Mountain Town News Roundup: Durango Mountain Resort sold, to be renamed Purgatory |

Mountain Town News Roundup: Durango Mountain Resort sold, to be renamed Purgatory

Female moose are very protective of their young to the point of being dangerous if approached or caught off guard.
Special to the Daily |

DURANGO, Colo. — The story of North America is usually told as one of westward expansion. That’s an incomplete telling, however, and a news story last week about the renaming of a ski area north of Durango serves as a reminder.

The Durango Mountain Resort was sold last week to James Coleman, who promptly announced he was renaming it Purgatory. The ski area had been called Purgatory for the first several decades of its existence and only within the last decade had taken on the name Durango.

Purgatory reflects the Spanish influence in the region. After Hernan Cortés subjugated the Aztec in Mexico from 1519-21, he and his conquistadors moved north. Soon, they had established Nuevo Mexico, or New Mexico, with Santa Fe as the provincial capital in 1610.

In 1765, Spanish explorer Juan Maria de Rivera set out from Santa Fe to explore the mountains to the north. In the San Juan Mountains, he found a river that he called the Rio de Las Animas, which in English means the River of Souls.

Some think the full name the explorer gave the river was Rio de las Animas Perdidas. In Roman Catholic doctrine, that’s a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven. Hence, the name Purgatory for the ski area.

It would be a delicious synchronicity if the owner of Purgatory also owned Heavenly, the ski area at Lake Tahoe. But Vail Resorts owns Heavenly and Coleman’s chain has a southwestern flavor: He owns Sipapu, a ski area near Taos, and is acquiring the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in Los Alamos, both in New Mexico. He is also acquiring Snowbowl near Flagstaff, Arizona.



SANTA FE, N.M. — Tina Fey, the actress, is in Santa Fe filming a movie based on the memoir of a journalist who spent years in the Middle East after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Santa Fe New Mexican points out that New Mexico has frequently been a stand-in for other locations. Remember those sweeping views of Montana in the movie “Lonesome Dove?” Or the Mexican badlands in “All the Pretty Horses?”

In both cases, it was actually New Mexico. But in recent years, the New Mexican reports, the film industry has looked to New Mexico’s rolling deserts and wide-blue skies as a stand-in for the sun- and blood-soaked conflict zones of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Rebecca “Puck” Stair, film locations manager, said productions choose New Mexico for movies set in Mideastern locations because of two primary reasons: the state’s tax incentives and its similar topographies and climates.

“Any script with desert or aridity, New Mexico is the best choice,” Stair said. “But if Arizona had incentives, they would be doing it all in Arizona.”

The Hollywood blockbuster “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” also was filmed in New Mexico, with parts of it shot in the Taos Ski Valley.



STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — By the recent numbers, there’s evidence that you should be warier of moose in Colorado than either bears or mountain lions.

Yes, both bears and mountains have killed people in the state. But in this century, moose have proven themselves more than capable of inflicting harm. The latest story comes from the Steamboat Springs area, where a woman was run over and injured by a bull moose.

Wildlife officials tell the Steamboat Pilot & Today that they suspect something other than the woman spooked the moose, causing it to run toward the woman and her dogs. The woman, 31, barely had time to react. She turned and was head-butted by the animal.

The 31-year-old woman had injuries sufficient that she was flown to Denver for treatment.

Local residents told state wildlife officers that the area where the woman was injured has had as many as 14 moose at one time, and they have sometimes acted aggressively

The Pilot & Today says this is the fourth moose attack in the Steamboat area in the last two years. In the other cases, the attacks are believed to have been provoked by dogs, which moose perceive to be predators

At Grand Lake, about 50 miles to the east of Steamboat, a woman was knocked down by a moose two years ago. Again, dogs were involved. But in 2006, a former mayor of the town suffered fatal injuries after being knocked down. He was without dogs.



BEND, Ore. — With marijuana becoming legal in Oregon on July 1, what happens to all the doper dogs, wondered the Bend Bulletin?

Zoey, the Belgian Malinois trained to detect marijuana for the Bend Police Department, will probably be without a job or may be sold to a police agency in a state where possessing even a small bit of marijuana can send you to jail.

Then there’s Ditto, an employee of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department for 12 years. While still sniffing with the best of them, the dog’s stamina isn’t what it used to be, and agency personnel tell the Bulletin it’s probably time for Ditto to retire.



ASPEN — Aspen’s flirtation with sweat and technology continued last weekend at a tandem event, the Aspen Uphill and the Power of Four ski mountaineering race.

