Update: Repairs to Purgatory Resort’s Lift 1 have been completed. It reopened at 9:52 a.m. Saturday, general manager Dave Rathbun told The Durango Herald.Purgatory Resort’s main lift from its base camp up to the slopes broke this week, causing a bit of a crowding issue – momentarily, the ski resort’s general manager said Friday.
Lift 1 (also known as the Purgatory Village Express) is the high-powered, six-person chairlift that brings skiers up the front side of the mountain.
Dave Rathbun, general manager for Purgatory Resort, said issues started with Lift 1 on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday morning, technicians arrived and ran the lift for about two hours before the public arrived.
About 15 minutes after the resort opened at 9 a.m., with skiers headed up the mountain, Purgatory Resort officials decided Lift 1 was not running safely and shut it down.
“It’s what happens to ski lifts, occasionally, unfortunately,” Rathbun said.
No one was evacuated off the lift, Rathbun said. Instead, people on the lift were taken up the mountain to unload.
There are two other, smaller lifts – Lifts 4 and 6 – at the base of Purgatory Resort that people were directed to use, but it was a bit chaotic as people moved around and figured out where to go, Rathbun said.
Rathbun said the situation has since settled, and he said a sentiment in the community that Purgatory Resort is packed with out of control crowds is wrong.
“Contrary to popular belief, we have not been that busy,” he said.
Purgatory did see a rush of skiers on Tuesday, the day after a winter storm dropped fresh powder on the mountain, but the melee at the resort was a result of everyone arriving at the same time, he said.
“They all got here at the same time, which made it look like a crazy number of people,” Rathbun said.
He said, “it might have looked like a lot of people were here,” but that there were 2,000 fewer people on the mountain than the same day last year.
Ski resorts across Colorado have had to adjust to meet COVID-19 protocols.
On Tuesday, under COVID-19 regulations, Purgatory Resort could have had a maximum of 6,100 guests, Rathbun said. Instead, only 4,500 or so people showed up at the mountain.
“Perception is reality,” he said. “And the reality is there weren’t as many people as we see on the holidays.”
At Purgatory Resort, chairlifts have not been operating at full capacity, which is the main reason why lines are so long, Rathbun said.
“We don’t have the same number of seats,” he said.
Technicians are working to fix Lift 1, Rathbun said, and the resort hopes to reopen it “as soon as we can.”