The owners of Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort have agreed to sell the resort to James H. Coleman Jr., a Durango resident and businessman.
Coleman also has ownership interests in Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort south of Taos, New Mexico, and Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Coleman recently agreed to purchase Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Durango Mountain Resort, often referred to as Purgatory, will join the three smaller resorts in an as-yet-unnamed company.
DMR’s owners “very much want to make sure the new owner, the new principal investor in the resort, would be a good fit for Durango and a good fit for Purgatory,” CEO Gary Derck said in announcing the sale Wednesday.
The purchase agreement has been signed, but has yet to close. Financial terms were not disclosed. The resort’s management, including Derck, will remain.
The sale to Coleman keeps DMR’s ownership in Durango, and it ends speculation the resort could be purchased by a larger resort operator.
Coleman had long expressed interest in buying into the resort, Derck said, “He’s always wanted to be involved in Purgatory – he’s been persistent and interested for quite a while.”
DMR’s owners hired the investment group Houlihan Lokey in February to begin exploring a sale. The resort’s aging owners were looking to sell. DMR’s majority owner, Chairman Chuck Cobb, is 78.
DMR attracted dozens of prospective buyers, Derck said. They were narrowed to a field of five. Coleman’s offer was the only local offer of the five strongest bids, Derck said.
Minority owners Gary Engle, Jim Coyne, John Temple and Vince Duncan Jr. also agreed to the sale. Coleman will own 100 percent of Durango Mountain Resort and a utility company, Durango Mountain Utilities.
Cobb and Duncan retain ownership of Durango Mountain Realty and certain properties surrounding the resort.
Derck said Coleman’s ownership group at Sipapu had succeeded in increasing skier visits, terrain and snowmaking. Sipapu is regularly New Mexico’s first ski area to open in the fall and the last to close in the spring.
The new company will offer season-pass holders reciprocal skiing at Sipapu, Pajarito and Arizona Snowbowl, Derck said. “The premise here is to create the best ski experience for families in the Southwest,” he said.
The company will need to examine agreements DMR, Sipapu, Pajarito and Arizona Snowbowl have with other resorts, Derck said. For example, DMR season pass holders are entitled to three free ski days at eight other ski areas, including Monarch and Powderhorn.
“We’ve got to work through how all of those marriages will work because we’ll have a lot of marriages,” Derck said.
Customers “are going to have great choice,” he said.
Coleman grew up in Texas, often visiting Purgatory for ski vacations. “He’s a very avid skier – kind of a skier’s skier,” Derck said.
Coleman earned a Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Texas at Austin. He also owns an investment group with offices in Durango, Austin and Phoenix.
Although Coleman has lived in Durango for almost a decade, he’s unknown to much of the local business community. Some business officials said they could not comment Wednesday because they had never heard of Coleman.
A message left at Coleman’s home phone number was not returned Wednesday. But in a news release, Coleman said he’ll work to move forward with the resort’s development plans.
“My top priorities will be to find ways to extend the ski season as much as possible, increase terrain, expedite improvements in the approved mountain master plan, increase summer activities and generally create an exceptional experience for skiers, snowboarders and mountain lovers,” he said.
Mike Russell, owner of Russell Planning and Engineering, said he hopes DMR will forge ahead with development after the sale. Russell has been involved in numerous projects at the resort. “We’re excited to move forward,” he said.
Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, said local ownership brings certain advantages.
“When you’re involved and you live in the community where you own a business, you definitely have a vested interest,” he said.
DMR, 27 miles north of Durango, draws about 280,000 visitors each winter. The resort employs about 900 workers at its seasonal peak, and about 100 year-round. The ski area has 10 lifts, 88 runs and 1,360 skiable acres.
It opened as Pugatory Ski Area in December 1965, founded by Ray Duncan and a group of partners. Vincent Duncan, Ray’s brother, became the principal owner beginning in 1986. Cobb purchased a majority share in 2000.
This article has been corrected from a previous version. It contained an incorrect date for Purgatory Ski Area’s opening.