This, my friends, is the end. One last hurrah before packing away the winter gear. And, perhaps, one last powder day?
That’s right, the final two days of resort skiing and snowboarding have arrived this weekend at Purgatory Resort. It’s the last chance for those who don’t venture into the backcountry to step into those bindings and make a few turns down the front side of the mountain. It’s a chance to celebrate, jam to live music and reflect a bit on the season.
Wolf Creek Ski Area closed for the year April 4. It had a sensational season with 362 inches filled with epic powder days, including one of my deepest first days of a season in memory. It truly set the tone for a special year.
Purgatory Resort has remained open on weekends only since April 4, with this Sunday set as the grand finale. The local hill received 195 inches this year but none so far this month. That is set to change this weekend with snow showers and as much as 11 inches in the forecast for Saturday and into Sunday. Could Purg break the 200-inch barrier for the season? Forget the spring slush, bring on the big wet flakes!
Saturday is the big bash at Purgatory with music from local band State 38 to play from 1 to 4 p.m. at the beach area. No pond skim for a second year in a row, so let’s hope that makes a triumphant return in 2022.
For this snowboarder, this weekend symbolizes a bit of a turning of a page. I’ve often been able to track big life events with the passing of a ski season. This year was no different.
Growing up in Colorado, it may be surprising that I didn’t strap on a board for the first time until I was a junior in college. I played football, basketball and baseball – with baseball becoming a year-round focus early in my high school days – and my parents kept me away from the slopes. All that catcher’s equipment and new bats cost enough money, and keeping me away from a broken leg was a bigger priority.
But thanks to my best friend, I was introduced to snowboarding at Loveland Ski Area halfway into my college years. He took me straight to the top, fighting a bit of a New Year’s Day hangover, and told me I would figure it out by the time I got to the bottom. He wasn’t totally wrong, but he wasn’t completely right, either.
A year later and after a stance change from regular to goofy, the turns started coming to me. And after moving to the Four Corners in 2010 and getting my first Purgatory season pass, I started cranking out days at a high volume. It became my favorite sport. I still love stepping on a baseball or softball field, hitting a big drive off a golf tee box, paddling a raft down a river or reeling in a nice trout on my fly rod, but nothing beats a powder day and weaving around trees on the mountain.
Snowboarding is my passion and a place to express my energy in a pure form. It’s something I want my first-born child to experience well before their college days, as I now wish I had been a lifelong snowboarder.
So, during many of my wonderful experiences chatting with strangers on chairlifts this season, I found myself talking increasingly more about getting a child started in the sport.
What age is too young? When can a kid first get into lessons? What are the best ways to make sure the child has a good experience? How do I avoid becoming one of those families that is arguing with each other in a lift line? I received a lot of great answers to those questions, and all of the parents were stoked to share stories of towing their little ones around their driveways, some before they could even fully walk on their own.
This will be my last weekend of riding before becoming a father later this year. I learned that during the 2020-21 season before taking my fiancé, Allyson Ropes, to Purgatory, where I proposed to her on her favorite run – Sally’s. She likes to call it “Ally’s.”
Our paths had long crossed at Purgatory, but our journey started back in those high school days when snowboarding was the furthest thing on my mind, as we graduated from school together before taking different life routes to Durango.
Now, we are ready to get our first parent share pass at Purgatory and introduce our son to the ways of boots and bindings in the coming seasons. Those future days at Purgatory are going to be a lot different than in my single days, but if our experience is anything like that of those who I chatted with this season, they will be even more rewarding. I’m ready to pass this deep love of winter sports down.
Thanks to everyone for the wonderful advice this season. And a thank you also goes out to so many of you who reached out with kind words of support for this column over the last few months. Let’s keep it going next season.
I hope to see you on a lift this weekend. We all have a lot to celebrate.
John Livingston is the Regional Sports Editor of The Durango Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram, @jlivi2.