Durango Mountain ResortSkiers and riders in the Southwest may be the biggest winners as the market for Western resorts remains hot. A Durango businessman and avid skier with ownership interests in two northern New Mexico resorts, has purchased both Durango Mountain Resort and Arizona Snowbowl.The new collective is now the largest in the region.

The just announced sale to James Coleman quells speculation that the Durango ski area might be sold to a large resort conglomerate. The sale of Arizona Snowbowl, however, came unexpectedly, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. The previous owner was Eric Borowsky, of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Coleman, a Texas native and frequent skier at Durango Mountain, also owns Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort and has an ownership interest in Pajarito Mountain, both in northern New Mexico. After nearly 15 years as the managing partner at Sipapu (near Taos), Coleman has doubled the ski area terrain and quadrupled skier visits. Sipapu, due to its ever-increasing snowmaking, is scheduled to open Nov. 15.

James ColemanSince the four resorts are now under a single owner, skiers and snowboarders will see ticketing benefits. Sipapu and Pajarito have already announced the New Mexico Power Pass, providing unrestricted access to the two ski areas plus free skiing at more than 25 partner mountains in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and throughout the country. Coleman said Durango Mountain Resort and Snowbowl will maintain their existing pass partnerships this winter, which offer free or discounted lift tickets to select season passholders.

With Durango Mountain Resort majority owner Chuck Cobb at 78, the ownership group of the southwestern Colorado mountain put the resort formerly known as Purgatory up for sale last winter, according to local news reports. The property attracted numerous prospective buyers, but Coleman was the only one with ties to the area.

“(The current owners) very much want to make sure the new owner, the new principal investor in the resort, would be a good fit for Durango and a good fit for Purgatory,” CEO Gary Derck told the Durango Herald.

As for Arizona Snowbowl, Coleman apparently will keep the controversial snowmaking system in place. The process, which was challenged in court for several years, pumps reclaimed wastewater from the Flagstaff sewage treatment plan to the top of the mountain. 

WHAT IT MEANS: The proximity of the four resorts to both destination and regional markets makes this new collective extremely attractive to Southwest skiers and riders. It's late to launch any new reciprocal ticketing programs for this season, but the future looks bright for family-oriented fun and budgets. Seems like a big win.

Top Photo: Durango Mountain Resort is now part of a new Southwest alliance. (Durango Mountain Resort/Facebook); Left photo: James Coleman (Arizona Daily Sun/Jake Bacon)