If you ask Finn Skowlund which he likes more – biking or skiing – he may give you a puzzled look. He’s never had to choose.
The 12-year-old has been biking around Durango most of his life. He likes to ski, too – he’s done it for 10 years. So when Purgatory Resort announced it would turn on Lift 1 at 11 a.m. Saturday and open the front side of the mountain the same day as the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, Skowlund thought, “why not do both.”
So he convinced his father, John, to throw ski boots in a backpack, strap skis to either side and ride the 25-mile-long Quarter Horse from downtown Durango to Purgatory. The skis and boots added weight for the young rider and his father, but the duo made it to Purgatory just before the first lift full of eager skiers and snowboarders rose up the mountainside.
Purgatory employees packed three parking lots full of vehicles Saturday for its latest-ever weekend of skiing. The resort defied history this season when it stayed open until May 4 for the first time ever. But not many could have guessed the resort would reopen to skiers and snowboarders before next season.
Stephan “Steve Laser” Lazare, a 22-year resident of Durango, and Dannielle Arceneaux, who just moved here, also biked from Durango to Purgatory with plans to ride the slopes. The two parked a vehicle with their ski gear in it in Purgatory’s upper lot and were changing into mountain-appropriate clothing before the lift started running.
Lazare said he spent Friday night at a few local bars, woke up, had a light breakfast and another beer and took off.
But his weekend won’t end on the slopes. Lazare and Arceneaux said they plan to raft the Animas River once they’re done at Purgatory.
Matthew Krichman, events coordinator at Purgatory, said this historically late snow put pressure on resort employees to start summer operations while maintaining winter activities. But all the hard work is worth it, he said, especially when he sees people like the Skowlunds riding to the mountain with skis on their backs.
If he hadn’t been working, Krichman said he likely would have strapped his skis and boots to his back and biked to Purgatory himself.
“It’s probably happened somewhere, but never here,” Krichman said. “It’s an amazing celebration of the culture of Durango. To do two of our favorite sports in one day, you have to take advantage.”