The world’s longest gondola and an expansion of terrain in the order of 2,000 percent highlight a multi-year proposal for what has been the smallest ski and snowboard mountain in Utah.
Power Pass begins at Purgatory. (Purgatory/Facebook)
Multi-resort season passes mostly cross state lines, even national borders. So the southern-tier Power Pass that just went on sale for next season stands out because of its distinct regional appeal.
Always powder in the early days. (International Ski History Association)
National Ski Areas Association recently published a list of when ski areas opened. Nonetheless, the debate over which hill gets to claim the title continues.
Until Ski Hesperus turns on lights, Purg will stay lit. (Ski Hesperus/Facebook)
Being business partners has its benefits, especially in times of little snow, as with Purgatory Mountain Resort cranking up night skiing and riding until local-hill partner Ski Hesperus receives enough to turn on its lifts and lights.
Taos kids' teaching area gets makeover. (Taos Ski Valley/Facebook)
A reconfigured beginner slope and lifts highlight the latest round of upgrades at Taos Ski Valley, as other resorts along the southernmost tier of the Rockies also add lifts, trails and services.
Learn-to-ski is a staple at town hill Elk Ridge. (Elk Ridge/Facebook)
An ownership group focusing on the Southwest that has five ski and snowboard mountains under its wing now has a sixth: Elk Ridge Ski Area in Williams, Ariz.
Loveland chairlift ready to be first open. (Loveland/Facebook)
It’s the time of year when the first snow hits the high ridges, the ski shows debut – and resorts begin to announce the day that the new ski and snowboard season will arrive.
Hittin' the early jibs at Mount Bachelor. (Mt. Bachelor)
First-to-be-open honors for the 2017-2018 season may have to go to Mt. Bachelor, as the Oregon mountain dropped the ropes on a terrain park after a foot of early snowfall.
Seasons show their change at Aspen-Snowmass. (AspenSnowmass.com)
Summer gondola rides are coming to an end, the mountain bike heads into the garage, and thoughts turn to the upcoming ski and snowboard season throughout the West.
Mountain biking is king at Purgatory. (Purgatory/Facebook)
As Durango businessman James Coleman bought five southwest Rockies resorts, he promised to put significant money into improvements at these mountains in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
Squaw-Alpine wants to stay open all summer. (Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows/Facebook)
A bonanza year in much of the Sierra Nevada and plenty of late-season snow in the Rockies will keep a dozen ski and snowboard resorts operating into May and beyond.
"Bury the Butte." (Crested Butte/Facebook)
Starting in the Sierra and moving across the Wasatch to the Colorado Rockies, a dozen Pacific-laden storms unleashed their largesse in January to set up skiers and snowboarders for the rest of the season.
New Grand Canyon chair is first high-speed at Arizona Snowbowl. (Arizona Snowbowl/Facebook)
The words “Arizona” and “snow” appear incongruous, but the upper third of the state is high enough to bring those terms together – at Arizona Snowbowl.
The Sandia Tramway offers a different way to get to the skiing and riding. (Sandia Tramway/Facebook)
Interstate 40 is the main thoroughfare between Flagstaff and Albuquerque – and its also the route to a trio of lesser-known skiing and riding resorts along the southernmost tier of the Rocky Mountains.
The Purgatory Snowcat takes you deep into the San Juan backcountry. (Purgatory)
The owner of Purgatory Mountain Resort has purchased one of the nation’s premier powder cat skiing operations, adding 36,000 acres of powder heaven his burgeoning winter sports portfolio.
Purgatory Snowcat Adventures will debut this winter at the southwest Colorado resort – but it won’t have to move far. Its headquarters has been at the base of “Purg” for several years now.
As a result of the purchase of San Juan Untracked, Durango businessman James Coleman now holds one of the nation’s largest backcountry permits with the U.S. Forest Service. The powder-rich terrain run deep into the San Juan Mountain backcountry – from Rico to the west, the southwest flank of Engineer Mountain to the north and including Grayrock Peak and Graysill Mountain.
And, skiers and riders who purchase the five-resort Purgatory Power Pass ($999 for adults) get 10 percent off the $350 single-seat rate – when reserved in advance -- and sneak peaks at special, last-minute offers on drop-in rates for the backcountry service. Private 12-seat ‘cats can be had for $3,500 a day.
The current fleet includes four snowcats, 10 snowmobiles and a backcountry van – plus the highly valuable backcountry permit that runs through 2020. The powder operation will be managed by previous owners Dennis and Amanda Martin, who bought it in 2013.
“James (Coleman) and I both love skiing and love Durango, so this merger will help both of us accomplish what is important to me, and that’s putting Durango on the map for amazing backcountry skiing,” said Dennis Martin.
The purchase of the powder operation continues Coleman’s spending spree in the Southwest that began in 2014 when he bought Purgatory and Arizona Snowbowl. Since then, Sipapu Resort and Pajarito Mountain in New Mexico, and Ski Hesperus outside Durango have been added to Coleman’s portfolio.
The four Southwest resorts under single ownership will continue to get upgrades this summer – with the first high-speed chair at Arizona Snowbowl headlining the projects.
For 50 years, winter sports-lovers have made the drive up the Animas River to strap on skis (and, later snowboards) to hit the slopes at Purgatory in the middle of Colorado's San Juan Mountains.
Forecasters say it may take a bit for the El Niño pattern to settle into a southerly flow, but the southern-tier resorts of New Mexico and Arizona have already cranked up for this season – with upgrades all around.
The Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend marks the traditional start to the ski and snowboard season, and thanks to bountiful snowfall, some resorts are rejoicing, while others would be happy with some cold table scraps.
The waters are warming in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, signaling that El Niño is on his way – and so should above-average snowfall across the West and Southwest.