As the days get warmer, the calendar turns to spring and the snow begins to melt, one begins to ponder how many more days will be spent sliding down the mountain in the next few weeks. Lucky for us, there’s still plenty of snow on the ground and more on the way.
Spring break is in full effect with more tourists than locals filling the slopes at our southwest Colorado ski areas. And while everyone seems slightly more on edge this year, it’s nice to see people getting outside and having some fun together after a long year of stay-at-home orders and quarantines.
Lift lines weren’t the only lines I stood in this week. As frontline journalists became eligible for the vaccine Friday in Colorado, I stood among the herd at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. Many were there in snow pants after a day on the mountain, giving a reminder that it was this time a year ago resort skiers and snowboarders had already packed up their equipment with the mountains closed for the rest of the season. We’ve come a long way in a year, and it’s encouraging to see that health guidelines and customer attention to protocols have allowed ski areas to remain open all season.
Unlike last year, there is still much to look forward to this season. Some snow throughout the last week freshened up mountains, and Telluride Ski Resort was a big winner with 28 inches in a 48-hour span. It was nice to see Telluride get one of its best weeks of skiing in recent memory, and I know of a few who expertly timed a Telluride trip and savored being thrown into the white room for a full day of March powder skiing. Well done to those folks.
More snow is on the way with OpenSnow calling for seven inches between Sunday and Tuesday night and as much as 10 inches during that span at Wolf Creek Ski Area.
With additional snow coming this week, it’s hard to think ahead to the 2021-22 ski season. But alas, Purgatory Resort has sent out word that next season’s passes will go on sale March 24. And the days are quickly ticking down toward the April 4 shutdown of daily operations with only the hope of weekend skiing the following two weekends.
During a Wednesday outing at Purgatory, I found myself on the lift with a man named Russell. We both pondered buying next year’s pass again this spring, setting up payment plans or dropping a wad of cash on next season’s winter thrills in the early spring when thoughts of summer hobbies and new gear for the river or trails come to the front of the brain.
After holding a Purgatory pass for the last 10 years, I admitted debating different options next season.
“I’m not sure I’ll get a pass next year,” Russell agreed. “I’ve had one now for 15 years, maybe more.”
Russell lives in California now but once called Durango home. But, for six glorious weeks this winter, Purgatory has once again been his second home. With all of the COVID-19 restrictions in place, I remarked at what a great time he had picked to get out of California and enjoy the snow.
“I’ve been skiing for 55 years now,” he said. “I’ve lived longer than I ever thought I would and skiing way longer than I thought I could. I don’t know how many years I’ve got left.”
After the year we’ve had, I think more are questioning their mortality than ever before. And I think we are all a little more thankful to have a sport like skiing and snowboarding in our lives that has provided such a healthy and refreshing outlet when we all could have just as easily been stuck inside.
So when that email comes out from Purgatory on March 24 with options for next year’s season pass, I think I know what I’ll do. I only hope to keep doing it as long as my new pal Russell.
John Livingston is the Regional Sports Editor of The Durango Herald. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter and Instagram, @jlivi2.