Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort has revoked a woman's season pass for publicly criticizing the ski area's new
In a Nov. 2 letter, Durango Mountain Resort CEO Gary Derck said Lauren Slaff's comments to The Durango Herald caused
"concern and confusion" among employees and customers, and the management team decided it would be best to "part
In the Oct. 2 Herald article, Slaff expressed concern that DMR's new operating schedule would reduce the number of
ski days. But DMR said the new schedule actually extends the number of ski days, by up to 21 days.
Without Slaff's input or knowledge, DMR refunded Slaff's all-season pass, at a cost of $539, and discontinued her
pass privileges. In response, Slaff contacted an executive at Telluride Ski Area and explained her predicament, "and
they were very understanding of my situation and helpful at procuring me a season pass."
DMR has a 40-year permit with the U.S. Forest Service to use public lands 25 miles north of Durango.
A copy of Derck's letter to Slaff was dropped off Wednesday at the Herald offices.
"While we have never met, I understand from your calls to The Durango Herald and your conversation with our general
manager that you are most unhappy with the approach that Durango Mountain Resort takes in trying to meet the skiing
and riding needs of both our local and out-of-town customers," Derck wrote. "Our general manager tried very hard to
explain our early/late additional weekend days, but it is evident that the offering and services we provide are not
meeting your expectations.
"Accordingly, we held a meeting with our management team and determined that it would be best if we part ways and
refund you the all-season pass you purchased so you can find another place to ski/ride that better meets your
expectations," the letter reads. "We have refunded your credit card $539 and we have discontinued your pass
"On behalf of our 800-plus employees, we wish you well and want you to know that we will continue to do our very best
to meet or exceed the expectations of all our customers, regardless of where they live," the letter concludes.
DMR declined to comment for this story.
In an interview Wednesday, Slaff said she moved here 2½ years ago from New York City, largely because Durango has a
ski area nearby. She has bought a season pass for three consecutive seasons.
About a month ago, Slaff called DMR General Manager Mike McCormack to discuss the new operating schedule. Several of
her friends who have weekday passes were upset that the ski area planned to be open only Friday, Saturday and Sunday
at the beginning and end of the ski season, she said.
McCormack offered Slaff a refund, but she declined.
"I said, 'No, I'm just upset and wanted to talk to someone,'" she said.
In the Oct. 2 Herald article, Slaff said the new operating schedule reduces the number of ski days for weekday pass
holders, and it is another example of DMR catering to tourists at the expense of locals.
"It's rough on the weekday pass holders who can't go on the weekends," Slaff was quoted as saying. "It still seems
like they're gearing all their business toward the out-of-towners."
When contacted Wednesday by the Herald, Slaff said she was saddened by DMR's decision to revoke her ski pass.
"I'm just really taken aback that expressing an opinion warrants such drastic punishment," she said. "It was a real
eye-opener, and I don't wish to cause any further conflict with the ski area."
Tom Watkinson, spokesman at Telluride Ski Area, said the area revokes skiing privileges if someone breaks the law or
acts recklessly, but it has never revoked someone's skiing privileges for expressing opinions.
In fact, Dave Riley, CEO of Telluride, has a Web blog accessible via the ski area's home page that allows the public
to ask questions and share comments, Watkinson said.
"We've never kicked anyone off the mountain or revoked anyone's skiing privileges for disagreeing with our mountain
policy," Watkinson said.
Rosanne Pitcher, vice president of marketing and sales at Wolf Creek Ski Area, said the resort has revoked skiing
privileges for inappropriate behavior but never for expressing negative views. If someone were to say something
slanderous that damaged another skier or the ski area, Wolf Creek would consider revoking skiing privileges, she
"We've had people say all kinds of things about Wolf Creek, and we haven't revoked their passes," Pitcher said. "It
would depend on what the issue was."
Jennifer Rudolph, spokeswoman for Colorado Ski Country USA, could not recall hearing of another ski resort revoking
someone's pass for being critical of the ski area.
While it is not illegal for a business to deny service to anyone, it is not made explicit in DMR's season pass holder
agreement that the ski area reserves the right to exclude service to anyone at any time. What is clear is that DMR
has the right to revoke skiing privileges when a customer breaks the rules by cutting a rope, loading the lift while
intoxicated, letting someone else use the pass and a variety of other reasons.
Passes also can be revoked if a pass holder damages DMR's property or is "a nuisance to other guests and/or Durango
Mountain Resort staff," the pass holder agreement says.
Matt Janowiak, Columbine district ranger for the Forest Service, said DMR has to abide by the Americans With
Disabilities Act and follow the laws of the land, but otherwise it can make its own business decisions.
DMR's opening and closing will rely heavily on Mother Nature. If snow is lacking during the early season, DMR will
attempt to open on weekends - Friday, Saturday and Sunday - for the first three weekends, from Nov. 27-29, Dec. 4-6, and Dec. 11-13. But if snow conditions allow it, DMR will open seven days a week from the season's start.
And weather permitting, DMR plans to stay open through April this year, but in the late season only on weekends -
Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
DMR said it will honor weekday pass holders during weekend-only offerings.
Last year, DMR was open seven days a week from Dec. 6 to April 5.