Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Summertime Fun and Adventure In Purgatory!

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     Purgatory, Colorado!
     When the summer weather is stiflingly hot in the Southwest, there are three choices for finding some relief.  Head north, head for the water or head for the mountains.  Of course there is a fourth option, but staring at the walls while hugging an air conditioner is not exactly most people's idea of summertime fun.  Fun is where it is at and going to outdoor destinations that are fun for visitors of all ages has always been a summertime travel theme.  Packing the proverbial station wagon with rafts and giant inner tubes and heading for the river or lake for a few days is a classic summertime getaway.  A day trip to a seasonal amusement park or water park is also a classic choice.  During recent years, a summertime trip to a ski lodge resort in the mountains has gotten top billing with those who seek fun and adventure too.
     Wait a minute!  Going to a ski lodge resort in the summertime?  The folks next door might say something like ... "Honey!  The neighbors are loading up their station wagon and heading up to a ski resort for the weekend.  They must be crazy, because everybody knows that there is no snow up there on the mountain in the summertime!  Yeh, they sure will look stupid wearing winter clothes while trying to ski down the grassy slopes!" 
     Some people simply just cannot put two and two together, especially when the powers of association cause a one track thinking process.  When a ski lodge is mentioned in a conversation, people naturally think of snowy white slopes and winter sports.  It is easy to see why going to a ski lodge during the summer season sounds like a crazy idea, but during the last decade most ski lodges have turned into havens for summertime fun and adventure.
     There are good reasons why many winter ski lodge resorts grasped an opportunity to generate income during the summer season.  One reason was survival.  Many ski lodge resorts took an economic dive during the Great Recession of 2007 and simply shutting down resort operations during the summer would have been a death knell, because money was needed for maintenance that can only be done when there is no snow on the ground.  Another reason was an opportunity arose to profit on a new type of mountain sport that was quickly rising in popularity.  Catering to mountain biking sports enthusiasts was a key to success.
     I first heard about ski lodges changing gears to cater to visitors seeking summertime fun while attending college in Las Vegas during the worst years of the Great Recession.  The ski resort on Mt Charleston near Las Vegas was particularly hit hard when the local economy went rock bottom.  For the first time, the local ski lodge opened the ski lifts for hikers during the summer season.  Soon after, a Frisbee Golf Course was set up on the slopes, which was a novel new idea.  Catering to mountain bikers soon followed.  Now the ski lodge resort on Mt Charleston is a legitimate option for summertime fun in the cool mountain air, which spells relief from the sizzling summer heat in the Las Vegas Valley.
     Last year I worked at a ski resort near Salt Lake City for a short time during the winter season.  This ski resort also had recently started summertime operations to generate income during economic recovery, which included activities for kids clubs and sightseers.  Unfortunately, the slopes at that resort were a bit too steep for catering to mountain bikers, but the company was planning to ready the bobsled runs for summer season fun.  By readying bobsleds with wheels, visitors could go for a genuine white knuckled thrill ride that could cause the hair to stand straight on end for days!
     Some of the Ski lodge resorts west of Denver in Colorado have been summertime adventure destinations long before the Great Recession caused many other western ski resorts to jump on the bandwagon.  One might say that the Colorado ski resorts west of Denver were the model for success for those that followed, but the reality is that the mountains in Colorado have the best kind of slopes for summertime fun and adventure.  Gradual slopes that are not too steep are best for mountain bikers and casual hikers. 
     Colorado is a great place to find relief from the oppressive heat of summer in Desert Southwest and ski resorts in Southwestern Colorado certainly cater to the needs of visitors that seek a place to getaway from it all.  The Purgatory Resort is a prime example of a winter ski lodge resort that has gone full tilt for summertime fun and adventure.  
     Purgatory is located in the San Juan Mountains on scenic U.S. Highway 550 just north of Durango, Colorado.  How this place got the name "Purgatory" is an interesting story in itself and it has to do with the state of Limbo that poor travelers suffered through when trying to get up the mountain in the old days.  
     Purgatory is a favorite destination of the locals and this ski resort draws visitors from the entire Four Corners Region all year round.  Purgatory is one of the first ski resorts to go full tilt for summertime sports and it certainly shows.  In fact, when passing by on the highway, this place looks like a summer season amusement park and it is easy to forget that Purgatory actually is one of the greatest winter skiing destinations in the west.  During the summer season Purgatory is one of those places where upon first glance, the first thought that comes to mind is "Gosh!  That place looks like fun!"
     For those who are into the thrill of it all, the options for adventure are nearly endless at Purgatory during the summer season.  The chairlifts are running and there is a mountain biking uplift.  There are zip-lines, giant air bag jumps, alpine slides, bungee trampolines, rope courses and rock climbing walls.  Relaxing activity options include miniature golf and paddle boards at the local lake.  Horseback riding, white water rafting and jeep rentals are available too.  These are just a small portion of the long list of activities offered at the Purgatory Ski Resort during the summer season.       
     In a biblical sense, Purgatory is punishment, but this is far from the truth in reality.  The Purgatory Resort is a paradise for those who love the great outdoors.  The San Juan Mountains are particularly beautiful in this region, so if going on roller bobsled thrill rides or taking on extreme mountain biking trails are not your cup of tea, then going on a mellow hike to experience what mother nature offers will be more to your liking.  The forest hiking trails offer panoramic views of the mountain peaks and there is plenty of wildlife to see, so be sure to bring along a good camera when visiting this neck of the woods.
     So, heading to a ski resort called Purgatory during the summer season when there is no snow on the slopes is really not punishment on a biblical scale after all!  After showing the nosey neighbors the travel photos, they will have to take back their comment about how going to a ski resort in the summertime is a just a crazy idea.  With all the thrilling activities for visitors of all ages that Purgatory offers, this destination should be placed high on the summertime travel list! 

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