of challenging terrain.
Hesperus ski area is located about 12 miles west of Durango on highway 160 and they are a
small ski area with one lift and a rope tow. Ski Hesperus offers great beginner lessons and has
80% of its area lit up for night skiing! An awesome place to teach the kids.
Wolf Creek ski area is about 80 miles east of Durango on highway 160 and gets
the most snow of any ski resort in Colorado. Wolf Creek is pow pow heaven and has
some of the best advanced slopes for its size. If you like cornice jumps and big
mountain bowls this place is for you and its well worth the road trip.
Telluride Ski Resort is about 111 miles ( depending which way you travel ) and is a very large luxury resort
area. I would describe the mountain as being in two parts. The western side is full of great beginner through
intermediate runs, terrain parks, glades and groovy groomers. The northeastern side
is.. gnarly. Some of the best, longest and steepest bump runs in the world! When you
see a double black diamond on the trail sign, they mean it! If you are looking for a
challenging place to ride, Telluride has you covered.
Silverton Mountain Ski Area is located about 48 miles north of Durango and is a hardcore rider's
paradise. They have one lift that takes you to the top of the mountain and then it's a hike to trails
beyond. This is for advanced and expert riders only and has some of the best big mountain riding
in the state. Guides will take you into some spectacular glades and powder chutes that you just
don't get at "normal" ski areas. They have no frills and all thrills.
Back Country Boarding
Back country riding is a popular way to get early and late season trips in when the
resorts are closed or to get away from the crowds. Durango is nestled in the San Juan
Rocky Mountains and for the experienced rider can provide plenty of opportunities
along highway 550 north to get out and enjoy. The summit of Molas Pass has miles of
open terrain that can be accessed by cross country ski, snow shoe and snowmobile.
You can even see kickers built on the slopes right next to the highway with people
enjoying an afternoon session in the mountains. There are also guided snow cat
tours that can take you into this same area which can be a faster and safer
alternative than hitting it on your own. Be aware that winter back country sports are
inherently more dangerous and should only be attempted by or with experienced
riders and guides. Conditions in the high mountains can turn deadly very quickly.
When to ride in Durango
Colorado? Snow can begin to fly in
the San Juan Rocky Mountains
starting as early as October with
ridable conditions and accumulations
seen as early as mid November. This
of course depends on Mother Nature
and varies from season to season.
Most ski areas are open more or less
by thanksgiving and have full
coverage by Christmas depending on
weather conditions. The highest
average snowfall for the southwest is
in late January through March so
these are the best times to catch a powder day. Look for highest crowds during
holidays like Christmas, New Years, Presidents Day and Spring Break so make
reservations well in advance during these times. The ski resorts close shop in
April but snow remains in the mountains well into July if you know where to go
and have the ambition to hike for a while to earn your turns. Look for chutes and
couloirs to have ridable terrain along the summit of wolf creek, Molas, and red
Durango has so much to offer riders of all abilities and once you get to taste the goodness, you will be
coming back for more. So wax the stick, grab the gear and Go Outdoors!
On a fun note for snowboarding, it has created its own "slang words" and terms which we have listed a few
here in no particular order.
Your source for snowboarding information slang.
To crash, fall or wreck.
To biff onto your chest, sliding or landing in a way where you arch the back and your feet try to touch the
back of your head.
When you fall on your butt and you are going so fast that you pass people on the slopes.
(See Biff above) To crash, fall or wreck and a funny crash can also be called "Beeftastic" or "Beeftastical".
To catch your toe side edge causing the rider to fall forwards slamming their chest and face into the snow.
Running into another rider on the slope and becoming entangled with them during the crash.
To catch big air and then collapsing into a seated position from the impact of the landing.
When you put one arm out to the side for balance.
To hit something on purpose while riding a snowboard.
Term used by skiers to describe snowboarders.
To shred or rip up the terrain or being able to ride very well.
What a rider sees from the top of a crowded ski slope.
Riding the snowboard backwards from your normal stance.
Riding a snowboard with the right foot forward.
(Derogatory) What you call somebody when they cut in front of a line to the half pipe or kicker.
A safety feature that attaches the snowboard to the rider's leg to avoid it getting away and sliding down the
slopes. See "Torpedo".
A snowboard that has gotten away from its rider and is now hurtling its way down the slopes.
Making a turn healside or toeside where the board cuts into the snow and does not slip (slide) out.
A grippy piece of foam or rubber in between the bindings that keeps the foot from sliding as much when
not locked into the binding. Used in lift lines to "skate".
A cushion that fits on or is part of the bindings that sits under the toes of the boots and helps to increase
toe side edge pressure.
Colordo Ski Museum. (2012). Colorado ski & snowboard museum hall of fame. Retrieved from
Coloradoskihistory.com. (2012). Colorado ski history. Retrieved from http://www.coloradoskihistory.com/
from the CAIC
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