Purgatory in Durango celebrates its golden anniversary

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Purgatory in Durango celebrates its golden anniversary

Resort an economic driver that changed the community
“Dirty” Don Hinkley shows the form that earned him multiple gelande jumping championships. This photo was taken in the 1970s. Hinkley has become a well-known cowboy poet in the area.
Purgatory Resort founder Ray Duncan, foreground, surveys the mountain with Friedl Pfeifer, former resort planner in Aspen, in 1965.
Ann Love, the wife of then-Colorado Gov. John Love, christens Lift 1 with a champagne bottle at Purgatory Resort. The ski area held its first day of skiing Dec. 4, 1965, but the grand opening celebration, with the governor and his wife in attendance, was held Jan. 8, 1966.

Purgatory in Durango celebrates its golden anniversary

“Dirty” Don Hinkley shows the form that earned him multiple gelande jumping championships. This photo was taken in the 1970s. Hinkley has become a well-known cowboy poet in the area.
Purgatory Resort founder Ray Duncan, foreground, surveys the mountain with Friedl Pfeifer, former resort planner in Aspen, in 1965.
Ann Love, the wife of then-Colorado Gov. John Love, christens Lift 1 with a champagne bottle at Purgatory Resort. The ski area held its first day of skiing Dec. 4, 1965, but the grand opening celebration, with the governor and his wife in attendance, was held Jan. 8, 1966.
Key moments in Purgatory’s history

January 1965: Ray Duncan and Chet Anderson announce plans to build a ski area at Hermosa Park. Eighty area businessmen kick in $1,000 each and leverage it with banks to raise $400,000 to build Lift 1.
Dec. 4, 1965: Permitting, designing and building the lodge, Lift No. 1 and the first few trails are completed in time for opening day. One-day adult lift tickets cost $4.50. More than 28,000 skier days counted.
Summer 1969: A second lift, the Engineer Double Chair, is installed.
1970s: Real estate development begins, including onsite condominiums and homes.
1980s: Development of real estate ventures continues, including an onsite hotel. Purgatory is one of the first ski areas to welcome snowboarders to the slopes.
1986: Principal ownership of the ski area is taken over by Vincent Duncan, Ray’s brother.
1990-1991: For its 25th anniversary season, more than 244,000 skier days are counted on the slopes.
1995-1996: Skier days top 307,000.
1999: Chuck and Sue Cobb purchase the majority stake in the area. The next year, the name is changed to Durango Mountain Resort to capitalize on Durango’s reputation as a major tourist destination.
Spring 2015: James Coleman purchases the ski area, returning it to its original moniker, Purgatory Resort. Improvements begin immediately, beginning with the replacement of Lift 8 with a high-speed lift.
Dec. 4, 2015: Purgatory celebrates its 50th anniversary, offering 1,360 skiable acres, 10 ski lifts and 88 trails. One-day adult lift tickets cost $85. Recent average number of skier days range from 230,000 to 250,000.

Did you know these facts about the early days of Purgatory?

The original post office box for Durango Ski Corp., Purgatory’s corporate name, was 666. Vincent Duncan, a devout Catholic, asked that it be changed.
The resort could have been Columbine Ski Area or Hermosa Ski Area, the other names under consideration. “Purgatory was a lot spicier, not as bland,” Chet Anderson said about the name chosen in homage to Purgatory Creek.
As soon as the area opened, nuns from the Sisters of Mercy hit the slopes. One of them won a contest to name a new run – Mercy – and word has it, greatly enjoyed the free tickets that were the prize.
Ray Duncan once offered a 10 percent season-pass discount to members of the Durango Ski Club, the predecessor of the Durango Winter Sports Foundation. All the local skiers joined the club so they all got the discount.

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