Only a short drive up Highway 550 is Durango Mountain Resort, formerly Purgatory Mountain. The newly renovated mountain base still exhibits the original 1965 sun logo. It reminded me that despite the upscale valet parking and hotel condos, not much has changed here in the mindset of local skiers. The mountain boasts 11 ski lifts and about 2000 vertical feet of long double black diamond mogul runs and fast groomers. We were fortunate enough to meet some of the locals there – including a former speed racer and a woman clad in tight black rhinestone embellished onsie. And in case the experienced skier finds the mountain to be lacking in extreme terrain, base activities (such as bull riding and the occasional clam bake) will keep you entertained until closing.
On our way over Molas Pass, I felt warped back in time as we descended into the historic town of Silverton. Nestled between the colossal San Juan’s, Silverton is not even a mile long and has a population of less than one thousand. Characterized by its past mining days, buildings spring up on either side of the main drag, dressed in pink, purple, yellow, and red. Blair Street, the former red light district, is only one block east and appears much less dramatic. Today you can find the local rum distillery, La Montanya, situated here. This popular local and tourist spot offers free tastings and a large variety of original rum drinks. A few blocks away, the Pride of the West provides home-cooking while quenching any thirst remaining after the distillery (sadly the POW has since burned down!). This watering hole is where Wyatt Earp worked briefly as a bartender. We decided to try a more “haunted” version of Silverton history, staying at the historic Teller House. It is rumored that ghost of an Indian woman appears at night, holding her crying baby in the corner of one of the rooms (thankfully, not ours).