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Winter weather advisory could bring a foot of snow to San Juan Mountains

Purgatory Resort plans to fire up snow guns later this month
In 2019, Purgatory Resort started making snow on Oct. 11. This year, the ski resort is holding off until the week of Oct. 25. (Courtesy of Purgatory Resort)

As temperatures drop and the first signs of snow arrive in Southwest Colorado, Purgatory Resort said it is making preparations for snowmaking to get started in the next couple of weeks.

The resort is gearing up for the season by placing snow guns in the proper locations, and finishing up any maintenance that needs to be done before the guns are put to use.

“Typically over the summer there’s maintenance, and we park the guns down at the Columbine area,” said Amanda Anderson, marketing director with Purgatory Resort. “Eighty-five percent are in position.”

The ski resort recently tested the snow guns by running water through them and making sure things were working properly.

“With the investments we’ve made in our snow gun fleet, specifically fan guns, we will be more efficient,” Anderson said. “They’re really cool because about half of them are automated.”

Purgatory’s new automated snow guns can be turned on and off from an operator’s cellphone.

“If the humidity and temperature are right, then your able to say, ‘We’re perfect, let’s go ahead and turn those guys on.’ Or if we warm up a degree or two, we can shut those guns down,” Anderson said.

Anderson said Purgatory is excited to test the efficiency of its new snow guns.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has a winter weather advisory in effect through Tuesday night; forecasters expect as much as a foot of snow in highest elevations of the San Juan Mountains.

“We’ll be getting snow, but then there will probably be temperatures warm enough later on to melt that snow,” said meteorologist Dan Cuevas with the National Weather Service.

Cuevas said snow from this week’s storm could materialize as low as 6,000 feet in elevation. Durango is at 6,512 feet.

With warmer temperatures expected to return this weekend, Purgatory said it plans to hold off on making snow.

Instead, Anderson said the ski resort plans to begin making snow Oct. 25, with the ski season officially opening Nov. 20.

Last year, Purgatory moved toward a demand-based pricing model for lift tickets in order to incentivize people to come on weekdays instead of peak weekend days.

“There’s a huge initiative in town to be sustainable operators as it relates to tourism, and that is something we use our lift ticket rates to do,” Anderson said.

Purgatory plans to launch ticket sales this week, and will be having an early bird sale. Anderson said those who take part in Purgatory’s early bird sale could see lift ticket prices as low as $39.

“We’re offering up to $50 savings per day when you purchase before Nov. 13,” Anderson said.

While the first Colorado ski resorts to open this winter will likely be those in Summit County, Anderson said being first isn't a key part of Purgatory’s strategy.

“I would not anticipate opening before Nov. 20,” Anderson said. “We want to make sure we’re taking advantage of good weather windows to make snow and be efficient.”


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