PURGATORY - What's endured through the '80s, the '90s and most of the first decade of the new millennium?What's survived the trendy ups-and-downs of the last 30 years ... to be even more popular now than then?
What has survived?
A few friendships, fewer marriages, the Rolling Stones and ... the alpine slide.
Defying time (but not gravity), the alpine slide on the lower slopes of Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort is on track for another historic summer season - its 30th.
First installed in 1979 and considered by some cynics as a short-term, amusement-park gimmick for an offseason ski area, the Purgatory alpine slide is still rolling along as the centerpiece of the resort's summer operations - 30 years later.
"It's the main attraction," said Mike McCormick, longtime mountain manager and current senior vice president of mountain operations at DMR.
"It's the one thing people are looking for when they come here," McCormick said. "We have the other activities ... the climbing wall, the bungee trampoline and, this summer, the mechanical bull. But the alpine slide is the main thing."
"It's still the highlight of the summer experience," said Sven Brunso, vice president of sales and marketing for the resort. DMR ticketing officials said they expect (conservatively) 60,000 alpine slide trips this summer.
The versatility of the bobsled-style ride down parallel tracks set into the hillside is why it remains so popular today, Brunso said.
"Most kids really like it," Brunso said. "I still love it."
"It fits a number of our (summer) users," McCormick said. "From kids, to parents ... grandparents even.
"It offers a different level of thrill for different users," said McCormick, who added that he's not surprised with the continued popularity of the gravity sport that uses wheeled carts with a simple hand-brake lever. The individual rider controls the speed with the lever.
"It's a good ride," McCormick said.
Three generations of a Waco, Texas, family agreed this week.
"It's great. We enjoyed it," said Mike Hinton, a Waco grandfather, who just enjoyed a trip down the alpine slide while keeping a close eye on grandson Clay Kizer, riding in the cart with his father Trey Kizer.
"We first came here with my daughter (Heather) about 23 years ago," Hinton said. "This (alpine slide) was almost brand new then. The trees and bushes hadn't grown up around it like they have now."
"I'd never been here before," son-in-law Trey Kizer said. "But my wife and her family had been here, so we decided to come up this summer. This (alpine slide) was really fun."
Asked if he enjoyed the downhill roller-coaster ride, young Clay Kizer nodded a quick and bashful yes before returning to his job as a 4-year-old perpetual motion machine.
"We've had a blast," said Trey Kizer, while chasing after the speedy Clay. "We rode the train Tuesday ... we went four-wheeling. (Wednesday), we came up here (Durango Mountain Resort). Next, we go to Lake City."
Shortly after the three generations of the Hinton-Kizer family headed for a lunchtime snack, David Hawley and his two children hopped back on Lift 4 for the brief ride to the top of the alpine slide.
Then they raced back down the course, experienced veterans of the serpentine twists and turns of the smile-generating slide.
"We like to do the alpine slide ... and then go over to the climbing wall," said Hawley, an intermediate school teacher in Kayenta, Ariz.
"We get a season pass (early), and we ... come up here in the summer," said Hawley, who brings the family back to the area for snowboarding in winter.
"This is such a good deal. The resort does a really good job catering to families," said Hawley, who also is the boys soccer coach at Monument Valley High School in Arizona.
The smiling and sweaty faces of Johanna, 6, and Joseph, 8, backed up dad's premise. Then, they were off for another lap.
Day trippers and season pass holders alike take advantage of the summer slide and the other activities, according to McCormick. The scenic chairlift rides go hand-in-hand with the operation of the alpine slide, he said.
"It works well for the alpine slide and the mountain bike uploads, which have become more popular," he said.
The chairlift is equipped to carry the alpine slide sleds and mountain bikes up the hill. The alpine sliders unload the lift at midway, while mountain bikers and hikers can ride the chairlift to its summit station on the right flank of the mountain.
The alpine slide operates from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, weather permitting. The chair usually runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Basic cost for a single lift ride and alpine slide is $10.
A variety of package prices are available for adults and children, including half-day and day passes that include access to the other summer activities in the plaza. Children must be at least 36 inches tall to ride the alpine slide with a parent or adult. Children, age 6 or at least 42 inches tall, can ride solo.
There are at least four other alpine slides still operating in Colorado, including ones in Breckenridge, Winter Park, Howelson Hill (downtown Steamboat Springs) and Heritage Square Park in Golden.