A new 103-room hotel proposed for Purgatory Resort received a green light this week from the La Plata County Planning Commission.
The commission voted 4-0 Thursday to recommended approval for a preliminary plat and a conditional-use permit for the 72,233-square-foot inn that would include a ballroom that could handle 300 people and meeting space. The hotel would be built on a 3-acre plot on what is now the Gelande overflow parking lot.
The ballroom and meeting space would help with bookings in the summer and shoulder seasons, said Gary Derck, former CEO of Purgatory Resort, who is serving as agent for the applicant, Purgatory Resort Recreation and Purgatory Village Land, divisions of Mountain Capital Partners, the resort’s owner.
The hotel, which would be south of the main resort entry, would include a new ski lift and three new ski trails that “essentially would create a new ski beach,” Derck said. He added the new ski lift would create a new “ski portal” to directly access the slopes, and he envisions the parking lot would become more popular with locals.
The proposal would include 87 parking spaces for the inn; county regulations require at least 83 spaces.
The proposal is scheduled to go before the Board of County Commissioners on Jan. 22 for final approval.
Purgatory would also contribute $177,643 to the La Plata Homes Fund, which would use the money to offer second mortgages on workforce housing for resort employees.
The inn will be a select-service, extended-stay hotel with kitchenettes in some rooms, and Derck said Purgatory is currently in negotiations with a major hotel brand to operate the inn.
Ideally, he said Purgatory would like to see construction begin in May, but he suspected busy schedules from contractors might preclude work beginning that soon.
Currently, no hotel operates 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 the new inn, Derck said.
He said the meeting and ballroom space will make the inn attractive for weddings, corporate events and nonprofit fundraisers.
The 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,” he said.
Last month, Coleman told The Durango Herald: “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.”