PURGATORY – Sean Wren estimates he spent 50 days this season out on the slopes at Purgatory Resort, and he was not about to miss getting some final turns in Sunday, the last day of the season.
“The sun’s shining. I figured why not. I can send some photos to friends, and say, ‘Guess what I’m doing today,’” Wren said.
The 2020-21 season won’t go down in the record books for its deep snowpack, but “we got it when we needed it,” Wren said.
On Sunday, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Snotel map showed the snowpack at 61% of the 30-year average for Southwest Colorado.
On Monday, Purgatory began a couple months of maintenance in preparation for the summer season, which will begin June 19.
Purgatory Resort General Manager Dave Rathbun said the main lift, Purgatory Village Express Lift 1, will begin a major maintenance project with replacement of its bullwheel bearings.
“It’s not very sexy, but it’s a 22-year-old lift. So we’ll be doing a lot of maintenance, normal stuff you have to keep up with,” he said. “We will have to take all the chairs off and drop the cable and remove the upper and lower bullwheels and replace the bearings.”
In addition, maintenance work will also occur on lifts 3 and 6.
The work should improve lift reliability at the resort, he said.
Purgatory doesn’t release skier numbers, but Rathbun said the season saw more visitors than last year, when one month was lost because ski resorts were forced to close prematurely March 15, 2020, at the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, with increasing distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, Rathbun expects the resort will be able to open with less onerous restrictions for summer and for the 2021-22 ski season.
“I’m sure there’ll be other curveballs thrown at us,” he said. “But at least we’ll be under local control again. San Juan Basin Public Health has understood that people want to be outdoors, and being outdoors the risk of transmission goes down dramatically.”
The trend last summer for tourists to flock to outdoor venues has Purgatory expecting strong demand for the summer season.
Rathbun said the best indicator of demand for summer visitation is the number of weddings scheduled at Purgatory, and wedding bookings for the summer season at the resort have already surpassed the total number of weddings held there last year.
Purgatory will host the 2021 USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships on Oct. 14 and the Big Mountain Enduro mountain bike competition on Aug. 28-29, two major races that will help summer visitation numbers.
Summer activities will include a roller coaster, alpine slide, mountain bike park, chairlift rides, paddleboards and bikes, and treasure panning.
Greg Yucha of Durango spent Sunday on the mountain with his son, Milo, 4, who was finishing his first season on skis.
“I’m sure we’ll be back in summer. He loves it up here,” Yucha said. “We tried to get up here every weekend this winter. We get five or six runs in, then we come down and fuel up with french fries and head out again.”