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Cooler temperatures allow for snowmaking at Purgatory Resort

Weather forecasters expect a warming trend later this week
An employee adjusts snowmaking equipment in November 2014 at Purgatory Resort. (Durango Herald file)

Snowmaking operations began this week at Purgatory Resort as cooler temperatures moved into the region on the heels of a snowstorm that favored the central mountains in Colorado.

Temperatures dipped into the teens early Monday near Cortez, Durango and Pagosa Springs, which is 10 to 15 degrees cooler than average for this time of year, said Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Temperatures were even colder in the mountains – about 20 degrees colder than average – which was ideal for kicking off snowmaking operations.

Purgatory is scheduled to open Nov. 18. It is too early to predict how much of the mountain will be open by then, Purgatory General Manager Dave Rathbun said in an email to The Durango Herald.

“We are currently experiencing a favorable weather pattern for snowmaking,” he said. “A cold snap began last night and is expected to persist until Wednesday midday, particularly on the upper mountain areas above 9,000 feet.”

Below-average temps are expected to stick around through early Wednesday, with a warming trend occurring later this week. By the weekend, temperatures are expected to be 4 to 8 degrees above-average in the Durango area, Aleksa said.

Rathbun said even as temperatures warm, low humidity should allow snowmaking operations to continue.

He said Purgatory has been able to increase its snowmaking capabilities and efficiency by 25% during the past several seasons.

This year, Purgatory is touting upgrades to Dante’s, including new lighting, flooring, roofing and updates to the bathrooms. The resort also did brush and glading work to Poet’s Glade, on the back side of the mountain.

Two new shuttle buses have been added to the ski resort’s existing fleet, and 100 parking spaces were added to the Gelande lot and 50 spaces were added to the Columbine lot.

Aleksa said last weekend’s storm delivered up to 2 feet of snow to the central mountains, but only 3 to 6 inches on average in the San Juan Mountains. Some parts of Red Mountain Pass received up to a foot of snow, he said.

Any snow Purgatory receives in the next 10 days or so will likely be human-made. Weather forecasters said there doesn’t appear to be any moisture on the horizon in the immediate future for Southwest Colorado.

“Beyond that, it’s hard to say,” Aleksa said. “It looks like no major storms (are) coming in.”


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