Once there was a time when you reached age 60, you'd skied for free. Then you had to be 70. And now, at a half-dozen Western resorts, 80 is the new 60.
The days are getting longer, it's daylight savings time and the snow is softening: Spring is on the way, and that means it's festival time at ski resorts all across SnoCountry.
Sufficient November snowfall and a steady diet of cold nights across the southern tier of the Rockies assured resorts in New Mexico and Arizona that they will open on time.
Call it Epic-Lite or Ikon 2.0, but the southern Colorado-based Power Pass has taken off around the country, into Canada and across the seas.
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.
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.
Hesperus Ski Area – the town hill for Durango-area skiers and riders – has closed down to address long-overdue repairs to the only chairlift and other infrastructure.
Mountain officials say they expect to reopen the second week in March, but are unsure how long repairs will take. The mountain closed on March 7 last season.
That mean’s southwest Colorado skiers and snowboarders won’t be able to sneak out of work for few turns at noon or carve under the lights after work - or tube. Ski Hesperus operates half-days on Mondays through Fridays, and full days on Saturdays and Sundays, with popular night skiing until 9 p.m. except on Sundays.
A major portion of the maintenance is the main double chairlift, installed in the 1960s, including the condition of a number of the assemblies that connect the chair to the cable. A report following an unannounced inspection by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board on Feb. 20-21 revealed issues with signage, record-keeping, lift maintenance and employee training.
Hesperus’ Greg Ralph said that new “clips’ have been ordered and should be installed in the next weeks. Repairs have been made to the emergency braking system, and updating of signs and training of workers is underway, Ralph said.
Durango businessman James Coleman bought Hesperus in 2016, adding it to his regional portfolio that includes Purgatory, Arizona Snowbowl, Sipapu and Pajarito. Hesperus opened in the 1960s and was run by Jim Pitcher as a “one-man show” for three decades – with hand-painted signs and a Quonset hut base lodge.
Long a local’s favorite, Hesperus sits 11 miles west of downtown Durango with 60 skiable acres, 700 vertical feet and 26 trails.
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.