People come to Durango Colorado because of how much it has to offer the outdoor enthusiast. The winter
months bring a whole new spectrum with a variety of things to do. There are many options from skiing,
snowboarding, Nordic skiing, to snowshoeing, at either a resort or in the nearby back country. You can go ice
fishing, ice climbing, sledding, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, snow cat guided trips, dog sledding and it is all so
close! Whether you are a weekend warrior seeking a relaxing outing with the family or a hardcore thrill seeker
looking for the next rush, Durango has you covered.
Located in Southwest Colorado, Durango is literally surrounded by ski resorts and some of the best skiing in
America. There is Durango Mountain Resort (Purgatory), Silverton Mountain, Wolf Creek Ski Area, Telluride, Ski
Hesperus and even a small slope within the city limits, Chapman Hill. All these areas are close enough to be a
day trip or a very enjoyable full weekend outing so check the conditions and take your pick!
Durango is a very popular place for skiing and has a very rich history in the
sport. Durango Mountain Resort or “Purgatory” as it is still called by many
locals, is the closest to town and is about 27 miles north. Purgatory was
started by Ray Duncan and Chet Anderson in 1965. It had its grand opening
in 1966 putting Durango on the growing list of cities supporting ski sports.
Purgatory drew its name and the name of many of its runs from medieval lore
most notably from Dante Alighieri’s poem “The Devine Comedy”. The book is
divided into three parts, Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso which is reflected in
trails like Paradise, Styx, Lower Hades, Catharsis, Pandemonium and even a
ski in restaurant, Dante’s.
Durangoens have been finding ways to swoosh their way down some kind of
slope for a long, long time and anywhere a road gave access skiers followed.
After the completion of the road over Wolf Creek pass in 1938 a makeshift
rope tow powered by a truck was put in near the summit. Wolf Creek ski area
was born and lift tickets were $1.00!!! The summit of Wolf Creek Pass is also
a great spot for snowmobiling, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, alpine skiing and
back country snowboarding.
Ski Hesperus located west of Durango opened in 1962 and has been a great
asset to the community as it provides an excellent place for people to learn
snow sports. Hesperus is also one of the few ski areas to offer night skiing.
Please note, snow amounts will determine if the Ski Area is open so be sure
to check weather history and contact them for current operations.
Enthusiasts do not have to visit a resort to enjoy winter sports. There are many locations near town where you
may cross country ski, snowshoe or back country ski. The road following La Plata Canyon is a beautiful
wintertime spot and people still like to ski the summit of Coal Bank Pass as well. Molas Pass along hwy 550
north of Durango has large, open, high mountain
meadows and miles of terrain just beckoning to
be explored. Parking is available at the summit
with room for trailers and a small parking spot
near Andrews Lake, just south of the summit. Be
sure to check weather and avalanche conditions
when planning your trip. Many of the maps
provided on this site can be utilized for year
round use and if snow conditions are right Nordic
skiing and snowshoeing are available very close
to town. The Colorado Trail, Telegraph Trails,
Falls Creek, and even Overend Mountain Park
can be quite active in the winter. Nordic skiers
that like track style terrain or courses can visit the
Chicken Creek trail near Mancos Colorado or
Vallecito Nordic at Vallecito Lake and the Nordic
Center at Purgatory. Vallecito Lake is also good
for ice fishing in the right conditions so bring your
pole and some warm clothes!
In Town Skiing:
Skiing or snow boarding for kids is available at the Chapman Hill
Recreation Center and is a fun place to bring the entire family. It offers
a rope tow for skiing (with lights for night skiing) a small terrain park and
even has snow making! This little ski area has been around since the
late 1930’s and was first named 3rd avenue hill until the 1960’s when it
was changed to Calico Hill. In 1979 it was changed to its current name
of Chapman Hill after Colton Chapman who taught kids how to ski as
well as other outdoor activities before formal recreation programs
existed here. Durango mountain resort also has a great ski tube hill
where you can be pulled to the top of the slope and ride the tube down.
No more sweating yourself to the top!
Wintertime in Durango is celebrated with an annual event called
“Snowdown” and it has become very popular drawing people from all
over the U.S. Started in 1979 the theme based celebration includes a
parade, shows and competitions that border on the insane. In the past
there have been kayak races down ski slopes, mountain bike races
down ski slopes, broom ball, slalom races, competitions between fire
and police departments and much more. It’s a lot of fun and now
attracts people in the thousands!
Another big event close to Durango is an ice climbing
competition in the city of Ouray Colorado at their super
nice man made ice climbing park. It usually begins in
January and draws hundreds of people from all over the
world. You can visit their website for full information and
details. Cascade Canyon located about 29 miles north of
Durango on hwy 550 is also a good place for ice climbing
on natural ice. (Conditions permitting.) There are guides
and instructors for people wishing to learn the sport in
both Durango and Ouray so if you want to try trading in
your climbing shoes for crampons and an ice axe, winter
in Durango is the time to do it.
Having so much to offer people that love the snow is why so many people have come to Durango and stayed.
It’s a winter wonderland in the Rocky Mountains with scenic beauty and unexplored corners just waiting for you.
So break out the gear and enjoy the winter outdoors!
Colordo Ski Museum. (2012). Colorado ski & sonwboard museum hall of fame. Retrieved from
Coloradoskihistory.com. (2012). Colorado ski history. Retrieved from http://www.coloradoskihistory.com/
Langdon, C. (1989). durango ski: people and season at purgatory. Durango, Co: Purgatory Press.
Ice Climbing in
New Mexico Border
from the CAIC
© DuranGO Outdoors