Unlike traditional downhill skiing and snowboarding, with their reliance on lifts, both events emphasized aerobic conditioning and defying of gravity

An avid uphiller himself, Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron sees potential synergy with manufacturers and designers of uphill and backcountry gear. To that end, he invited representatives of Dynafit, La Sportiva and Scarpa, along with others, to discuss possibilities.

Nicola Fiordalisi, legal counsel for various Italian corporations that do business in the United States, said Aspen’s brand is well recognized in Europe: “Aspen is world-known.”

Steve Barwick, city manager for Aspen, said that in his 21 years at Aspen the city government has been approached by a wide variety of American corporations. But Aspen has turned them all down.

“We never wanted to cheapen the Aspen brand by being associated with products,” he said. “But this is different. This speaks to our roots. This is going to support our ski culture rather than take advantage of it. You have a unique opportunity to be the only industry on the planet that’s associated with one of the sexiest brand names on the planet, and that’s Aspen, Colorado.”

Skadron said his long-term vision is to create (year-round) jobs that attract individuals who value mountain-town culture.

Aspen’s biggest challenge, said Skadron, “is the increasing suburbanization, homogenization of mountain towns. As you know, our downtown core isn’t unlike a high-end shopping mall.”



PARK CITY, Utah — A few years ago, when ski areas in the Wasatch Range announced their interest in connecting to one another, the response of the environmental community seemed to be “hell no.”

In recent meetings both in Park City and the Salt Lake Valley, evidence of compromise has been reported. Peter Metcalf, from the Outdoor Industry Association, mentioned potential for a “grand bargain” that would ensure environmental protections while giving the ski industry the connections it wants.

Still, any deal seems far from done. The Park Record, reporting on a meeting last week, described considerable discomfort with any transportation solutions that add more cars to the mountain towns. One idea being considered is a tunnel under the Wasatch Range between Cottonwood Canyon and Park City.

A former city councilman, Joe Kernan, told The Record that the city remains in denial over its transportation problems. It will have to spend money to address the congestion or people will start having to ride buses, he said.

Among at least some, there’s also some fear that this is prelude to another bid for the Winter Olympics.


MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – The good news in the Sierra Nevada has been sparse this winter. December produced some snow, mostly rain at lower elevations, but save for a dribble in February, there hasn’t been all that much.

Last week, the Sacramento Bee reported that the snowpack was only 19 percent of average.

In Mammoth, the weather so distressed the outlook at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area that chief executive Rusty Gregory in January had announced that hourly employees would get their hours reduced to 30 per week, while salaried employees would have to take 15 percent pay cuts.

In February, after a snow storm that “significantly improved conditions,” Gregory announced that full pay and hours would be restored.

Still, drought continues to leer just over the shoulder of Mammoth like a stranger with bad breath. In February, a 7,000-acre fire raked an area about 25 minutes south of Mammoth Lakes where the alpine turns more toward desert. Several dozen homes were destroyed in what many said looks to be the beginning of a long fire season in California this year.

One water official in California’s Central Valley, one of the nation’s great farming regions, said wet March storms could help the Sierra Nevada dig out of its deep waterless hole. “It would need to be a big March miracle to impact this drought,” said Shauna Lorance, general manager of the San Juan Water District.


WHISTLER, B.C. — Warm temperatures? Bare ground? No problem to mountain bikers in Whistler.

“It’s February and we’re riding stuff that typically doesn’t open up until the end of April, so it’s awesome,” said Pete Oprsal, public relations director for the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association.

“But my understanding is you can kind of have your cake and eat it too right now, because yes, we haven’t had any fresh snow, but when it was raining down in the valley it was snowing up top.

“The conditions up top in the alpine, from my understanding, are really good, so you can go out for a morning ski and then in the afternoon spend some time on the bike, so kind of the best of both worlds right now.”

Recycling a tough

sell in Canmore

CANMORE, Alberta — Curbside bins have failed to generate more recyclables in Canmore after the first year. The town’s solid waste services director tells the Rocky Mountain Outlook that the community diversion rate remains less than 30 percent.

Where do recyclables go? Cardboard gets shipped to the Vancouver or Seattle areas, metal gets shipped to Calgary, and glass to British Columbia.

As for plastic, it gets hauled across the Pacific Ocean to China, where it is made into plastic pellets. Those pellets presumably get pushed back across the Pacific for purchase in North America.

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