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Purg’s final countdown

Gaper Day on penultimate weekend, with a brand new Lift 8 on the way

Officially the last day of the ski season, Sunday was an eclectic blend of ski culture, disco and vintage ski wear, adult beverages and a certain last-day-of-school feel, all on snowy mashed potatoes.

Even though Purgatory will turn its chairs next weekend before throwing in this season’s towel, for many, this weekend was a farewell to winter.

And while “Gaper Day” has become a tradition at ski areas across the nation, anybody’s final day can be their own official Gaper Day.

“Gaper Day means I get to wear bright lipstick,” said Kelli Brush.

A giant pink bunny floated quietly overhead. Someone with a cape bearing the Olympic rings was sitting at the bar at the Beach at the base area. Without warning on the mostly empty runs, gangs of skiers and snowboarders careened by, straight out of some ’70’s ski movie – one-piece suits and racing stripes in full glory.

A man calling himself “David Sanchez” bore a large sombrero and a colorful serape; somehow, he fit right in on the slopes. His cohorts all exhibited their own brand of style. Jared Sorenson’s ultra tight-fitting, acid-washed jeans looked impossible to ski in. At 10,000 feet in April, his jean jacket and shirt were unbuttoned to his stomach.

“I needed an excuse to wear jeans while I’m skiing,” he said.

There were, however, some on the mountain trying to get it all in before summer months take it all away. Bryan Bagdol and Jesse Kleinschmidt were serious, sort of, about having fun.

“Conditions are good, considering it’s been 60 degrees all month,” Bagdol said, swinging his telemark skis under the chair lift. “It’s soft. I like doing big fishtail turns. There’s nobody here.”

There was an odd, quiet hue over the mushy slopes. Many runs were completely void of people.

Kleinschmidt said in the heat of the summer, he’ll look back on these last days of riding.

“We’re not going to be able to do this much longer,” he said. “It’s a little bony, but I love the slush. I just wiped out on a patch of grass, so that was pretty fun.”

Excitement stirred about the resort’s future. A new managing partner is bringing upgrades and improvements – part of the mountain’s 50th anniversary, beginning with the installation of a new Lift 8, also known as the Legends Lift.

According to a press release issued by Purgatory, a new high-speed quad will go in over the summer, replacing the beloved – and 30-year-old – existing chair. Nearly a mile long and swooping skiers up the 1,500 vertical foot gain in as little as 5 minutes, it will change the character of the so-called back side.

Purg employee Kaeden Fisher, who was loading chairs on Lift 8 on Sunday, said he, like many others, is excited.

“I’m pretty stoked,” he said. “It’ll be a lot quicker. That means more laps.”

bmathis@durangoherald.com

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