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. Ski Resorts: 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. Back Country: 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! Snowdown: 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! Ice Climbing: 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! References: Colordo Ski Museum. (2012). Colorado ski & sonwboard museum hall of fame. Retrieved from http://www.skimuseum.net/ 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.
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Ice Climbing in Ouray, Colorado
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Pagosa Springs
South Fork
Lake City
Navajo Reservoir
Valliceto Lake
To Gunnison
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Durango Mountain Resort
Wolf Creek Ski Area
McPhee Reservoir
Chimney Rock
Mesa Verde National Park
Canyon of the Ancients
172 151 Ski Hesperus
Southern Ute Reservation
Colorado Boarder
New Mexico Border
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Telluride Ski Resort
Silverton Mountain Ski Area
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