It's hard to imagine now, the days when Ray Duncan and a group of people who loved to ski navigated government
bureaucracy - the Forest Service and Small Business Administration - a rainy summer and tight finances to build
Purgatory Ski Area.
Duncan's induction to the Durango Winter Sports Foundation's Hall of Fame at the Gala on Nov. 14 triggered an avalanche
(luckily, in a figurative sense) of memories of that time.
Faces from more than four decades of Purgatory's existence were on hand to celebrate Duncan's contributions both to
skiing in Southwest Colorado and to the community at large.
I'm going to throw out a plethora of names of those insiders - in no particular order - who helped make the area what
it is today: Paul Folwell, Charlie Siegele, Charlie Langdon, Katie and John Ogier, Deborah Uroda, Karen Bell, Mary Lou
Murray, Carlyn Hodges, Mike Elliott, Don Boudreaux Miller, Cliff "Angel" and Rosemary Farfel, Greg Fryback, Kim Dalen,Dolph Kuss, James and Joanne Hards ... and many more were ready to party. With more than 210 people in attendance, I'm
sure I've missed more than a few.
Elliott, last year's Hall of Fame inductee, told some of the fun stories of the early days. Duncan was clearly moved by
the tribute and his own memories of that time. He told me he remembered once being very discouraged and wavering in his
resolve, wondering if this was a dream not meant to be. He was walking down Main Avenue with Kuss, who told him one
day, 50,000 skiers would be walking down that street.
Duncan's generosity led to an occasional misstep, such as the time he offered 10 percent discounts on season passes to
members of the Durango Ski Club, which was an early incarnation of the foundation. Everyone joined the club, so all
season-pass holders got the 10 percent discount.
You might wonder what else Duncan did for the area, in addition to giving us a winter economy and adding jobs, which
also helped Fort Lewis College attract students. (Many people remembered attending the school and making sure not to
schedule any classes on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.) Duncan's support was key in the creation of Music in the
Mountains and Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.
The induction also included a blessing by Eddie Box Jr., who remembered being there on Dec. 4, 1966, when his father,Eddie Box Sr., was asked to come and do a blessing to pray for snow during a very dry winter. He brought the Southern
Ute Medicine Dancers. Box Jr.'s aunt said it would snow for four days, and she was off by a day - three days of heavy
snow that year gave Purgatory that all-important Christmas business.
Box Jr. and his wife, Betty's, blessing this time led to another heavy snowfall the night of the event.
At his induction, Duncan was given a torch from the 2006 Olympics in Turino, Italy, and a framed print of the trail map
from that first season, 1965-1966.
I will add a disclaimer here because I have personal connections to the early days of Purgatory Ski Area.
My father, geologist Charlie Butler, had worked for Walter Duncan Sr. (Ray Duncan's father) in southern Utah during the
uranium boom of the 1950s, and often took Ray Duncan exploring in Southwest Colorado.
While Chet Anderson, who was Purgatory's first general manager, may have pointed out the specific location above
Purgatory Creek, my dad always claimed he was the one who introduced Duncan to the area and talked up the idea of
skiing in this part of the state.
Once the area was up and running, just a month or so after the opening, my mother, Kathy Butler, was brought on to run
the accounting department, so I was a child of the resort. (Mike Elliott, the chairman of the board of the Durango
Winter Sports Foundation, remembered that my mom had the only heated office in the earliest days.)
Ray Duncan's wife, Sally, and I enjoyed reminiscing about processing season passes in the early days, where my mother
took the photos, while Sally Duncan and I laminated them and put rivets in the corners for the cords. (Rivets were my
The nature of the resort, with friendly faces in every part of the area - I probably owe Duncan a hundred bucks for all
the free hot chocolate I was served - was familial, intimate and exciting. Everyone knew we were part of something
special, and we had a blast.
Enjoying bright blue skies for their birthdays are Corinne Sohlé, Chandler Jackson, Jama Jones, Amanda Mulkey, Stevie
Delio, Katie Ogier (this looks like the Katie Ogier column), Karen Trahan, Diane Edwards, Jeff Brown, Hannah Miller,Autumn Schulz, Wayne Pratt, Tim Williams, Carol West, Jo Fusco, Kay Baker and Alan Kahler.
The occasion for the acknowledgement of Ray Duncan's efforts in building Purgatory Ski Area was the Durango Winter
Sports Foundation's Gala, which was held Nov. 14 at Purgy's at Durango Mountain Resort.
The event, which serves as the unofficial kickoff to the ski season, is also just a fun party.
And while the focus of the evening was the early days of the resort, credit must be given to current CEO Gary Derck and
his staff for their gracious hosting of the gala. Other Platinum sponsors were BP and Spine Colorado/Durango
Purgy's prepared a delicious spread that began with antipasti and duck quesadillas, continued with vegetarian lasagna
and chicken marsala and ended on a sweet note with cannoli and biscotti.
Steering Committee Chairwoman Katie Ogier and her committee members Chris Lyon and Melissa M. Eggleston had rallied a
crew ranging from Fort Lewis College students to members galore to pull off the event. About 65 donors contributed to
the silent auction, and Cody Story's auctioneering talents helped sell a few fine items during the live auction.
Duncan didn't just show up for his induction into the organization's Hall of Fame. He donated three cases of his Silver
Oak Winery's finest to accompany dinner and a magnum of wine valued at $650 for the live auction. (It went for $1,000.)
John Ogier assured him that while the wine had been stored in his garage for several weeks, there hadn't been any
If you don't know much about the Durango Winter Sports Foundation, here are the nuts and bolts.
It was formed in the summer of 2006 by the three junior ski teams, Alpine, Freestyle and Nordic. The foundation raises
money to pay the salaries and travel expenses of the coaches. It also offers scholarships to skiers who cannot afford
the full expense of tuition and travel. There are between 150 and 175 young skiers supported by the DWSF at this
Thanks to Elliott and Mary Monroe, the fundraising director for the DWSF, for filling me on the organization and the
It may have been a year ago, or five, or 50, that these folks celebrated their first anniversaries, but here's wishing
them many more - Charles and Carol Arnspiger, Ed and Betty Capen and Ed and Laura Cotgageorge.
For information about upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
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