Purgatory Mountain officials say they will begin developing a new "low intermediate" section this summer, as the resort works to give its novice skiers and riders an on-mountain experience.
A six-month U.S. Forest Service review concluded that the project was feasible within USFS regulations, and gave the go-ahead recently.
Called Ice Creek, the new area sits on the northeast corner of the resort just east of the Hermosa Chair/Lift 3. Plans will have 45 acres of new trails -- four named trails that are all rated intermediate -- and its own a 3,400-foot detachable triple chair.
Located in scenic Hermosa Park, the new area will link with the frontside via both the green-rated traversing trails off the top of Lift 4 and easy routes off the top of Chair 1. That interconnect serves Purgatory's purpose in the project to expand terrain that can be handled by lower-ability skiers and riders. The mountain has more than half its existing 105 runs rated green or blue.
“The idea is we start to move our beginner experience up on the mountain,” said Purgatory's Dave Rathbun.
The resort's main beginner area is at the bottom in the Columbine area, below the main lodge, and served by two fixed-grip chairs that run slowly to beginners' safety in loading. The bulk of the novice slopes and trails come off the front side, served by high-speed Chair 1 and two fixed-grips. Most of the terrain adjacent to Ice Creek is intermediate, with steeper pitches as skiers and riders head farther around the backside.
"There is currently a deficiency of low-intermediate ability level terrain at Purgatory, which results in low-intermediate ability level guests skiing too fast on beginner and novice-level terrain or skiing uncomfortably above their ability level on intermediate terrain," the resort stated in its USFS application. "Furthermore, warming temperatures continue to affect the ability of the Columbine beginner area to meet the learn-to-ski demands due to poor snow conditions at this lower elevation (approximately 8,750 feet above sea level)."
As part of the plan, a new snowmobile trail will cut from the base loading area to the backside Hermosa Park, a popular riding area for snowmobilers, and bypass several chokepoints with alpine trails.