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Purgatory Resort announces opening date, with a caveat – there must be snow

Resort doubled its snowmaking capacity, but warm temperatures have been a challenge
Snowmaking has begun at Purgatory Resort, which announced a tentative opening date of Nov. 20. This photo was taken in November 2019. (Courtesy of Purgatory Resort)

Purgatory Resort tentatively plans to open Nov. 20, which will largely be dependent on snowmaking progress and any help from Mother Nature during the next week, said Theresa Graven, spokeswoman with the resort.

“You can see looking outside what we’re dealing with here with the weather,” Graven said Friday.

Southwest Colorado has had several weeks of dry and unseasonably warm temperatures with the exception of a few days that provided moisture, including one earlier this week that left about 4 inches of snow in the San Juan Mountains.

Cooler temperatures this week have allowed Purgatory Resort to fire up its snowmaking operation, giving the resort a chance to lay a base for the season, Graven said.

“Next weekend is all about just getting people outside,” Graven said. “Being outside is a good activity for all of us right now as (COVID-19) transmissions are spiking in our community.”

Graven said the plan is to be open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., beginning Nov. 20. She said the resort just started blowing snow “in earnest” on Wednesday. It first tested the new guns last month during a cold snap, but was quickly shut down because of warming temperatures.

“The past few days have been productive and the weather is cooperating thanks to colder temps, finally,” she said.

First chair is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 20. The resort is hosting a complimentary pancake breakfast, followed by giveaways and festivities throughout the day, according to a news release issued this week.

Purgatory more than doubled its snowmaking capacity this year, according to the release.

“Despite last season’s challenges and the current state of COVID-19, we are looking forward to another great year skiing the San Juans,” said Dave Rathbun, general manager for Purgatory. “We invite everyone to join us outside on The Beach for Purgatory’s 56th opening day. We have lots to celebrate and we’re optimistic this season will bring us closer to post-pandemic skiing.”

Purgatory has invested more than $2 million in doubling its snowmaking capacity and overhauling lifts 1 and 3 to modernize and ensure their reliability, the release said. The resort plans to modernize Lift 6 (the Needles Triple Chair) next year.

Staffing is expected to be a challenge this year, but it shouldn’t affect opening day, Graven said. The resort has also employed a record number of J1 visa employees who are coming this winter.

“Just like everyone else in the industry, Purgatory is expecting to deal with short-staffedness this winter,” she said.

Purgatory employs hundreds of seasonal workers, and is leasing motel space on north Main Avenue to provide affordable housing for up to 100 workers this winter.

“We’re just looking forward to kicking off the season and looking forward to winter and hopefully having a more closer to normal ski season this year,” Graven said.

shane@durangoherald.com

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