A new ski lift could be installed at Purgatory Resort next summer if approved by the Forest Service.
The Gelande lift was previously approved by the Forest Service to be a transfer lift, which would take skiers up the mountain but would not provide top-to-bottom skiable terrain.
On Tuesday evening, Purgatory held an open house at its headquarters in Durango to present the plans for the Gelande lift realignment, as well as a plethora of other upcoming mountain improvements.
“We want this to be the best mountain for all riders,” said Project Manager Gary Derck. “We heard from locals that when we get busy with destination visitors, the village fills up and it can be a pain.”
Derck said there was always a vision for the Gelande lift, but now, it will serve a higher function.
“The question was how do we get local skiers on the mountain quicker so that they can get their powder fix,” he said.
By installing the Gelande lift at a different alignment than previously proposed, it would meet the increasing demand for advanced terrain on the front side of the mountain.
It would also help to reduce skier traffic in the congested Demon trail area of the resort.
The proposed Gelande chairlift would be 4,200 feet long, approximately 300 feet shorter than first proposed, and located 250 feet (for the bottom terminal) to 900 feet (for the top terminal) south of the previously approved lift in the Mountain Master Plan.
Purgatory also proposed a new top-to-bottom trail at the Gelande lift, and a connecting trail from the lower Styx trail to the bottom of the Gelande lift. Derck said Purgatory will seek feedback from locals, but the plan is to also eventually build a new lodge at the base of the Gelande trail.
Because a portion of the improvements are located on public land, the resort must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, which includes disclosing the environmental impacts of the project to the public.
Jed Botsford with the Forest Service said the new lift alignment requires a 26-acre adjustment to the special-use permit boundary.
“That portion of the project is outside of the current ski area boundary,” he said. “Because skiing infrastructure will go there, we have to approve it.”
With the Styx trail no longer needing to be widened as previously planned, there will not be any additional environmental impacts to public lands.
“We did not create one new tree that needs to be cut down,” Derck said. “The new lift is also shorter, so it is a little less impactful.”
If the Forest Service approves the project in April, the resort plans to have the chairlift completed by the 2018-19 winter season.
Resort owner James Coleman said the Forest Service has been a “wonderful partner to work with.”
“We plan on making improvements to lifts, trails and snow-making every year,” he said. “As long as the Forest Service approves the projects, we will keep building.”
He said having the Gelande lift service new terrain is an “exciting” way for locals to get access to the mountain faster.
“This is also more expert skiing terrain, which I love to ski myself,” Coleman said. “We are very excited for the future of Purgatory.”
Other mountain improvements include a new mountain coaster, aptly named inferno, which will be the steepest mountain coaster in the United States, a mid-load station on lift six and new trails.