A new 103-room hotel with a ballroom to handle 300 people and meeting space is being proposed for Purgatory Resort just south of the base area.
If approved by La Plata County, the hotel, in a portion of what is now the Gelande overflow parking lot, will be a select-service, extended-stay hotel with kitchenettes in some rooms. Also, three new ski trails and a new ski lift would come with the inn, tentatively named the Gelande Hotel.
The 72,233-square-foot inn, owned by Gelande Hotel Properties, a division of Mountain Capital Partners, would include a restaurant and bar, a ski and mountain bike rental shop, fitness center, breakfast buffet and lobby.
Gary Derck, former CEO of Purgatory Resort, who is serving as development agent for the property, said an original master plan for the area envisioned only a transfer lift to take people from the Gelande overflow parking lot to the base area, with shuttle buses returning skiers to the lot at the end of the day.
James Coleman, managing partner with Mountain Capital Partners, the owner of Purgatory Resort, was wary of developing a lift that would be used only once during the day, Derck said.
“James walked and skied the area, and he came back and said there was an opportunity for really good advanced skiing and trails in the area and that’s when we began looking at converting a transfer lift to ski lift,” Derck said.
Revisions to master plans and development agreements for Purgatory allowing a ski lift in the Gelande area and addition of three additional trails created the opportunity to locate a slope-side hotel in a segment of the parking lot, Derck said.
Currently, no hotel is operating in the north Animas Valley. Purgatory does manage 460 privately owned vacation condominiums at the resort. The loss of hotels in the north Animas Valley with the conversion of a lodge at Tamarron to vacation condominiums and the closing of other nearby lodges also support development of a new inn at Purgatory, Derck said.
“We can see the demand just from the resort alone. We have a lot of weddings, and now people are staying in condos with people they don’t know, and they are looking for separate hotel rooms,” Derck said.
Additionally, he said the 2,575 rooms in La Plata County are only now exceeding the number of rooms available in the county 20 years ago.
“People see all the new hotels going up in Durango, and they think there’s a glut, but they don’t take into account all the old motor inns that have closed or been converted to long-term rentals,” he said.
Besides weddings, Derck envisions the Gelande Hotel serving corporate events, retreats and family reunions.
A popular use he envisions is by nonprofits in autumn, the shoulder season for Purgatory, for galas, fundraisers and other annual events. He said this was a particularly popular use for the old inn at Tamarron.
Coleman said: “Slope-side hotel rooms have been one of the key contributors to success at other resorts within our collective. It provides access to skiing for more people and that is Mountain Capital Partners’ No. 1 priority.”
A proposal for a conditional-use permit for the Gelande Hotel is scheduled to be heard by the La Plata County Planning Commission on Dec. 13, and the Board of County Commissioners could hear the proposal in January.
It’s too early to give an estimated price tag for the proposed inn, Derck said. A request for a schematic design to architects will go out in December, and once design details are in place, a price estimate for the development could be made, he said.
If the project proceeds without delays, Derck said Mountain Capital would like to open the inn in late 2020 or early 2021.